First thing in the morning (which is a lie, it's one o' clock in the afternoon, but it's my morning) and I smoke a cigarette that burns my throat and scorches my tongue.
A warning siren sounds, machines grind and hammers thud - I can't tell if these are the noises of the world at work around me or the grumblings of my tired mind. Whatever.
Cheap coffee raises my senses a notch, yet my eyes remain sticky. I cough a deep lung cough, and swallowing back the mouthful of resulting phlegm head for the shower. It's going to be a beautiful day!
As the tepid three pronged drizzle dampens my hair and face this is the closed-eye thought that limps in:
I have been in mid-life crisis since I was eighteen years old. If the Ouija board was right and I will die aged 54 then I am entitled to 18 years of grace at the end of my life, to give the whole deal balance...
Today was my 35th birthday.
Realising how far from grace I am at this very moment I become amused enough to actually laugh out loud. A mistake, as it forces my bronchial tracts into spasm and brings on a coughing fit which leads to several bottles being scattered by flailing limbs and to the shower curtain being completely torn off. Terrific.
I collapse naked and wheezing into the tub and sit there for a while, contemplating two things - the moss growing around the rim of my shaving mirror, which is now in my direct eye-line, and what possible event would allow me a return to grace after so long and so deep into the wilderness?
But at least I have a year to figure that out.
I raise myself with a pathetic groan back to a standing position, and as I do so catch wind of another sound that is not sirens, or hammers, or the trickle of shower-water, or even my body in rebellion of its miserable existence. I am immediately confused by this "schlep-plop" in my head. What was that?
I quickly scour the memory and logic circuits of my brain for a similar sound. The best I can come up with is that someone or something has posted a sizable letter through my letterbox...
But isn't it too late for post? And isn't it Sunday anyway? I can't be sure of either if I'm completely honest with myself.
I drag my carcass, damp and bruised, from the bathroom to the hall and face the front door in my birthday suit, looking for the party.
And there it is. The big black envelope. The one too big for the letterbox that is there, unfolded, nevertheless. The one that when I turn it over will become a big white envelope with the words "Welcome To The Leach Treaty", written by the hand of a child, on it. The one that will give me the chance to change my life and every perception I ever had of it in 365 days.
All I have to do now is open it...!