Watch Toheeb Jimoh perform the Delivery monologue in Nine Lessons and Carols: stories for a long winter.
Just because you stopped it doesn’t mean the world did.
My day starts at 4.30 at the depot, where Dave, who still believes in lizard people, has finally started to wear a mask. Rashid is off indefinitely, but that just means we’re a man down. Load up and ship out. I deliver soap and sanitiser, canned goods and bread flour. I deliver organic hampers in Dulwich Village and wine subscriptions to Chelsea townhouses. I deliver bog roll under armed escort to Buckingham Palace. I deliver MPs to their mistresses in prepaid Uber Execs. I wipe down my surfaces. I deliver running gear and weights sets, yoga mats and ergonomic desks. I deliver succulents and eco-friendly sex toys to Herne Hill lesbians looking for revelation. I deliver blitz spirit via home brew kits and mindful cross stitch. I deliver textbooks and stationery sets to frazzled Executive Vice Presidents suddenly demoted to home school enforcers. In St. John’s Wood a Commissioning Editor in a Liberty dressing gown offers me five hundred pounds to explain the properties of a sine wave. You don’t understand, she says, they’re always here. Can’t you do something? You’re so lucky.
I deliver high-end dim sum to overcrowded Highgate dinner parties, where on my way out a crumbling chin slips me a crumpled twenty and asks, if I know anyone, to send a mate back with some coke. I deliver sourdough pizza to illicit Goldsmiths raves, where would-be intersectionalists offer me a joint and invite me to stay, saying ‘hey, I bet you can dance. Look at him – I bet he can. Show us how it’s done.’ At the height of summer I deliver crates of Reni Eddo-Lodge and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Audre Lorde to East London interlopers who pause to thank me personally but still don’t tip. I grow tired of being asked ‘have you read this?’ In Hackney Wick a tattooed Tarquin holds me hostage for thirty minutes with a preprepared statement on how he intends to be a better ally, before finally dismissing me with a silent raised fist. Solidarity, bruv. By September, these conversations have stopped.
I deliver CBD oil and lavender drops, weighed blankets and herbal remedies. I encounter a rake-thin zombie in Nunhead who mumbles ‘hey man, can I ask – are you sleeping?’ My cans of Red Bull fill the footwell until I receive a written warning – this is the company’s vehicle, not my personal toilet. I piss into an empty Lucozade bottle in a layby off the M25. I keep going. I deliver A Grade sexts to Jess, a Tinder match, who through a cultivated misunderstanding thinks I’m a paramedic. She messages every Thursday to say she’s clapping for me. I like that. Why not? I spot a status update from Josh, who is feeling hashtag-blessed – wants to remind us all how rare it is that we actually get to stop. Take stock – reprioritise. He was approaching burnout before, but now he’s energised. Sometimes some breathing space is all we need. No time to reply. The world didn’t stop because you did. Eighty-six drops left to hit my daily target. Next year I’ll try and catch up on all that growth you got while I was out here. Now can you sign for this?