AIDA AUSTIN: I want you to practise finding your boarding card in downloads

My three sisters and I have just arrived at our Airbnb apartment in Lisbon and bagsied bedrooms, with disappointing results; I got the box room and have taken my disappointment off to the toilet.

In here, I admire the wall tiles for a second or two before setting about washing my hands of journey-dirt, splashing my face with cold water and casting about for helpful thoughts such as, “beware of self pity” and “positivity breeds content,” in an effort to banish unhelpful ones like, “life’s a bitch and then you die.”

But now it seems the door lock is jammed. I am stuck in the toilet. And there is no room in my head for any thoughts at all besides escape.

Hopefully with my dignity intact.

Dignity is as essential to human life as water, I think, smacking the lock with the heel of my shoe as quietly as I can, for I will only be able to retain my dignity if my sisters don’t witness it being assaulted like this.

There is a metallic click. This could be hopeful. I put down my shoe, with dignity.

I try turning the lock, with same. First clockwise, then anticlockwise. But where once there was a small movement in both directions, now there is none.

Just a metallic click, which does not sound hopeful anymore but rather sickening instead; as if it is saying, “so you thought sleeping in the box room was bad.”

Sod positivity, I think, positivity cannot possibly breed content when the outlook for the future is that you will be sleeping on a toilet floor for the next three nights. I’ll have to set my sights lower than positivity; I must just try to remain calm. And pick the lock with my earring-back.

It’s a good job I am so calm, I think, taking out my earring, or I’d never have thought of using an earring-back.

See? I think, it would not do for panic to descend, not when all I have to rely on for my escape is a working brain and fine motor skills. If I allow panic to enter this toilet, it will turn my eyes into big blind saucers, my head into a potato and my fingers to bananas.

I pick the lock, with my earring back.

I pick it this way and that.

“Sod calm,” I think, “I will have to set my sights lower than that. All I have to do is not give into complete hysteria.

I stare at the door. Even with big blind saucers, I can see there is only a millimetre gap between the bottom of the door and the floor; not even a dry lasagne sheet could slide through that. I rest my potato head on the door. I try not to give into complete hysteria for thirty seconds but it is hard when the only thing inside your potato is a picture of a middle-aged woman curled up on a toilet floor, dead from starvation.

Sod dignity, I think, banging on the door with my bunches of bananas, dignity may be as essential to life as water but escape is more.

My sisters gather outside the door.

The strange thing about hysteria is that it doesn’t really rise until there is an audience for it:

“LEMME OUT,” I shout.

There is a small commotion outside the door.

My sisters have gathered.

“We’re all here,” they say.

Devon sister is a doctor. Sligo sister is a nurse. They will be good if there is blood. And London sister is a crisis manager, used to applying strategies to deal with disruptive, unexpected and catastrophic events.

This is the A team, if ever there was one. It’s impossible for me to decide which sister to target my hysteria at.

I put my ear against the door.

I hear strangulated laughter. It is coming from Doctor and Nurse.

That just leaves Crisis Manager.

“LEMME OUT,” I say.

Then I hear Crisis Manager whisper, “this is too good. I’m going to get my phone, I have to record it,” and retreating footsteps.


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