Most of my day is spent in the kitchen.
Neither small nor large, as kitchens go. Somewhere in the middle, I suppose. Fake granite worktops, off-white cupboard doors. A fridge freezer with cracked drawers, a temperamental oven, an even more temperamental hob and, washing machine, all of which which came with the flat. Sage-green dish drainer. A large whiteboard, usually covered in S’s drawings of circuits and my lists of things to remember. Slow cooker and microwave, both donated by my mother. A set of John Lewis pans from my sister, W. Coffee machine from S’s sister.
The lino floor is warped and torn from a combination of a flood in the flat above, our cupboards full of food falling off the wall and smashing a few nights later, and the sheer length of time I’ve sat in this chair since we moved in.
If socialising happens (which is less and less… again) it’s nearly always in the kitchen. Not everybody likes it; the curved IKEA chairs take some getting used to and there’s no heating. The window is usually open to counter the smell of smoke. I enjoy it here though, and it feels… safer, somehow, to keep people in one area without giving them the run of the flat. Still in the grip of agoraphobia, my home is very much my castle.
Never in my life did I think I’d find the sound of a washing machine soothing. There’s a domesticity about it I’ve never really felt before. Pairing up S’s socks and hanging up his work shirts gives me a sense of peace which would greatly embarrass my rebellious teenage self. It gives me a routine; something which has been lacking for a long time. Feed the cats in the morning, regardless of how I feel. Let Stimpy out. Let Stimpy back in. Give attention to Stimpy. Sympathise with Magrat for being his sister.
Getting to the shop is still difficult. It’s bizarre; I can go into town with my mother, but I can’t walk two minutes down the road to buy milk. I want to try today, and there’s really no reason not to, but despite all the reassurance of CBT and my therapists… eh. I should phone my mother, but a large part of me would like to hide away for a little while. It’s not right to give in, but it’s as though I never learned how not to and any lessons seem to bypass me entirely.
So I sit at the dark wooden curved table in the kitchen, listening to the washing machine sloshing S’s jeans around and the wind blowing outside. The police helicopter has been out all morning, occasionally passing overhead. An unexpected chest infection is finally clearing and I can taste my coffee for the first time in weeks, smell the Yankee candle burning on the work top. Part way through typing this, I talked myself into phoning my mother, who said we could go out tomorrow instead; the relief is pretty strong. I’d still like to go to the shop, but I’m undecided whether it’s worth getting dressed to walk to the front door and turn around again.
This is how it is. In my pyjamas, in the kitchen. The sound of Stimpy shoveling Felix into his never-ending stomach. Socks covered in sheep, proclaiming ‘I love ewe’ in the worst font choice ever made. Clean hair; a shower two days on the run (no mean feat nowadays) and chapped lips which no amount of Blitzex will help. A fresh cup of coffee; no sugar.
A few plates and glasses sit in the sink. It’s a good one; deep and wide, although the drain often blocks outside with noodles from another flat’s kitchen and S has to clear it with as little retching as possible. The window behind the sink overlooks a dark red brick residential care home where staff often stand by the side exit door and chat loudly below our open window, which can be either entertaining or fury-inducing depending on the topic of conversation and the shrillness of the voice in question.
This time last year there were red and gold baubles hanging from the spice shelves, tinsel around the cupboards, ingredients for mince pies, drinks cupboard stocked with vodka and red wine (none for me, but I don’t mind that so much now) and a fridge filled with dips, cheeses, trifles, cream, packs of vegetable samosas and garlic mushrooms. However, this year we’ve decided to have a quiet Christmas. Usually S’s family, Z and her fiancé and a few others come to visit over the holidays, but so far this time our only nod to the festive season are some fairy lights strung around the mantelpiece in the living room and a small paper chain. I don’t think either of us have the will or the energy to make a fuss, and despite my love of decorating the flat I’m actually looking forward to just doing our thing. We’ve never had a Christmas purely to ourselves since moving in, and although I’ll miss seeing S’s family (my mother is staying with my sister, E, for the day) and even though I know people are bound to pop in… it’s nice to think of just being together at Christmas with no interruptions.