‘Out of my shell’

I wake up with a gasp. It’s daylight, and my rib cage aches. I can’t feel my foot. It feels like I’ve left something behind when I sit up, but it’s just the blood coming back to my right side. I do my checks: bag, notebook, wallet, pen, spoon. I’ve been sleeping on them all night to keep them safe. Like a broody hen.

On the pavement in front of me, I see an egg box. I open it. Inside the lid, scribbled in marker pen, is a number: 1100. Inside the box, a dozen beige eggs. I shake one. It’s not hard boiled. I sigh. What can a man like me do with raw eggs?

I settle back into my comfy shape on the bench. I could be a string of sausages on a grill. Frozen sausages, all stiff and bent out of shape. Juicy sausages, shiny with fat. In another life, all I saw, day after day, was meat on a grill. A familiar groan creaks from under my ribs. Sounds like my insides are turning to get comfortable too. Resting so much makes me restless.

When we were ill, Nan used to make us drink special orange juice. She’d crack an egg in and say nothing, but we knew it was there, shifting at the bottom like a giant sea monkey. I learned to drink in big gulps and throw my head right back. Now, in the flickering red of my eyelids, all I can see is the edges of eggs, their deliciously set bodies frying, rippling in the fat like fresh sheets on a washing line.

I can’t stand it. I crack one, break the shell, drop it into my open mouth, swallow. I can’t stop. Crack the next. And the next. Each mouthful is disgusting, but irresistible. The fourth time, something hits my teeth on the way in. It’s metal. I spit it out, and the egg juice with it. It’s a key. Attached to it, there’s a key ring, and on it, an address: 42-46 Market Street, Manchester.

The ground spins under my feet. I must have started walking sometime then, because now I’m there, staring up at the red brick stretching five floors high. I ring the buzzer. The door clicks open. I hold my breath and walk in.