I barely know where to start with this. My day has just been insane. I guess I should do a quick recap to (try to) make it make any sense to anyone reading… Although I doubt I’ll have too much luck as it makes fuck all sense to me, and I was there!
Basically, the bar I work at has had its busiest week in the 7 or 8 years of its existence. I started the day on my 12th 12 hour shift in a row with only one day off somewhere in the middle, no time to eat, drink or rest in any way and as someone who already has severe life-long insomnia, I can barely articulate my exhaustion, but can attempt to summarise it by saying “I am fucked.” Although to be honest, I’m probably too tired to even finished the word, so “I am fu…” may be more appropriate.
Reaching, and crossing, breaking point about half a week ago, I have been tip-toeing the line between mild confusion brought on by severe fatigue, and what a doctor may refer to as “a full blown fuck-tacular breakdown”…
So you can imagine my surprise when Miss Havisham came to the bar.
Starting from the top, I awoke this morning and got ready, leaving myself the usual amount of time to sort myself out before walking to work. However, the machinations of surrealism were already in effect and I was made late by the fact that my watch had stopped overnight… Something I could never convince myself of, as I checked it every twenty to thirty seconds throughout the day. The omens of trouble were already upon me.
I had just finished serving another faceless identical customer; I was about 5 or 6 solid hours in, and I turned to see a very elderly (polite term for pre-historic) lady, standing feebly and staring at me with one bony finger motionlessly protruding into the air. She was dressed all in an eerily dazzling white feathery outfit, with a tiara made of white ribbons that sat atop her long, stringy white hair. Her pointy witch-like nose sagged down her wrinkled face, and she was the very personification of dementia. After asking every single member of staff wether or not they had ever read ‘Great Expectations’ I found myself somewhat annoyed that her presence could only be truly appreciated by myself. I seemed to begin getting so frustrated that no one understood my reference, that I wanted to grab her and scream “You get the joke, don’t you Miss Havisham! You’ve read Great Expectations. Perhaps you even read the very first printing back when you were 104 years old, you fucking fossil!”. To reiterate, I had gone half-mental from exhaustion at this point, and as such could barely contain my laughter that this fictional character had just wandered into my day. I tried to serve her, but had no luck deciphering the inaudible whispers that seemed to dribble from her lips like a monologue from Salad Fingers. I hurriedly passed her off to the manager to speak to and got back to serving the seemingly infinite queue of thirsty customers.
However, as the evening wore on, I couldn’t help but peer over at the corner of the bar, where she still stood, staring at me, as if on the verge of whispering to me even if I was ten feet away from her. Her dazzling white among the multicoloured masses gave my brain the impression that it was looking at a ‘pop-art’ coloured photographed, that had for some reason left one small area in monochrome. I kept trying to look away, but I had that heat on the back of my neck where you know someone is looking directly at you. After having raved about Great Expectations to my apparently illiterate colleagues, my absolute bewilderment got the better of me, and I was trying to serve while laughing hysterically to myself at the sheer likelihood that this was really happening. This was of course, not helped when a man in the queue, having seemingly cottoned on to what I was laughing at, stopped speaking to the lady he was with mid-sentance, and turned to me, dead-pan, and said, “She’s not really there you know… No one can see her apart from you…”, followed by another man not long after, in the same straight-faced style, whispering to me that “she used to work here long ago… But was murdered.” And thanks to those gentlemen, I completely lost the plot, and had to leave the bar momentarily, to wipe away the tears of hysterics that were streaming down my face.
I knew as soon as I saw her, that I had to write about seeing her… So I began asking any other member of staff, as I was too busy, to try and take a photo of her without her noticing, but to no avail. Eventually I decided I couldn’t miss the chance, and I had to go and do it myself. I walked into the room just opposite the bar where she was sitting. I tried to not be terrified by the way the clouds had parted to allow a single ray of sun to shine through the conservatory windows directly onto the bright white apparition. After bottling out once or twice, I went to clear some glasses and managed to take one photo with my phone hidden by my pocket. I could probably have done it right in her face without her having any clue what was going on, but I was literally harbouring a totally irrationally disproportionate fear of this strange, withered ghost. Unfortunately, just as I turned to leave, I was ensnared into being asked to “c… call up the taxi man… to… to take me away from here…”. Again, swallowing my fear, I asked her where she was going, and what her name was, so that I could book the taxi, but she just smiled in a haunting ‘verge of death’ kind of way, so (and I’m not proud) I legged it. I did actually call a taxi for her, and booked it under my name. The driver said he was two minutes away and I hoped the ordeal was over.
My optimism, however, was shattered when, twenty minutes later, I saw her glide (yes, glide, as in, not walking, but gliding, with no discernible footsteps or up and down motion) back to the corner of the bar, where she preceded to very slowly raise that pointy, bony index finger into the air and stare at me, as if the other forty people I was trying to serve no longer existed. In my terror, I ignored her and begged anyone else to serve her instead, but as she gazed at me, those hollow dark eyes piercing into my very soul like we were the only two people to have ever existed, I felt what little sanity I had left slip away to the emotionless vacuum of bewilderment.
Now that I was already falling through topsy-turvy land, it came as no surprise when I heard Simon behind me, calmly and politely saying “You’re going to have to put the sword away before I can serve you”, at which point I turned to see a man in full knight armour, sheathing his blade before ordering a gin and tonic (stag-do or something, don’t ask). I then walked downstairs to get some wine, and after staring intensely at a box that said “This Side Up” on it, I opened the box to see that the contents were upside down. That was the last straw. At that point, I knew I was dreaming. Everything was normal… But just… A little bit off, as if it were some backwards reality.
I began floating through the bar, surveying my surroundings with the kind of detached surreal curiosity that would lead me to expect to see a dog ‘meow’ or a cat ‘bark’. I was about ready to witness three ravens flying into the bar, hanging up their hats and coats, walking up to me and politely order some drinks… Drinks, which at this point, I would have happily and calmly served them, before slowly pushing a fork into my left eyeball. Hazily wandering off the bar for a moment, I began listlessly meandering around the building, feeling like I had stumbled into a world that Jim Morrison had dreamed up after reading Lewis Carroll and shooting up heroin. A strange man fumbled into my walking path and I stopped and looked at him. In my head, I saw him smile with piano keys for teeth before morphing into a bookcase, and when he didn’t, I think I probably just tilted my head and glared at him before wandering off.
It defies any sense of realism that when I walked back past the conservatory, I saw Miss Havisham sat next to my girlfriend’s aunt. Of course… The old lady that I had been laughing at/terrified of for the last several hours was of course, someone who turned out to be somehow related to me. Of course… A friend from church, I was told… Of course, why not. Because I didn’t find her creepy enough before we got religion involved.
Thank fuck, after eleven hours, they let me go home, at which point I phoned Rebecca, and explained everything, before she asked me if I was on drugs. I got home to hear ‘The End’ by The Doors playing on the record player, while Rebecca was dancing around the flat dressed like a 60’s hippy. Of course. I looked down at my cat, who sat and stared at me. I was waiting for him to say “Never trust the midnight rainbow” in a deep echoing voice, but luckily he kept quiet.
Finally, assuming there was no more insanity left for the day to offer me, I trudged to bed and pulled back the cover to see a hammer lying on my pillow. Of course. I’m not sure if my girlfriend was planning on murdering me “Basic Instinct’ style, or if it was just misplaced while tidying: but there it was… My entire day reduced to one inanimate object, in a place it shouldn’t be.
Harkening back to the beginning of the day, I remembered that my watch had stopped. I took it off and looked at it. It was stuck on 12:04.
12:04… Or “Four Past Midnight”, which is the title of the Stephen King book that was sitting in my bed side drawer. I’m pretty sure it’s all a coincidence…
Anyway, seen below is the terrifying Miss Havisham. As you’ve probably guessed, that isn’t really her name… And as you can tell by the picture, I was unable to capture her in all her mind-boggling glory, but it isn’t easy to discretely take a photo while staring into the eyes of an amalgamation of every fairytale witch, every scary ‘cat lady’ or shopping-cart vagrant, every madcap “Get off my lawn, you kids!” old woman bundled into the corpse of a Charles Dickens novel and made to glide into my life, exuding the same level of unfathomable significance as Kurtz from ‘Heart of Darkness’.