Disassembling a marriage is simple in the sense that there is nothing to create, only things to cut off and box up and dispose of. Even the decree nisi, when it came, seemed to know it: a flimsy print-out from the family court which had been knocked up in a Word document somewhere in Leeds. I had our IKEA furniture collected by a charity and cleaned the flat one last time. It had taken so long to build everything we’d had together and then in a matter of weeks it was all gone, unravelled like a ball of wool I thought had been wound tight.
The white van man was called Don and he was in a terrible mood. He took one look at my pile of things — six cardboard boxes and my grandmother’s Heal’s coffee table — and began to complain that this was a two man job. On the way to the self-storage place he got lost, cursing as he tried to find the slip road. When we finally arrived he dumped my stuff onto the damp tarmac and refused to help carry it in, telling me that the service was door-to-door and no more. He waited expectantly for his cash.
The storage unit was like a post-apocalyptic prison, vast and white and sterile. I hefted my boxes onto a trolley and manoeuvred it into an oversized lift. When I got out I saw others like me, dazed and under-slept, pushing their own trolleys loaded with sad bits of furniture (a pair of scratched bedside tables, an old Moses basket) up and down endless rows of locked doors. Despite its cavernous proportions the unit felt sealed and the air tasted unpleasantly metallic. At last I found the black stencilled number that marked my door. Behind it was a small cell, enclosed by board walls. It occurred to me that I could crawl in here and never leave, and that perhaps nobody would ever be any the wiser.