Diary

The Occupied

14 February 2018 | Diary

I awoke this morning — okay, fine, this afternoon — to find a Valentine’s card propped up on the dining table.

Either Samara had placed it there before leaving for work, or an especially committed, Eugene Victor Tooms-like admirer had slithered through a vent in the night and left it without disturbing either of us.

I knew it was from Samara, of course, because she had written, ominously, on the envelope TO THE OCCUPANT.

This is a reference to how, as eternally on-the-move renters, we often get letters addressed TO THE OCCUPANT shoved through our front door. The sort of properties in which we tend to live are those where the authorities have no idea who might be living there in a given week. It’s good to keep them on their toes.

It may also have had something to do with how she had to go out into the hostile, drizzly world after writing the card this morning while I would remain spectacularly ensconced in dreamyland.

I was genuinely surprised and touched to see this Valentine’s card. My wife has been extremely busy with unwanted and largely unpaid work commitments of late and also, perhaps not unrelated, has been quite ill. She had not mentioned Valentine’s Day in advance even once, so I assumed she’d forgotten about it or justifiably not been in the mood or had the time to do anything about it. I’d quietly written off the idea of observing V-Day this year, so it’s amazing and lovely that she remembered and bothered.

Luckily, I had already bought a card for her. Phew!

I’d not written in it yet, what with the sleeping ’til noon and everything so I had the opportunity to also address the envelope TO THE OCCUPANT if I so wished.

Pen in hand, I was politely tapped on the shoulder by my comedy self. My comedy self is a sort of out-of-phase ghost version of myself who is always on the alert for opportunities to say or write or do something in a funnier or wittier or at least less-obvious way to what my regular, farting, shoe-wearing, schlub self would say or write or do. Thank goodness for him. He’s what keeps me light on my feet, is the reason I’ve not been murdered by aggrieved thugs, and is presumably why my out-of-my-league wife still sends me Valentine’s cards after a decade.

Comedy Self wanted me to write, not TO THE OCCUPANT but TO THE OCCUPIED.

I saw what he was getting at. It was partly, of course, a penis-in-the-vagina joke, but it was also a post-colonial joke about how my wife is Canadian and I am British. Fuck, that’s clever isn’t it? Alas it was also largely useless as I wasn’t supposed to be writing shtick today but something private and lovely. What’s the point of you, Comedy Self?

I’ve simplified things with this explanation. Comedy Self doesn’t just tap my shoulder to present his alternative to the obvious. He kicks me hard in the backside, resulting in the instantaneous presentation of a Minority Report-style holographic interface before my eyes, upon which all comedic or at least non-trite options are displayed and await executive selection before deployment. Another option today was TO THE OCTOPOD. It was the whimsy option.

I wouldn’t normally countenance this option because it has fewer levels of meaning than TO THE OCCUPIED but, as it happens, the Valentine’s card I’d already bought had a picture of an octopus on it. I was also slightly concerned that, while I knew she’d take the OCCUPIED joke in the right spirit, it is possible that it could come up again in a non-joke way in the future. Could the unpleasant thought of being “occupied” fleet across her mind without the shield of irony one day and be the end of us? I shouldn’t be having thoughts like this on Valentine’s Day, Comedy Self! I thought you were the fun one?

I returned to the wit interface. TO THE OCUPADO was all that remained. “Ocupado,” is what you call out if you’re sitting on a public toilet in Spain and someone tries to open the door. This one made no sense whatsoever.

TO THE OCCUPIED, I wrote, and hoped for the best. If my wife dislikes the joke and says “what were you thinking?” I can at least point to this diary entry for a complete explanation. Anyway, it’s how I roll, baby — risking everything for a minor zinger. (Happy Valentine’s Day!)