Barbara Mercer

The Box

Eventually she found a cardboard box large enough and of sufficiently robust construction. She positioned it against the walls in the corner of her kitchen, there seemed little point in heating rooms she wouldn’t use. She added a seat cushion from an armchair, a couple of pillows, a blanket and a torch. Latest book in hand she climbed in, arranged herself with her back against a cardboard wall and started to read. At first it was just a couple of hours of an evening, then she added her duvet and slept there, eventually if she was in the house and not cooking, eating or in the bathroom she was in the box. She would try to stay out of the box for a while every evening, eating her food slowly or doing a bit of cleaning but the box would call to her, and finally, thankfully, she would climb in.

At work she found herself contemplating the space beneath her desk, pondering whether there was room to sit and work there with her laptop on her knees. She felt that it was possible but that it might be frowned upon. Instead, she began to build a wall of files and folders, document trays and boxes that had once contained reams of paper. Slowly and methodically, she added one item after another over a course of weeks testing to see if and when her boss might challenge her. No specific objection came but the company issued a clear desk ordinance demanding the removal of any items except the basics from desk tops at the end of the day. Then came dark talk of hot desks, of not owning your workspace. They found her, after lunchtime one day, laptop on her knees, under her desk, hard at work, muttering to herself quietly.

Signed off work she was now free to spend all day in the box. She’d found some stick-on battery-operated lights and between these, her tablet and a flask of coffee she could spend hours of uninterrupted box time. But work wanted her back and signed her up for therapy. Initially she met a therapist online, but this was less than helpful so the company paid for someone to visit. At first, she just let the counsellor in the door and got back in, closing herself off, leaving them to have a conversation with her boxed voice. After a few weeks they could speak with the box lid unfolded, then she would get out for part of the conversation. Eventually they talked about invisible boxes, their permanency and portability. The original box left, squashed, with the recycling. But she is always in her unseen box, it surrounds her, she’ll never leave.

Flights, Issue Seven, December 2022