Aida Austin

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Inside -

MY THREE sis­ters and I have just ar­rived at our Airbnb apart­ment in Lisbon and bagsied bed­rooms, with dis­ap­point­ing re­sults; I got the box room and have taken my dis­ap­point­ment off to the toi­let.

In here, I ad­mire the wall tiles for a sec­ond or two be­fore set­ting about wash­ing my hands of jour­ney-dirt, splash­ing my face with cold wa­ter and cast­ing about for help­ful thoughts such as, “be­ware of self pity” and “pos­i­tiv­ity breeds con­tent,” in an ef­fort to ban­ish un­help­ful ones like, “life’s a bitch and then you die.”

But now it seems the door lock is jammed. I am stuck in the toi­let. And there is no room in my head for any thoughts at all be­sides es­cape.

Hope­fully with my dig­nity in­tact.

Dig­nity is as es­sen­tial to hu­man life as wa­ter, I think, smack­ing the lock with the heel of my shoe as qui­etly as I can, for I will only be able to re­tain my dig­nity if my sis­ters don’t wit­ness it be­ing as­saulted like this.

There is a metal­lic click. This could be hope­ful. I put down my shoe, with dig­nity. I try turn­ing the lock, with same. First clock­wise, then an­ti­clock­wise. But where once there was a small move­ment in both di­rec­tions, now there is none. Just a metal­lic click, which does not sound hope­ful any­more but rather sick­en­ing in­stead; as if it is say­ing, “so you thought sleep­ing in the box room was bad.”

Sod pos­i­tiv­ity, I think, pos­i­tiv­ity can­not pos­si­bly breed con­tent when the out­look for the fu­ture is that you will be sleep­ing on a toi­let floor for the next three nights. I’ll have to set my sights lower than pos­i­tiv­ity; I must just try to re­main calm. And pick the lock with my ear­ring­back.

It’s a good job I am so calm, I think, tak­ing out my ear­ring, or I’d never have thought of us­ing an ear­ring-back.

See? I think, it would not do for panic to de­scend, not when all I have to rely on for my es­cape is a work­ing brain and fine mo­tor skills. If I al­low panic to en­ter this toi­let, it will turn my eyes into big blind saucers, my head into a po­tato and my fin­gers to ba­nanas.

I pick the lock, with my ear­ring back. I pick it this way and that.

“Sod calm,” I think, “I will have to set my sights lower than that. All I have to do is not give into com­plete hys­te­ria.

I stare at the door. Even with big blind saucers, I can see there is only a mil­lime­tre gap be­tween the bot­tom of the door and the floor; not even a dry lasagne sheet could slide through that. I rest my po­tato head on the door. I try not to give into com­plete hys­te­ria for thirty sec­onds but it is hard when the only thing in­side your po­tato is a pic­ture of a mid­dle-aged woman curled up on a toi­let floor, dead from star­va­tion.

Sod dig­nity, I think, bang­ing on the door with my bunches of ba­nanas, dig­nity may be as es­sen­tial to life as wa­ter but es­cape is more.

My sis­ters gather out­side the door.

The strange thing about hys­te­ria is that it doesn’t re­ally rise un­til there is an au­di­ence for it. “LEMME OUT,” I shout. There is a small com­mo­tion out­side the door. My sis­ters have gath­ered. “We’re all here,” they say.

Devon sis­ter is a doc­tor. Sligo sis­ter is a nurse. They will be good if there is blood. And Lon­don sis­ter is a cri­sis man­ager, used to ap­ply­ing strate­gies to deal with dis­rup­tive, un­ex­pected and cat­a­strophic events.

This is the A team, if ever there was one. It’s im­pos­si­ble for me to de­cide which sis­ter to tar­get my hys­te­ria at.

I put my ear against the door.

I hear stran­gu­lated laugh­ter. It is com­ing from Doc­tor and Nurse.

That just leaves Cri­sis Man­ager.

“LEMME OUT,” I say.

Then I hear Cri­sis Man­ager whis­per, “This is too good. I’m go­ing to get my phone, I have to record it,” and re­treat­ing foot­steps.

‘I am stuck and there is no room in my head for thoughts at all be­sides es­cape

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