THE FIRST THING I remember is. . .

THE FIRST THING I remember is being in complete blackness. Screaming for my life.  I was too young to know I was knocking on heaven’s door. It was my first experience of not being able to breathe. 

I was locked in a refrigerator. My brother and me had been playing a game. We took turns at being locked down in a disused fridge that was in temporary storage in the back bedroom, our sleeping quarters, and our favoured indoor play area. 

The fridge was the unwanted property of the old lady who lived in the flat upstairs. It was awaiting collection by men in a van from the council.

Daddy, Mummy, my Brother and I once lived in a council house, or rather the ground floor and basement flat in a three (four if you include basement) storey house in a leafy street of a suburb called Stroud Green, that our proud house-owning neighbours often described as Crouch End.
Older fridges did not have the magnetic easy to break seals that are in common use these days. They had a latch opening that could only be opened from the outside. There was also rubber around the door that would create a seal to keep the cold air in, that would all but soundproof the goings-on in the inside. 

I would lock my toddler-brother in the fridge and after a few dozen precious seconds he would knock on the door and I would let him out. Then I’d climb in and after a few moments, my brother unlocked the door to let me out. 

It was a silly game, but it made us giggle.  I was not many days older than five years old which would have made my brother not much older than three. 
We must have been playing for less than five minutes and I found myself locked in the fridge for the very last time. I kept banging on the door and there was no response whatsoever.

My brother had become distracted by something more interesting elsewhere and he left me alone to suffocate to death, unknowingly of course. 

I do not remember much about the events I have been attempting to describe, they are mainly memories of what my mother told me. But I do recall being in complete blackness, screaming for my next breath from the bottom of my desperate lungs. A breath that wouldn’t listen and refused to arrive. 

I will never doubt the sincerity of a person who claims to be claustrophobic. Locked in that fridge in 1982  I might very well have been the most claustrophobic human in the whole of England. 

The next breath refused to arrive, I was only a short few moments from passing out and eventually expiring. Then suddenly, the door opened and there stood my mother in the blinding light next to a blurry pile of clothes and an ironing board.

Mummy had been finishing off the cleaning in the kitchen or bathroom. She had been putting off the thought of doing the ironing, but somehow she managed to bite the bullet and she picked up the pile of dry clothes and set up her work area in the back bedroom not more than six to eight feet from where I was suffocating to death. 

I was persistent with my banging and screaming and eventually, she followed the sounds of faint taps and strange whispers. She unlatched the door of the refrigerator.  And by the grace of God, I half jumped and half fell into her arms.

I wasn’t trusted being left alone with my brother for quite a while after that. And rightly so.


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