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Chapter no 7 – Antimatter

The Midnight Library

Five hours before she decided to die, as she began walking home, her phone vibrated in her hand.

Maybe it was Izzy. Maybe Ravi had told her brother to get in touch. No.

‘Oh hi, Doreen.’

An agitated voice. ‘Where were you?’ She’d totally forgotten. What time is it? ‘I’ve had a really crap day. I’m so sorry.’ ‘We waited outside your flat for an hour.’

‘I can still do Leo’s lesson when I get back. I’ll be five minutes.’ ‘Too late. He’s with his dad now for three days.’

‘Oh, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.’

She was a waterfall of apologies. She was drowning in herself.

‘To be honest, Nora, he’s been thinking about giving up altogether.’ ‘But he’s so good.’

‘He’s really enjoyed it. But he’s too busy. Exams, mates, football.

Something has to give . . .’

‘He has a real talent. I’ve got him into bloody Chopin. Please—’ A deep, deep sigh. ‘Bye, Nora.’

Nora imagined the ground opening up, sending her down through the lithosphere, and the mantle, not stopping until she reached the inner core, compressed into a hard unfeeling metal.

*

Four hours before she decided to die, Nora passed her elderly neighbour, Mr Banerjee.

Mr Banerjee was eighty-four years old. He was frail but was slightly more mobile since his hip surgery.

‘It’s terrible out, isn’t it?’ ‘Yes,’ mumbled Nora.

He glanced at his flowerbed. ‘e irises are out, though.’

She looked at the clusters of purple flowers, forcing a smile as she wondered what possible consolation they could oer.

His eyes were tired, behind their spectacles. He was at his door, fumbling for keys. A bottle of milk in a carrier bag that seemed too heavy for him. It was rare to see him out of the house. A house she had visited during her first month here, to help him set up an online grocery shop.

‘Oh,’ he said now. ‘I have some good news. I don’t need you to collect my pills any more. e boy from the chemist has moved nearby and he says he will drop them o.’

Nora tried to reply but couldn’t get the words out. She nodded instead.

He managed to open the door, then closed it, retreating into his shrine to his dear dead wife.

at was it. No one needed her. She was superfluous to the universe.

Once inside her flat the silence was louder than noise. e smell of cat food. A bowl still out for Voltaire, half eaten.

She got herself some water and swallowed two anti-depressants and stared at the rest of the pills, wondering.

ree hours before she decided to die, her whole being ached with regret, as if the despair in her mind was somehow in her torso and limbs too. As if it had colonised every part of her.

It reminded her that everyone was better off without her. You get near a black hole and the gravitational pull drags you into its bleak, dark reality.

e thought was like a ceaseless mind-cramp, something too uncomfortable to bear yet too strong to avoid.

Nora went through her social media. No messages, no comments, no new followers, no friend requests. She was antimatter, with added self-pity.

She went on Instagram and saw everyone had worked out how to live, except her. She posted a rambling update on Facebook, which she didn’t even really use any more.

Two hours before she decided to die, she opened a bottle of wine.

Old philosophy textbooks looked down at her, ghost furnishings from her university days, when life still had possibility. A yucca plant and three tiny, squat potted cacti. She imagined being a non-sentient life form sitting in a pot all day was probably an easier existence.

She sat down at the little electric piano but played nothing. She thought of sitting by Leo’s side, teaching him Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor. Happy moments can turn into pain, given time.

ere was an old musician’s cliché, about how there were no wrong notes on a piano. But her life was a cacophony of nonsense. A piece that could have gone in wonderful directions, but now went nowhere at all.

Time slipped by. She stared into space.

Aer the wine a realisation hit her with total clarity. She wasn’t made for this life.

Every move had been a mistake, every decision a disaster, every day a retreat from who she’d imagined she’d be.

Swimmer. Musician. Philosopher. Spouse. Traveller. Glaciologist. Happy.

Loved.

Nothing.

She couldn’t even manage ‘cat owner’. Or ‘one-hour-a-week piano tutor’.

Or ‘human capable of conversation’.

e tablets weren’t working. She finished the wine. All of it.

‘I miss you,’ she said into the air, as if the spirits of every person she’d loved were in the room with her.

She called her brother and le a voicemail when he didn’t pick up.

‘I love you, Joe. I just wanted you to know that. ere’s nothing you could have done. is is about me. ank you for being my brother. I love you. Bye.’

It began to rain again, so she sat there with the blinds open, staring at the drops on the glass.

e time was now twenty-two minutes past eleven.

She knew only one thing with absolute certainty: she didn’t want to reach tomorrow. She stood up. She found a pen and a piece of paper.

It was, she decided, a very good time to die.

Dear Whoever,

I had all the chances to make something of my life, and I blew every one of them. rough my own carelessness and misfortune, the world has retreated from me, and so now it makes perfect sense that I should retreat from the world.

If I felt it was possible to stay, I would. But I don’t. And so I can’t. I make life worse for people.

I have nothing to give. I’m sorryBe kind to each other.

Bye, Nora

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