Sunday 22 April 2018

Nightwatch: On locked-in syndrome

Ailbhe Malone

This weekend, I spent three hours locked inside my boyfriend's parents' house. It wasn't some strange form of affection on their part -- more a mix-up of who was where and so on.

I had to call the neighbours to come and let me out. It was very embarrassing, but it was okay. I mainly watched telly and drank tea. Unsurprisingly, though, I've been locked in before. I wish I was making up the following anecdote. But, alas, no. Every single syllable that follows is the truth. Honestly.

I am in my first year of university. It is the summer holidays, and most of my friends have headed back to their home counties until term begins again in autumn. Stuck in Dublin, working in a deli, grappling with a terrifying lotto machine, I fancy a trip down to the countryside. I phone my bezzie mate, and ask if I could grace her village with my presence for a night or two. Delightedly, she agrees.

The train down is super-fun. I read the newspaper and a friendly farmer buys me a cup of tea. I could get used to this, I think. I can even see sheep from the train window! At the train station, my friend greets me and we immediately decamp to her house to spend the evening drinking lots of wine, eating strawberries and pretending that we are the female version of Sebastian Flyte and Charles Ryder. There is also an in-depth discussion about our favourite Libertines lyrics.

Slumped on the sofa, we both trek upstairs to sleep. My friend must work the next day, alas, but tells me to fend for myself in the morning, and to meet her in town for lunch before I travel back to Dublin.

I rise the next morning, and stumble to the bathroom in my pyjamas to wash my face, brush my teeth, and generally become less of a zombie. As I close the bathroom door, I turn the key to lock it -- out of habit. I finish my ablutions, and pull the door back open. Except it won't. I'm trapped. Okay Ailbhe, breathe. Carefully, I spend the next 15 minutes trying to open the door. Nothing.

After half an hour, I realise that unless I act, I will remain trapped in the second-floor bathroom for the rest of the day -- missing my train back to Dublin. It was time to channel my inner Spy Kid. I survey the bathroom and spot a window leading out onto the garage roof. Right! I shall escape.

Carefully hitching up my pyjama bottoms, I clamber backwards out of the window onto the roof. I am free. Amazing! I am barefoot on a garage roof, wearing a Strokes T-shirt and spotted pyjama bottoms. Less amazing. The next step is to actually get onto the ground. Cautiously using the sewage tank as a guide, I un-elegantly shimmy down the side of the garage. Level One of my living computer game is completed. Level Two: Get some shoes.

I rummage in the garage and find a pair of men's wellies. They're too large for me, but they'll do at a push. To find a spare house key in the garage is a forlorn hope, despite my best efforts. I decide to ask the next-door neighbours if they have a spare key. No such luck. They do, however, let me use their phone to ring my friend at work. Except, I don't know where she works.

"It's in the bookshop," I say. Reasonably, they ask to which bookshop I'm referring. Err... A quick perusal of the Yellow Pages, three wrong calls later, and I'm through. "Hello," I begin optimistically "I locked myself in your bathroom, but I climbed out the window and now I'm in your neighbours' house wearing some wellies. Could you bring your keys home please?" There is a pause as I hear her explain the situation to her boss, and then to the entire bookshop. Chuckles echo in the background. "Yes, Ailbhe. That's fine. I'll meet you halfway."

It's a long walk to the bookshop, so I return to the garage, and find a large bike. Aha, this will speed things along! So, welly-clad, in pyjamas, hungover, I trundle slowly through the town, bookshop-bound. To find my friend, glumly proclaiming that: "I left my keys in the house -- we'll have to go to my dad's office." And so it was that I marched into a country dental surgery in a pair of wellies and pyjamas, asking for a pair of house keys -- as I'd had to climb out of a bathroom window. In retrospect, waiting for three hours in a family home with a television isn't that bad.

Irish Independent

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