You know that dream where you're naked in class? I thought I was having that dream, but for some reason I didn't wake up, and the chill on my skin felt most undreamlike. A teacher screamed and one kid quickly grabbed a coat from the rack and threw it at me, whilst another kid shouted 'Not my coat you knobber!' I also remembered that before this I hadn't been in a classroom in nine years.
I walked sheepishly home, the small child's coat wrapped as best I could get it around my nakedness, trying to figure things out in my head.
The reason I thought it was a dream was because I had been asleep, I had been asleep in my bed at home, I had been naked in bed, so if I had sleep-walked all the way to this school it figures that I would have been naked there, but this school is four miles from my flat, surely a man can't walk naked through the streets of South London and stroll starkers into a school, depositing himself into the middle of a geography class without someone noticing and, more to the point, preventing him?
That was what struck me as most odd, that the time - according to the clock on the wall in the assembly hall of the school that I noted as I dashed out of the building - was 9.45am. Class had clearly been in progress for some time, yet I had also managed to place myself in the centre of the room, on the floor between two desks, and had only been noticed once I had arrived there.
Behind me I could hear a car slowing to a crawl, I knew who it was before they said a word, so I stopped walking and waited for the policeman to speak.
I was tested for drugs and alcohol, I was hoping there'd be some residual presence of the jagerbombs we'd done last night, because I figured if they found neither they'd just assume I was a paedophile. They asked me if I had been drinking, I told them about the night before, and I lied, told them I didn't remember how I got home, in the hopes that their Holmes-like brains would incorrectly assume that I'd drunkenly broken into a school and fallen asleep in the classroom.
Eight hours later I was released without charge, but lots of stern warnings. I returned home where I had to implore a neighbour to let me use their phone so I could call a locksmith, I had to write out an IOU to them saying I would reimburse them for the phone credit used, when I asked for a cup of tea they added an extra 70p to the IOU.
I went to my room to get dressed, sat on the mattress, it squelched under me and I leapt back to my feet. Cautiously placing a hand onto the bed I could feel a sloppy dampness, as if it had been glazed in egg yolk, and holding my fingers up to the light I could see a thin, gloopy substance with small crystals, kind of like hair gel.
After six rings Jessica answered the phone, she was still in bed, though she was awake and watching a documentary about hippos.
"How's your head?" she laughed.
"Fine, I've been in the police station all day."
"What!? What did you do?"
"Nothing... Well, I... You remember last night, right?"
"Sure, I wasn't that drunk."
"We shared a taxi, me, you and Rich, and I was dropped off first..."
"Yeah, but, why were you at the police station?"
"So, you saw me go into my flat, you saw me go home?"
"Yeah, well, no, but we saw you get out of the cab outside your flat. What did you do?"
"I didn't do anything, but I definitely went home, I got home, I went in, I went to bed."
"I woke up in a school."
"My old secondary school, I was in class, naked."
"Are you sure this wasn't a dream?"
"If it was, then it was a very long and rather boring dream involving eight hours in a police station and two hours locked outside my flat."
I repeated the day's events to Jessica, enjoying her laughter and slightly embellishing certain details for her amusement. Last night we'd been out at the Frog & Bucket, it was supposed to be a quiet drink, just the three of us, but a group of city boys were in the pub having an arrogant, swaggering piss up and I couldn't help but swipe some shots from off of their table. A combination of the crime going unnoticed and the dizzying rush of godawful sambuca helped send us giddily from tipsy to smashed.
Shortly thereafter Rich was humouring the city boys at the bar and Jessica had gone to the bathroom, I decided I need to go as well, and Jessica and I passed on the small stairway down to the toilets, her going up, me descending, we had to place our backs to the wall to pass, our middles brushing close, Jessica beamed and said "Oh, hello!" in a Carry On-like fashion, and then we just kissed, both instinctively just leaning forward and we kissed.
After a short while we stopped and carried on our respective journeys. Nothing like that had ever happened between us before, it was so unprecedented I didn't even really hit me until later that night, in the taxi home, I felt silly and childish, like I did after my first kiss with Melanie Woodman behind the canteen building at school, we were both in top set geography together, we used to sit in the very classroom I woke up in today, at the very desks I was between.
That had been what I was thinking as I fell asleep, I had been wondering about Melanie Woodman, remembering her sneaky little grin when we'd glance at one another in class.
At the end of my conversation with Jessica I was confused, she'd laughed a lot, and I'd said things like; 'So last night was fun...' I wanted to mention the kiss on the stairs, but I couldn't bring myself to do it, what if she was embarassed about it, and I didn't want to treat it like a joke, because it wasn't a joke to me, it felt like something, it could be something, couldn't it?
I woke up in pain, I was at an angle, it was dark still, I was on a cold tiled floor, but the floor was stepped, there was a chemical smell, detergent and mop water. I didn't need to open my eyes to know where I was, I was on the stairs at the Frog & Bucket.
I stood, my back cracking from the awkward position I had found myself in, my naked skin kissing off the gloss, hurrying up the stairs I could see early morning light in the sky outside, but the pub, understandably was shut. I searched, carefully and quietly, for a set of spare keys, but no luck.
However a thought that yesterday would have seemed ludicrous had begun to enter my mind. I climbed into a booth, lay down on the soft padded seating, got as cosy as I could and tried to go to sleep.
"Oi, mate! What the fuck do you think you're doing?"
I opened my eyes, it was bright, I hadn't slept terribly well and now this voice had brought me out of what scant slumber I was in. But worse, I was still in the pub, still lying naked in the booth, except now the bar manager was staring at me and he was holding a broom in an aggressive stance.
The same policemen interviewed me, they gave me the same withering look that my mother would give me whenever I inevitably hurt myself after a stern warning not to be so boisterious.
"Drunk again, were we?"
"Well I was in a pub." I replied, a little too quickly and sarcastically, I instantly regretted saying it, I apologised. "No, I hadn't been drinking, I... just... um..."
"How did you get in?"
"Into the pub. There were no signs of a break in."
I lied to the police again, "One of the windows was open."
"I see," the policeman with heterochromia said whilst making a note.
Then they sat there for a bit, the two of them, just sort of staring at me, figuring me out and I stared back, feeling a bit cheeky that this is the second time they've had to loan me clothes in as many days.
"You'll be pleased to hear that Derek doesn't want to press any charges. But listen, if this happens again you'll be spending a night here, all right?"
I bothered the same neighbour, made another IOU, called the same locksmith, waited the same two hours for him to finally arrive, and shamefully entered my flat and went to my bed to find the same icky matter staining the freshly laundered sheets I'd put on yesterday.
Out of concern for my health I ran my hand along the bed cover, gathering as much of this slop up as I could and deposited it into a tuppaware container.
It was early afternoon, the police had treated me with more haste today, though I undoubtedly believed that if I wound up there again tomorrow they'd really take their time with me, and I was certain they'd stick to their word and shove me in the cells, at least for one night.
But, more than anything I was crestfallen. I had been certain of my hypothesis that sleep had been the cause, perhaps I hadn't been thinking about my own home hard enough, maybe that was why, or the discomfort of lying naked in a pub had kept me on edge, I hadn't been able to enter a deep sleep. Yes! That must be it. But, I needed to find out.
Fortunately there was a half used box of Nytol in the bedside drawer, remnants from two ex-girlfriends ago, I figured it'd be fine to take one, though it felt strange doing so at two in the afternoon. I decided to set optimum napping conditions, I went into the front room, lay on the sofa, put on the telly, it was some asinine homes show, the guests were nattering about a cottage in Porthmadog, I popped a pill and cosied up. I thought about my bed, my bed just upstairs, I tried to picture it clearly in my head, its position in the room, the feel of lying in it, where I like to lie, the right hand side, stretched out, one hand under a pillow, my bed.
I woke up, the sun was either setting or rising, I couldn't tell, but what I could tell is that the sky I could see was from a window that shouldn't be in my room, which meant I was in a room that wasn't my room, and standing I could see I was in a lounge, immaculately decorated, with a view of a bay, it was the house from the television show, the cottage in Porthmadog.
Despite falling asleep in my clothes I was naked again and I didn't know whether to first go to the telephone or to t ry and find something to wear. I crept around the rooms, the cottage to seemed to be reassuringly vacant, but I still winced with every unexpected knock and squeak as I tip-toed through the dark, expecting, at any moment, a set of keys to jangle toward a lock, or a light to suddenly illuminate my nakidity. On the plus side, I thought, if I do get caught, at least it'll be a different pair of policemen giving me a bollocking.
I found a bedroom, there were various items of jewellry strewn on a cabinet, so I assumed that this cottage did have inhabitants but they just weren't here, and, as I then discovered, they were of a size rather larger than I.
With a dressing gown almost double-wrapped around me I slunk back downstairs and picked up the landline, suddenly realising that I don't know Jessica's number off by heart, nor any number bar my childhood telephone number which my parents had made me memorise in case I was ever lost, but that was no help now as they'd sold the house to be bulldozed and developed into a supermarket over ten years ago.
Then the foolishness of my situation struck me, I wouldn't need to phone anyone at all, I would just have to fall asleep and think of somewhere safe, and do so in an environment where my thoughts could not be distracted by reality television. The only catch now being that I didn't feel at all tired and, after scavenging through their cupboards, couldn't find any kind of sleeping pills or sedatives.
I didn't much fancy hanging around until I felt naturally tired, the Nytol had done a great job and I felt rested and refreshed.
What I did find though was a large bottle of vodka, and I figured that desperate times call for desperate measures, in this instance, quadruple measures, with a splash or two of orange juice to take the edge off.
I knocked back the first glass in one go, the after taste was horrendous, like being punched in the stomach and having some spray deodorant in your mouth at the same time. Fortunately, as is usually the case with alcohol, the second and third glasses tasted progressively more palatable, and by the fourth my brain was starting to sway uneasily in its casing. I staggered, lop-sided around this cottage and found myself, for some unknown reason, re-enacting the reality show that I had fallen asleep to earlier.
"Oh, look at the exposed beams!" I cooed to my imaginary husband (I was playing the wife), "Such character! Yes," the husband agreed, clearly not interestested in exposed beams. "If you'll follow me up the grand eshcalier," the host joined in, "to the master boudoir." I don't know why I made him so camp, he wasn't like that at all in the show, but I was giggling to myshelf now asssss I mayyde my whhay upppp d' stairsh and, y'know, I'm luuuccky, I really am, and, and I got this power, I could go anywhhhhere, yesssh, I, well, I, they tried, if they try to lock-ock me up in d'at cell, well, I'lllll, yes, I'll laugh in their facesh, ha ha, in both those poleeeshhhman's faces...
I woke up, I could hear the silence and I could sense a presence, and I opened my eyes to see that I was about three feet off of the floor, lying on a desk, my face pressed against some papers, the rest of my bare skin amongst various items of stationery and, as I arched my body round to survey the situation, the now entirely expected faces of the two policemen stared with a mixture of disdain and supressed laughter.