The wooden floors in my room were wet the next morning. I suppose I couldn’t complain. I sat on the bed smoking a cigarette and I watched her sitting in the buckets I had bought. I smiled to myself. Of course the buckets weren’t big enough. But that’s the only size bucket they sell at twenty-four hour petrol stations at three in the morning. It had taken a while for the man at the garage to sell them to me. The buckets wouldn’t fit through the small gap under his window. He was annoyed about having to open the door of the shop after twelve o’clock – he said it was against the rules. I told him it was for love. He didn’t seem to care. He started shouting at me in a language I couldn’t understand.
She wasn’t there when I got back. I waited around for half an hour. I searched up and down the beach. I waded in and then all of a sudden there she was, in front of me. I didn’t recognise her at first. I had only met her that afternoon and she looked a little different in the dark.
I was slightly annoyed that she had made me wait – perhaps it was a test. She made up for it when we got back to my flat. At least I had someone now, even if she did spill out onto my wooden floors – I suppose that I now should say our wooden floors. My brother always said I would end up a bachelor, but now that didn’t seem to be the case. She was very pleased with herself sitting there. She seemed different now that she was at home with me. She seemed more relaxed, more homely. I must say, although I wasn’t keen on it at first, I was glad I had taken her home.
The phone was ringing. Who knows how long it had been ringing for; it’s difficult to hear things when you are living with a wave. It was my brother.
‘Matthew is that you? I’ve been phoning for the last few days. Where the hell have you been?’
‘I went to the seaside.’
‘You can’t do that without telling us. You know that. What the hell has got into you?’
‘I’ve found a wave.’
‘What? What the hell are you talking about? What’s that noise behind you?’
‘I told you, I’ve found a wave. She’s moved in with me.’
‘You’ve found a what? A wife and she’s moved in with you. What the hell has got into you?’
‘No, not a wife, a w-a-v-e. She’s moved in.’
‘Matthew! Look don’t leave the house, I’m coming over.’
My brother can be funny sometimes. Why would I leave now I have everything I need? I suppose that we will have to move out at some point. My bed-sit simply isn’t big enough to house for the both of us.
For the last few weeks I had felt feverish and weighed down by some unusual feelings. I had slowly drifted away from the person I used to be. The feeling was quite strange; it had been rather like watching a film of myself. I had never felt like that before. It was like looking at myself as an object, as something that was not quite me. At first I had felt sick and dizzy and confused. My awareness of myself as me got worse and I failed to recognise any of the things or people around me. It was like a grey mist surrounded me, I could see myself but it wasn’t the me I knew.
It ended on Tuesday last week when I watched myself walk out the front door and I was left inside with a new person. I became someone new, someone completely different from the person I was before. I know it seems strange but that’s what happened. I’m not mad, and haven’t been abducted by aliens, nor do I believe myself to be Napoleon. I have kept my name for conveyance sake and I will associate with the same people, even though I seem to struggle to remember their names – although I do recognise them. I know that my new identity is going to be difficult for them to accept, but I will soften the blow by easing them into the idea slowly. As for my new partner I’ll not allow them to snub her.
It was a lovely day outside. Hackney’s air was filled with sun and the perfumes of flowers, birds sang from every tree. I lay on the grass under the enormous oak that shaded the majority of my small garden and I stared at her lying next to me. We would be happy forever. Nothing before had seemed so simple. It was pure existence; with no worry, panic or fatigue. Everything would be easy. I now had all that was needed for success. The fears had gone. I would be a success. I paged through the job section of the Guardian and realised that everything was possible, that I could be all things if I willed. It was simply a matter of applying for one of these jobs and life would become a linear movement forward until promotion and financial matters warranted retirement. The invisible happening that had changed him into me had taken away all those unhappy feelings of discouragement and panic. Now I knew just what could be achieved and what happiness lay out there for one to experience.
It had angered me that my bother would probably suggest that the reason for my happiness was that I had stopped my medication. I did not feel ill, in fact, I felt better than I had for years. Everything was settled and going well. A new job was in the bag and I had somebody to share my happiness with. Are these the delusions of a mad man? Are they fantasy? Surely the answer to these questions must be no. I see happy couples and rich men everywhere I walk. These things are not the realms of fantasy. They are, surely, the realms of a solid reality. And I will not stand for the jealousy of others; of those who seek to deny me my happiness. If my brother denies me this simple human right – that Right ordained by the founding fathers of our transatlantic bothers – I will not speak to him again. I went back to staring at her in her buckets. She was calm now, not like when I first met her – a burst of joy and energy.
The bell rang. I climbed back into my room up the iron ladder to the first floor and through the window. I answered the door. It was my brother. I didn’t want to have a fight with him.
‘Hello Matthew how are you feeling?’ He was looking at me with a worried expression on his face. I wanted to tell him there was really no need to worry that everything could not have been better. I knew that he would find it hard to understand. We sat down and had a cup of tea. We talked about things. I didn’t mention her; she was still outside, sitting in the garden. The floors were wet. I looked at them and wondered where the water had come from. I looked at my brother. I was happy, happier than the person I had been before. I sat listening to my brother and I had a strange excited feeling creep over me. I felt like telling him that I wasn’t really his brother any more, that I had changed, but I knew that that would upset him. After tea he asked me how I was feeling and if I remembered the conversation that we had had in the morning. I said I had and that before we had an argument, he had better come out and meet her. She was still lying out in the garden as beautiful as the day I had met her. I said as much to my brother as we climbed down. I had forgotten his name. It struck me as odd that I should forget my brother’s name. But I realised that why should I remember my brother’s name when he wasn’t even my brother. We stood in front of the buckets and as I began to introduce them I remembered Josh’s name but couldn’t remember hers. I realised that she hadn’t told me her name. That annoyed me, and it made me look like a fool in front of my brother.
Josh and I went back inside; she wanted to stay outside in the sun. They were both annoying me. I wanted to be left alone. But I knew that my brother wanted to speak to me. I hated it when he got like this.
‘Alright Matt don’t you think you and I should go down to see Dr. Thomas today? Just for a check up. I’m sure he’d be interested to hear about your new girlfriend. Can I turn the TV off?’ I hadn’t notice that was on. When he turned it off the horrible noise that has been in my head for the last few days stopped. ‘You don’t have to stay in the hospital,’ he continued. ‘You can come and stay with Jennifer and me. It really wouldn’t be a problem. We’d like to have you over.’
‘What about her though?’
‘She can come if she wants.’
‘If she wants! She’s my girlfriend for god sake why do you always find it so difficult to accept my girlfriends?’
I felt like telling him straight out that I was no longer his brother and that he had a damn cheek telling me that I should go and speak to a doctor. I refused to go. I realised that he was the one who was mad. He was clearly showing signs of madness and jealousy. It was he that needed a word with the doctor and not me.
We talked for a while and, for a moment, I remembered who I was. It struck me as strange that I should remember who I was. But then I realised I had after all been somebody else not so long ago. I suppose that these feelings are natural in a transition like this. He said that we should go for a drive. I agreed, I had a few things to tell him and perhaps a drive would be good – at least he would have to listen. I went outside to fetch her. It’s difficult carrying two buckets of water up an iron ladder. I wondered for a moment why the hell I was carrying two buckets of water up an iron ladder but then I remembered. I spilt some water on my trousers and it slopped on the concrete below. She didn’t seem to mind but it annoyed me that my trousers were now wet again just when they were beginning to dry. Josh said that she couldn’t come in the car with us, but I insisted. He then wanted to put her in the boot and I got very angry. He had always treated my girlfriends badly. We put her on the back seats of the car after taping plastic bags onto the top of the buckets to keep the water in.
I looked at Josh while he was doing this. It seemed strange that he wanted to take two buckets of water in his car. We drove for a while and arrived at the hospital. I got out of the car and walked in. I wondered why we had come here I thought we were going to his house but maybe he had wanted to pick something up. I saw a man walking in with two buckets with the tops covered with plastic bags. He seemed a strange sort. He came up to me. I was feeling dizzy and wet. The man came up to me and put his arm around my shoulders; I felt better. It was Josh, my brother. He had brought me my wave. I was happy.
I wondered why we had come here. Everything was moving so quickly I had found a girlfriend and the jobs page seemed full of opportunities. I was not like the person I had been before.
We walked into Dr Thomas’ office. I was surprised to see him. I confused his name of a second. Thought he was Mr Jahidi, my next-door neighbour but when he smiled at me I suddenly remembered who he was. ‘Well Matt how are you feeling?’ I told him that I was no longer the Matthew he knew. That I had changed for the better. He was happy I had turned over a new leaf and that with the help of my girlfriend I was making a new life for myself. I had written 7 rules for myself like he had said and I was now living them. He asked me about my girlfriend and I was confused. I couldn’t remember why I had come here. Josh had two buckets sitting next to him. The seven rules kept running through my head. I felt wet and cold. Josh was carrying buckets; perhaps he had gone mad. The doctor gave me some pills. I didn’t want to take them. I hated taking them. Josh held my hand and said that I should take them. I realised that I liked Josh. He was great, ever since we were kids he had been there. I think I would do anything for Josh. I told him I wanted to go home. I felt dizzy and sick.
A nurse came in and took me to a room. Josh squeezed my arm. I picked up the buckets. The nurse said that they couldn’t go into the room with me. I said that my girlfriend went where I went. He said that no visitors were allowed in the rooms after visiting hours. I told him that she wasn’t a visitor that she was my girlfriend the doctor allowed her to come in with me. The nurse helped me take off my wet clothes and rubbed me down with a towel. ‘Get under the covers you can’t go on shivering like that.’ I got into the bed and started to warm up. It was horrible. I lay in the bed I started sweating. I felt the horror of myself creeping back. I wanted to twist the feeling out of me. I went to hold her hand; it was cold.