Five minutes later, I was back. I'd forgotten to take shoes and the Singapore pavements, in equatorial temperatures, had me hopping from paving slab to paving slab, my little feet toasted.
Oh, the ignominy of it all, when you make a dramatic exit and then have to slink back.
Years later, when I should have been wiser about the dramatic exit and its potential for humiliation, I argued with my husband. We were young parents, new to it. We'd never argued until we had our first child, and then suddenly there seemed to be all kinds of things about which to fight. Whose turn was it to change the nappy? Whose turn to fill up the steriliser? Whose turn to burp the baby even though the re-emergence of half a pint of curdled milk into one's lap was as inevitable as time passing?
Whatever the cause of the argument, I decided to have the last word, said, 'That's it! You are all dead to me!' (originality not being my strong point) and made a flourish of an exit out of the kitchen door and into the garden. I intended to leave by the back gate. Where to go, I wasn't sure, but who thinks about that before flouncing out?
The gate was locked, and I knew my husband had the key to the padlock in his pocket.
I came back in, pretending confidence. 'I need the key to the back gate,' I said, taking refuge in monosyllables as an attempt to sound determined. I tried to hold on to my pride, but I may as well have tried to clutch on to escaping ferrets.
My husband fought against laughter, but lost, and although I bit my lip, it wasn't long before I joined in.
It was just as well, anyway. I was at that early stage of motherhood when after three hours away from the baby, my milk would start to come in, leaking from my body and spreading across my chest like an oil spill. It's not a good look, particularly when you're attempting to play the part of a romantic, passionate escapee.
Only once have I walked out of a lesson. I was a rookie teacher and the class of boys had led me to a Place of Despair with their riotous chatter and shameless lack of interest in my carefully-planned lesson on Robert Browning's use of the dramatic monologue. This time, I didn't say, 'That's it! You are all dead to me.' (I needed the job.) I just left the room, one nano-second before I dissolved into tears. But they'd seen me crumbling. As I walked down the corridor towards the English Department and some privacy, I heard one boy - a boy with heart - shout, 'Now look what you've all done, you wankers!'
Half an hour later I returned, my eyes no doubt red-rimmed. The boys had finished the work and stacked their books neatly on my desk. They were sitting meekly, awaiting the bell. Their faces said, 'Oops. Maybe we went too far.' It was the apology I needed. And they were much better behaved after that.
It was the one out of my three exits that had a positive outcome, not just for me, but for the boy with heart, to whom I gave a shedload of merit points and help with his poetry terms any time he wanted it.
|Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes, making his own version of a dramatic exit.|
(No back door key required.)