Turning the key, I hear the satisfying click of my front door locking. I’ve barely taken two steps towards the staircase when I feel it again: that all too familiar irrepressible, irresistible urge. I pause for a moment, my rational mind struggling to convince my subconscious to ignore it, to keep going. That it would be alright. All I have to do is keep walking. I hesitate. I turn back. I unlock my front door. Opening it slightly – just wide enough for an arm – I reach around and touch the end of the inner door handle with the tip of my middle finger. I touch the dead lock. I touch the end of the outer door handle, precisely as I had just touched its counterpart. I lock the door again. An odd mixture of satisfaction and self-disgust besets me. Glancing at the time, I sigh. My little ritual has just caused me to miss the bus yet again. I descend the stairs in defeat.
This is how too many of my days begin.
Crossing the street, I am distracted. As I step onto the pavement, I accidentally kick the kerb with the toe of my left shoe. I stop. I look around. There are no cars heading my way. I step back down to the road. I step back onto the pavement, deliberately nudging the toe of my right shoe to the same spot on the kerb. I curse my inability to ignore these urges.
Finally on the bus, I retrieve my earphones from my pocket. I touch the end of the plug to the tip of both my little fingers and index fingers. First the left hand, then the right. I go to plug it into my phone. I tap it along the top of the phone a few times, then a number of times around the jack before finally seeing it through. To an outside observer, I appear to have issues with depth perception. I am extremely self-conscious. I withdraw a bottle of water from my bag. It is an ordinary 500ml Coke bottle, except that thanks to an ongoing promotion, it has my name printed on it. Things like this amuse me, and so I’ve kept it. I grip the bottle in my right hand, using my pinkie to feel for the nub underneath. I move the bottle to my left hand and repeat the process. Only then do I take the bottle back to my right hand and unscrew its cap. Glancing around, I see that no one is watching me. I raise the upturned bottle cap and blow a furtive breath into it. Now I can drink.
I step through the gates. I am agitated. I had stepped on an uneven bit of pavement, but being among others, could not retrace my steps to balance the action with my other foot. I feel out of sync. Uneasy. I walk down the corridor, making sure my feet always fall exactly in the middle section of each doorway that I pass. Most of the doorways stand on their own, facing clean unpartitioned walls. These are my favourite. Midway down the corridor, two doors stand across from each other. They are uneven. They do not line up. I grimace. I try to determine the best way to navigate this obstacle, and move on. It nags at me, but I cannot control everything.
I enter my office. There are people here. Time to feign normalcy.