IN THE END WE ALL WENT NAKED
It started one sleepy spring morning. There was nothing strange about it. Some of us were dozing though the hour was getting late.
A cool breeze blew, making flower petals flutter. The sun was shining brightly down.
People were beginning their journeys to work as per usual. It was later, as I did the same, that my first I stumble occurred. This was when I tried to utter the usual, very banal and totally familar pleasantries.
I couldn't say "Good morning" to the milk man. The words fled from my larynx and only "...morning" would come out.
Later, there was another bout of it. As I made it to the office that morning the doorman said quite distinctly, but with a seeming stutter, "Have a ... day".
I wanted to give a cheery "Thank you, same to you" as usual but all that came out was "........... you".
Inside was worse.
Like gibbering idiot dolls and puppets we danced. It was a mess of embarrassingly blushing ineptitude.
When the CEO arrived we all ran away. I saw someone surreptitiously spit into the pot plants, lips writhing like snakes, eyes popping.
I got home that night thoroughly shaken and crept in the door as quietly as I could.
I caught the eye of my eldest daughter Jenny, she was looking at me strangely out of the corner of her eye.
In paroxysms of anxiety I ran upstairs and hid in the bathroom.
Why did I feel a compulsive urge to punch our newborn baby boy?
Jane, my wife, came to bed late, she had gone for a long walk that evening, I'd heard the door slam twice.
All night I felt her knees sharp, and somehow pointedly malevolent in my back.
The next day was worse.
It started well enough... the sun shone and the scent of roses wafted down the avenue, making it such a beautiful place to be.
I did want to stop myself screaming at Johnny that I hated his crying.
I held my hand back from raking it across his merry little face.
I clawed at my throat to hold back a snarl.
Jane told me I looked like death warmed up. I told her to get her hair done, that she looked like an abandoned haystack.
Joseph, our toddler, kicked me in the shin.
The usual train was bedlam, stifled cries and coughs, idle shouts and vicious murmerings.
Someone was screaming at the driver about his excess of freckles.
I got off before my usual stop.
The office lot was totally empty.
Just the doorman standing some way down the street shouting how he didn't like me. Very loudly.
I wandered off, shielding my eyes from the sunbeams which glared at me reflected from every shop window up and down the street.
A cleaning lady I knew from the night shift said hello and promptly stamped on my foot.
When I got home Jane had gone.
Jenny was still there though. She walked right up to me and gave me the most lascivious french kiss. All I could do was dumbly stare before racing up the stairwell to my room.
I locked the door, closed the blinds and went straight to bed, pulling the covers over my head.
The flowers by the window had all wilted. The sun seemed to have scorched them. Too much sun and no rain had done for them.
I dressed, and it was then I felt it... a strange, unpleasant disgust. My vest felt abrasive, my tie too tight, the jacket was scratchy and seemed to hem me in. And my shoes seemed to squeeze like vices.
I looked out the window and almost jumped back in shock.
Mrs Goutcher from next door was standing in her garden half-naked. She was cupping her right breast with her hand and crying.
Now... all these months later there's no pain, no anxiety.
Everything is starting to make perfect sense.
I'm grooming Mrs Goutcher's hair.
It's what I am here for.
It seems right to be naked. I can't think why, it just is.
And there's no need to worry, not ever, not now...