An Evening of Unfortunate Events

Karina Kamran

© Copyright 2018 by Karina Kamran

  Photo of sea waves.

In a big white house on a quiet street, a pen furiously attacks each blank page. Wielded by a magician on the rampage, her stories must be told and their magic needs to be spread. Smiling as she weaves another tale, her desire for caffeine is real and her stomach’s demands for pizza ought to be met.

The shaking had begun to take hold. My palms were sweating as my head began to spin. Unable to tell what direction was up, down, left or right, my feet desperately sought solid ground. Planting my shoes as firmly as I could into the carpet, the rocking sensation grew within the pit of my stomach. Standing had become an unfeasible task. I knew I had to get to my room as soon as possible. Glancing up, the stairs resembled an unsurpassable mountain. My legs began to buckle as my hands grabbed fist-fulls of fibres from the carpet. I had to do this, I must get upstairs! The climb was a struggle – an ever increasing reminder of the delicate balance between life and death. Would I make it? Survival was the only option, but it wasn’t guaranteed. A single grain of rice can tip the scale into or out of your favour.

Dizzy with relief at having made the impossible climb, the humbly sized, but largest bathroom our family of four shared became my sanctuary as ‘early breakfast’ came up to greet me. I should have heeded my mother’s words; she’d warned me that this would happen - children don’t eat McDonalds past midnight! However, the scent of chips had offered the comfort I’d so urgently needed an hour or so ago. It’d been an eventful evening – rather unfortunate events in fact. Clinging onto my bear, that night I knew I’d survived - though I was surely never to be the same again. The person I’d woken up as that morning had fallen down ‘Alice’s rabbit hole’ and we all know what happened to Alice in the end.

The world ‘unfortunate’ is synonymous with many meanings and ‘terrifying’ accompanies expectations, but ‘childhood’ is full of sweet nostalgia. You may be wondering what these three words have in common and (ordinarily), I would state that there isn’t much at all. However, one day in particular the term ‘a series of unfortunate events’ was to take on an entirely different meaning altogether.

You see, long ago before the dawn of social media and the current unrelenting invasion of technology, we had to make our own entertainment. Parents were forced to interact with their children and children understood that responsibility was taught to you by mimicking their matured role models. Therefore, by being told ‘respect your elders,’ you’d been gifted a golden nugget – something that could indeed help you try to take over the world in a way that the two laboratory mice: Pinky and The Brain, were never quite able to. I must be sure to take this moment to highlight how WRONG that piece of advice was: wisdom does (hopefully) come with age, but it doesn’t mean that all adults are wise! Need more convincing? Small babies are not given the term ‘senile’ to describe their behaviour, but an adult behaving in the same way is deemed to be on the verge of insanity.

Adults are interesting people to young ones. We look at them much like you do an exhibit at a museum. Our noses pressed up against the glass, we long to grab hold of that ancient allure. My mother raised us to be neat, polite little children – the kind you read about in books from long ago where they say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and wouldn’t think to slam doors or throw a tantrum in public. Family outings and getting dressed up to meet ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’ or people we referred to as such out of politeness was normal. Every week or so there was usually some kind of an outing – whether with family to the shops, or to meet friends just because humans had the disposable time and patience to socialise. The weekend was the weekend: a time for rest, fun and excitement. I looked forward to that time more than anything and school holidays were a gift from the heavens, because they were many weekends rolling by one after another. All the possibilities each day held and the opportunities for greatness would make my body tingle with so much excitement that it’d be almost impossible to sleep.

On one such particular day, I remember getting ready to meet an old friend. My twin and I were washed and dressed promptly. Putting on our long blue coats with navy fur around the collar and cuffs, we slipped matching blue berets from an aunt onto identical heads of springy black curls. Today felt different somehow. It was later in the evening and all that I knew was that we were going for a drive somewhere far away. It was usual for us to go on drives. We’d look at the lights at Christmas, view fireworks during the winter and go to the river in the summer. The usual ‘uncle’ arrived, picking us up in his car. Uncles were usually kind, but much more serious. Uncle Banana on the other hand, liked to fool around. He invited us over for pizza every weekend, lifted me up to walk on the ceiling and allowed me to make imaginary phone calls to my grandfather. That is… until the day we realised the phone (with no dial tone) which supposedly didn’t work, had been responsible for a very angry redial from that same grandfather, demanding to know why this number insisted on prank calling him so often. It was at this point I’d surmised Uncle Banana was bad news.

The drive was rather pleasant despite the fact it was raining. We were in central London somewhere and I remember sitting in the back of my Uncle’s car with my mother and twin, eagerly viewing the scenery around us. There was much to see and although I was secretly a very nervous child…I felt quite at ease. That was, until my father called Uncle Banana’s name, snapping his attention away from his phone and onto the roadwork ahead of us. Uncle Banana hit the brakes hard, sending us flying. I wasn’t sure if we’d actually hit the cordoned off area, or merely come within an inch of doing so, but it didn’t matter – the blood rushed to my ears just the same. It sounded so loud that I thought there was a river in my head. The tyres screeched and made a sickening grinding sound as they came to a halt. I didn’t quite have the courage to get out in the middle of a busy road to see if we’d left tyre marks upon the tarmac, but it wouldn’t have surprised me if we had. I remember the oxygen levels in the car felt as though they’d decreased suddenly as our heavy breathing reminded us we were still alive. Looking around, checking our limbs were all still attached and functioning, I caught my dad giving Uncle Banana a menacing look through the rear view mirror. Back in those days it wasn’t illegal to be on your phone and drive if you were being safe, but now that it is, I can safely say my childhood self is very much relieved. I wished we’d turned back right there and headed for home. Pleading with the air currents to take my silent prayer to my parents, I sat in shock, certain that we wouldn’t continue on any further, but fate has an interesting way of surprising you…

Thankfully, the remainder of the drive was (in comparison), uneventful. Remembering the look I’d seen on my father’s face, I worried (mostly for my Uncle’s safety) had it not been. A look can say a thousand words and that particular glance told me that he wasn’t best pleased at my Uncle’s foolishness. The sun had now set and lights were twinkling past us as the drive picked up speed on the motor way. Lampposts and headlights were likened more to stars in a dark, moving cosmos of pollution. Rocking along on our journey, my vision became hazy.

The car stopped, but I didn’t quite understand why as there weren’t any buildings around us. My twin and I were told to come out of the car so we could observe a river. As we approached the side of the bridge, it was possible to make out gentle waves lit softly in the dusk of evening. It was rather relaxing watching the light dance on the water as it tenderly swayed beneath us. I began to feel as if by watching such a scene, I too was in the water: a magnificent mermaid bopping along to wave at other little children who would (no doubt), be looking down from the bridge at me too. I’d just lost myself in these reveries in fact, when something whipped my attention back to reality. It felt as though a great bird had swooped down at me from above and had picked me up in its talons. My stomach went one way as my body went the other; it took a moment for it to settle before my senses re-aligned. I wasn’t looking across at the water anymore, but rather… down at it! Uncle Banana’s laughter was loud and somewhat manic as he held me above his head.
I’m going to drop you,” he joked. “I’m going to drop you.”

I went numb with fear. My heart raced at humming-bird-like speed as my pupils focused on the dark abyss beneath me. My legs were dangling under me like a limp ragdoll.

Please, I thought. Please don’t let him do it. I pleaded with the heavens that he wouldn’t lose his grip. I’ve never been able to swim, although I doubted that I’d survive in such a large expanse of water even if I could. The river is dirty. It has germs that can kill. No child with a body as frail as mine would want to take their chances in those waters! I cannot be sure of the exact amount of time that I was in that state between consciousness and unconscious hysteria caused by fear, but it felt like a lifetime. When my feet did eventually reach solid ground again, my legs almost buckled beneath me - having most certainly been replaced by jelly.

I didn’t want to get back in the car after that. Nor did I want to be around another living soul. My home, my things, my bed – back to safety: I longed to return to this place. I didn’t understand what I was to do now as it certainly wasn’t possible to trust the adults around me to keep me safe anymore. Nor did I trust that I wouldn’t come to any harm from interacting with others. It took a lot of self-persuasion to continue the drive, but when confronted with the choice of being left in that spot or hopefully going home…common sense became the driver and I returned to the seat beside my sister (being sure to strap in tight just in case there were any other ‘accidents’).

Our final destination was a shopping centre (the name of which I cannot recall), but it was late and most of the shops were closed. From my childhood memory, I think we went to a shop that specialised in beds, although it’s possible that it could have been a general furniture store as children aren’t always the most perceptive of creatures (especially when scared witless on two previous occasions in rapid succession). In this store I attempted to stay as far away from Uncle Banana as possible – for fear that he’d decide to drop a banana peel on the floor to watch me slide through the aisles in some bizarre form of amusement. It would have worked too! He attempted to get me to take a bite out of wax display food (fruit if my memory serves me correctly), but I recognised the scent and appearance from previously having made candles for mother’s day at school, and a plastic garlic bread roll set out in a breakfast tray. I knew better than to take heed of any of those suggestions at this point and did well to remember to stay by my mother’s side.

It was an impressive shop. Beds of all sizes were crammed so close together that it felt much like going on a treasure hunt! We weeded our way through the narrow pathway between each of them, not stopping to test any lest they be an elaborate trap. I followed my mother over to a large black, mahogany bed. It had four posters and a canopy – just like a princess bed. MY gaze followed the height of the bed from the floor all the way to the ceiling. Having to hold the back of my head for support, it was almost as tall as a circus tent (or so I thought). Expertly made with satin covers and fluffy pillows, I marvelled at the height of the mattress. How great it would have been to bounce on such a structure…

As if hearing my thoughts out loud, again I felt my body being lifted into the air. This time, however, I was raised behind Uncle Banana’s head and held - only a moment, before being propelled forward. No! I heard myself cry in my head. This time, he really had let go! I hit the mattress hard, attracting disapproving looks from staff, the store manager and my parents. I felt hurt. ‘Adults know best’ that’s what they say, so why was I responsible for an adult making idiotic decisions?! It made me wonder if that’s how a bullet felt when it’s shot from a gun, but I had no real wish to find out the answer … the mattress rippled due to the velocity I’d hit it with and I could only be grateful that it hadn’t been open water. Now my nerves really were shattered, much like my self esteem and any real piece of mind I would ever have.

We left the shop in disgrace: with my uncle chuckling to himself and my head hanging so low in shame that I could see my own reflection in the shoes mum had polished earlier before putting them on me that evening. I just want to go home, I thought. Please, please take me home now… The sun had set and it felt very late. Uncle Banana decided that before he drove us home he wanted to eat McDonalds. I’d never been to McDonalds this late before and although I’d eaten a good dinner before we’d left, I took Uncle Banana’s advice to ask my mother for some. No mother would have agreed.
It’s late, you don’t eat at this time and especially not this kind of food,” she warned.

My nerves were still bouncing around my body, forcing my back to stay straight as though a rod had strung me upright. I was jumpy and couldn’t relax no matter how hard I tried. The scent of chips felt comforting and as consolation was what I craved at the time, I wanted them inside of me to calm the mammoth moths bashing around inside my rib cage.

Luckily, we did make it home in one peace – only for me to wish I’d observed my mother’s words. The chips I’d eaten were vomited straight up within a few minutes of walking through the door. Finally being able to feel at ease, my body let go of the stress (and everything else) in an immediate expulsion. That night I slept fitfully and although it was only one day in an entire childhood: that day has stayed with me even into adulthood. Heed the warnings your intuition gives you and be weary of bad influences. Bridges still make me nervous and I am not very fond of heights. Sometimes I find myself thinking of very strange scenarios and I wonder if it’s because this day opened up my imagination to a whole new world.

I leave you, dear reader, with these last few words: be kind to one another and consider the impact of your actions. Share all your stories without judgement because it’s true what they say: ‘the truth is often stranger than fiction! ‘

 I write with the happiness of a true addict and always enjoy looking for new stories to tell. I’m very fond of books and appreciate the scent of a good read!

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