Stevanovich has been away for a few days, which means I can’t communicate with Erik, who is demolishing the conservatory. The two Daves come rushing home from school to join in, and I’d like to have a word with him about health and safety. I also want get him to do something about the wobbly kitchen floor. When I walk across it, everything clinks. It’s like being on a boat. Yesterday I called him in, and tried to demonstrate, jumping up and down on the floorboards, and putting my hands over my ears. He looked at me in complete bewilderment.
Then I saw a picture of Stevanovich on Facebook. He was wearing jeans and a pink aertex shirt, lying in a foetal position on a pavement somewhere. Someone called Russian Princess had posted it. There were 62 “likes” and one comment, which was in Russian.
I looked at Russian Princess’s page. It was all in Russian. The profile photo was of a large, succulent strawberry. I went back to curled-up, pink-shirted figure. He looked small and alone, and my irritation was tempered with concern. I commented, “Where are you, Stevanovich? Could you please get in touch?” Then I looked back at the picture of the strawberry.
I went swimming with my friend Tish, and told her I’d been wresting with time travel. She said I should look at Ouspensky. I went to the laundrette with A New Model of the Universe. It was totally packed, people waiting to put their dirty washing into machines. I perched on the end of a bench, next to a large woman drinking a can of Lucozade, and opened the book at the Introduction.
There exist moments in life, separated by long intervals of time, but linked together by their inner content, and by a certain sensation peculiar to them.
Like my memories of laundrettes… I let the book lie in my lap, and started reading all the signs. There are loads, mainly saying all the things you’re not allowed to do, like eat, or drink, or put trainers in the machines. I stared at the one headed EMERGENCY – ACT QUICKLY – DELAY CAN BE FATAL. There was lots of writing underneath, but the print was too small for me to read.
One of the machines stopped, and the people waiting fixed their eyes on it. A woman with pink dreadlocks opened the door and grasped what looked like a dead sheep. It was very big, and wouldn’t fit through the door. She wrestled with it, swearing under her breath, until eventually it shot out, and she staggered backwards and the thing fell to the floor.
“No carpets,” said the woman next to me, scrunching up her Lucozade can.
“Says who?” They both looked up at the signs. There didn’t seem to be one saying no carpets. The Lucozade woman sucked her teeth and pulled her bag of washing towards the empty machine.
“That’s my machine!” said Pink Dreadlocks, hastily unloading another rug from a black binbag and stuffing it in.
“No carpets! Tell her!” Lucozade looked over at the Shadowy Attendant, who was sitting in a cupboard, at a tiny desk. The Shadowy Attendant looked round – we could see spectacles glinting in the dark – but then slammed the cupboard door shut. Pink Dreadlocks was furiously feeding the machine with pound coins. Lucozade cursed, and threw her can at the cupboard door.
I decided to come back again later. Back at home, I looked at the picture of Stevanovich, and the Russian comment. Then Facebook offered to translate it, to which I agreed.
Darling! Are you drunk or dead?