I couldn’t find my phone

I wake from a dream in which my friend’s teenage child had performed rather respectably in his first motorbike race. She couldn’t see the fuss, but I was excited for him, and not a little ashamed I myself had lagged so far behind that the race organisers didn’t even display my name or where I had finished.

Craig – 23rd.

I roll my tongue around the grim taste of the morning and take a mouthful of bedside coke to clear it. With an unpretty lurch I haul myself to a sitting position and then stand up. I feel amazed that even at my weakest my body retains the strength to lift all of me and move it from place to place.

I wonder how long I slept, and vaguely remember deciding not to set an alarm. I brush my teeth with some urgency, turn the heating on, and mess about with a plant trying to work out whether it will be better served by the light at the front or the back of the house. Normally it’s clear – morning front, back from about 2 – but today the clouds are blanket and low, so it’s hard to tell where the sun is at all. I wonder about the time. It could be 3pm or 6am, the normal sound of screeching children at the school next door isn’t there to guide me.

I wonder what my phone will tell me. 8am, no messages. That would be a dream. More likely 2.30 and enough notifications that even the benign ones pull my brain in too many directions.

I envy people who check their phone as readily as yawning. I look around the room for it, weighing up my desire for the time against the self-loathing of seeing what I’ve allowed to stack up. It’s not in either of the usual spots, high on the drawers or on the carpet by the door – both far enough to make the stretch from bed uncomfortable. It’s not on the bedside table either, a weekend favourite.

I look in the bathroom, wondering if I’ve left it on the corner of the cardboard box by the sink. I go to the kitchen, scanning the hall on the way. I stand on the threshold of the kitchen and sitting room, a watchtower surveying the surfaces while I try to recreate the end of the evening. I remember feeling so tired, little else.

I discount the bathroom and hallway once more, leaving only the bedroom and kitchen-sitting room. I move between them barefoot – carpet, lino, carpet, lino, carpet again – like a useless goose. I check the pockets of recently worn clothes as I go, occasionally standing still to wonder how I could leave it somewhere so out of sight.

I begin to think about who has contacted me and what I will tell them. “I couldn’t find my phone” sounds like such an improbable excuse. Pathetic. I turn the heating off, irritated by the warmth. I look at the plant, trying to gauge the shadows. I still can’t see the sun, and I can’t tell if the shadow of the chimney stack opposite is really a shadow – at least 4 o’clock – or just a reflection on the wet slate. I feel guilty for caring; I’m not even working today. I feel guilty again for wasting a day off.

I stand in the kitchen once more, at a loss. I wonder if it’s really just gone. Then I feel a twitch. I turn to my small speaker and press the power button. It beeps on, followed by a familiar two-tone click. Bluetooth.

Hot and cold. I turn the speaker off and pick up my headphones. Placing the buds in my ears mutes the rain and focuses my thoughts. I hold the middle button – a jolly scale plays. Nothing else. I check the light. It’s going crazy, searching. I walk across the kitchen, then slowly into the hall. I stop a moment. Power off, power on, I take no chances. I turn into the bedroom, stalking past the door. I reach the foot of the bed.

One beep, firm.

I press the middle button again, just a click, hoping for sound – my last podcast, maybe spotify – imagining that the quality of the reception might help me work out a radius. No luck. But it’s here, somewhere.

Anchored by the knowledge that I am connected, I stand beside the bed. Had I really been so tired? I lift the pillows, amazed at the thought that it might be there. Very uncharacteristic. I throw back the covers – still unlikely, but not unimaginable, if I’m honest with myself. No. I tidy the sheets quickly, no excuse for a messy bed.

Frustrated, I grab the mattress with both hands, hauling it up off the bed. I pin back the mattress with my body weight, my back straining a little at the angle. I peer into the shadows, it’s so dark I can’t see much of anything. I slowly scan, and then I recognise another black, directly beneath my pillow. There.

I reach through the slats, shoulder not happy. I pick it up, then ease my large hands back through the gap, keen not to drop it. I stand upright, dropping the mattress. I spin it around and click the power button.

12:16. Could have been worse.


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