‘I can’t put it off any longer. She’s dying and I don’t think I can ignore the inevitable. We’ve got to let her go. I’m scared. Will you come? Please? I really need you.’ I sent the text and waited.
After a few minutes, the man I depend on more than any other texted back. Usually he drops everything and comes. This time, his reply would shatter my world.
We had been planning to go together to Currys, my tech guy and I, when the old Acer finally gave up the ghost.
But I had been dreading it so much I had nursed her along even when the keys started malfunctioning. Being a writer with a laptop with a T that doesn’t work is a challenge.
But I managed for a long time by banging the dodgy key repeatedly until a T popped out and when it finally refused to spit a T, even as I pounded it with extreme violence, I plugged an old-style chunky computer keyboard I dug out of the loft into the side of the laptop and sat at my desk with the two machines piled up in front of me, reaching over the big keyboard to press the mousepad on the laptop.
I continued in this vein, scared witless of impending change, until the overloaded memory seized and a good few minutes passed between pressing a key and getting a response.
Clearly, it was time. So I texted my tech guy, only to receive this heart-stopping response: ‘I’m moving to Africa.’
Oh dear lord, what have I done? The guilt swam over me. He had taken so much over the years. Many times it had occurred to me that it was surely too much for any man, no matter how clever. How long, I asked, until he left? The answer came back: two weeks. He and his wife were packing up. He was extremely busy.
I begged him to please spare a few hours and come with me to Currys. He said he really couldn’t, but he proposed a compromise: if I went to Currys on my own and rang him, he would talk me through the laptops I was looking at and help me choose. Then, if I dropped it off at his place, he would spend an evening transferring all my data from my old machine onto the new one.
I leapt at this chance. This one last chance. I went to Currys and a totally uninterested sales assistant stood marooned next to me, gawping, as I rang my tech guy and read out all the titles and specifications of the laptops I didn’t mind the look of — all the blue ones, basically.
I bought the one he told me to and drove it to him. Walking up the tree-lined drive to his apartment block, I could see him and his wife packing boxes through the front window of their downstairs flat.
As he welcomed me inside, his wife had a strange look. I’ve seen that look before on the faces of people in horror films. She backed up as I entered the living room and stood against a wall, her eyes darting from side to side.
I wanted my tech guy to break the ice by saying: ‘Darling, this is the mad woman I spend long evenings with trying to repair computers she has messed up. Don’t be scared. Even though we’re having to move continents to avoid her, she’s really quite harmless.’
Instead, my tech guy cheerily took the new laptop and said he would get it ready that night. I asked why they were going. He said his wife had an exciting new job teaching at a school in Kenya and he, well, he just needed a change and was going to see what came up.
‘How wonderful. What an adventure,’ I said. ‘You must be so excited?’
His wife nodded vigorously, without saying a word. Then she backed out of the room, tripping over packing boxes, never taking her eyes off me. ‘I’ve got to go and, er, do something…’
‘Righto, then,’ I said to my tech guy. ‘I’ll leave you to it. Usual terms. Charge me up for however many hours it takes.’
The next day, I collected the laptop, which had been made impeccably idiot-proof. All my files were beautifully transferred with even the same screensaver to make me feel safe. I said: ‘I don’t suppose, every now and then, I could call you if I get into…’
‘I’m not taking my phone,’ he said, rather too quickly.
I turned to go, hiding the welling up tears. He sighed: ‘You can Facebook me. If you get really stuck I might be able to find a way to enter your laptop remotely.’
‘Oh would you?’ ‘I’ll think about it.’
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