We all feel a little overwhelmed from time to time, and in an extract from her new book, The Mystery of Mercy Close, Marian Keyes reveals two characters who are well overdue a break! Despite some confusion about the difference between a spa and rehab, here they list all the things they want out of a proper rest; the smell of jasmine, sleep, freshly baked cupcakes, and reading Grazia by the pool , the only question left, is what would you do on your perfect spa day?
‘I wouldn’t mind – I mean, this is the sheer irony of the thing – but I’m the only person I know who doesn’t think it would be delicious to go into ‘someplace’ for ‘a rest’. You’d want to hear my sister Claire going on about it, as if waking up one morning and finding herself in a mental hospital would be the most delightful experience imaginable.’
‘I’ve a great idea,’ she declared to her friend, Judy. ‘Let’s have our nervous breakdowns at the same time.’
‘Brilliant!’ Judy said.
‘We’ll get a double room. It’ll be gorgeous.’
‘Paint me a picture.’
‘Weeeeell. Kind people . . . soft, welcoming hands . . . whispering voices . . . white bed-linen, white sofas, white orchids, everything white . . .’
‘Like in heaven,’ Judy said.
‘Just like in heaven!’
Not just like in heaven! I opened my mouth to protest, but there was no stopping them.
‘. . . the sound of tinkling water . . .’
‘. . . the smell of jasmine . . .’
‘. . . a clock ticking in the near distance . . .’
‘. . . the plangent chime of a bell . . .’
‘. . . and us lying in bed off our heads on Xanax . . .’
‘. . . dreamily gazing at dust motes . . .’
‘. . . or reading Grazia . . .’
‘. . . or buying Magnum Golds from the man who goes from ward to ward selling ice cream . . .’
But there would be no man selling Magnum Golds. Or any of the other nice things either.
‘A wise voice will say –’ Judy paused for effect: ‘“Lay down your burdens, Judy.”’
‘And some lovely wafty nurse will cancel all our appointments,’
Claire said. ‘She’ll tell everyone to leave us alone.
She’ll tell all the ungrateful bastards that we’re having a nervous breakdown and it was their fault and they’ll have to be a lot nicer to us if we ever come out again.’
Both Claire and Judy had savagely busy lives – kids, dogs, husbands, jobs and an onerous, time-consuming dedication to looking ten years younger than their actual age. They were perpetually whizzing around in people carriers, dropping sons to rugby practice, picking daughters up from the dentist, racing across town to get to a meeting. Multitasking was an art form for them – they used the dead seconds stuck at traffic lights to rub their calves with fake-tan wipes, they answered emails from their seat at the cinema and they baked red velvet cupcakes at midnight while simultaneously being mocked by their teenage daughters as ‘a pitiful fat old cow’.
Not a moment was wasted.
‘They’ll give us Xanax.’ Claire was back in her reverie.
‘As much as we want. The second the bliss starts to wear off, we’ll ring a bell and a nurse will come and give us a top up.’
‘We’ll never have to get dressed. Every morning they’ll bring us new cotton pyjamas, brand new, out of the packet.
And we’ll sleep 16 hours a day.’
‘Oh sleep . . .’
‘It’ll be like being wrapped up in a big marshmallow cocoon; we’ll feel all floaty and happy and dreamy . . .’
It was time to point out the one big nasty flaw in their delicious vision. ‘But you’d be in a psychiatric hospital.’
Both Claire and Judy looked wildly startled.
Eventually Claire said, ‘I’m not talking about a psychiatric hospital. Just a place you’d go for . . . a rest.’
‘The place people go for “a rest” is a psychiatric hospital.’
They fell silent. Judy chewed her bottom lip. They were obviously thinking about this.
‘What did you think it was?’ I asked.
‘Well . . . sort of like a spa,’ Claire said. ‘With, you know . . . prescription drugs.’
‘They have mad people in there,’ I said. ‘Proper mad people. Ill people.’
More silence followed, then Claire looked up at me, her face bright red. ‘God, Helen,’ she exclaimed. ‘You’re such a cow. Can’t you ever let anyone have anything nice?’
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