Nineteen minutes ago, I was a millionaire. In my head, I’d bought a house and grillz that say “I’m fine now thanks”, in diamonds. I’d had my wisdom tooth (which I’ve been waiting months for the NHS to pull the hell out of my skull) removed privately. Drunk on sudden wealth, I’d considered emailing everyone who’s ever wronged me a picture of my arse. There I was, a rich woman wondering how to take a butt selfie. Life was magnificent.
Now I’m lying face-down on my bed. I’m wearing a grease-stained t-shirt and my room smells of cheese. I hear a “grrrrk” as my cat jumps onto the bed. He walks around on my back for a bit, then settles down, reinstating my place in the food chain: sub-cat. My phone rings. I fumble around for it with all the zeal of a slug with ME. Limply, I hold it to my ear.
“Hi,” I say.
“You haven’t won anything, have you” says my dad. It isn’t a question.
“I have not.”
“Ah. Never mind then eh?”
I make a sound that’s just pained vowels. It isn’t a groan. A groan is too human. This is pure animal.
“What? Stop mumbling, I can’t hear you.”
“I’m lying on my face,” I mumble.
“Well sit up then.”
“Can’t. The cat’s on my back.”
In my defence, the National Lottery website is confusing. Plus, I play the lottery once a year max. The chain of events which led me to believe, for nineteen otherworldly minutes, that I’d won £1 million in the EuroMillions can only be described as a Kafkaesque loop of ineptitude. It is both difficult and boring to explain. I bought a EuroMillions ticket, online, on a whim. Yeah, I suffer from whims. While checking the results, I took a couple of wrong turns that led me to a page that said, “you have winning matches in one draw”. Apparently something called a “millionaire maker code” had just won me a million quid.
I stared at the words and numbers for a solid minute. The lingering odour of the cheese omelette I’d just eaten was, all of a sudden, so much less tragic. I once slammed a finger in a door, and the pain was so intense that I nearly passed out. This, right now, was a fun version of that finger-in-door light-headedness. It was like being punched by good. Sure, there was a level on which I knew I’d made a mistake; that this could not be. People don’t just win £1 million. Well they do, but I don’t. It’s the sort of thing that happens to people called Pauline, from Wrexham. I am not Pauline from Wrexham. God I wish I was Pauline from Wrexham.
Even so, I started spending money in my head. Suddenly, London property was affordable. It’s incredible how quickly you can shrug off everyone else’s housing crisis woe, when you think you have £1m. No wonder rich people vote Conservative. I was imaginary rich for nineteen minutes (I know it was nineteen minutes because the National Lottery website kindly times how much of your life you’ve wasted on it) and turned at least 40 per cent evil.
But, in need of a second opinion on whether or not I was – evil or not – rich, I phoned my dad.
“This is going to sound weird,” I said, “but I think I’ve won £1 million.”
“You haven’t won £1 million,” he said. There was a decided lack of anything resembling excitement in his voice. It was like speaking to an accountant tired of explaining pyramid schemes to financial Don Quixotes.
“No!” I said, “I entered the EuroMillions and I checked my results and this thing has come up saying I’ve won something but it’s really confusing and…”
Saying it out loud (and my how articulately) clinched it: my enemies were not going to be looking at butt selfies any time soon. The agonising minutes spent figuring out my mistake paired beautifully with hard, low wisdom tooth throbs.
“Call me back in a few minutes,” I told my dad, halfway though the world’s saddest equation.
Now here I am, below a cat, trying to explain my stupidity and failing, due to stupidity.
“If it’s any consolation,” my dad says, “I thought about it, and I’m pretty sure winning the lottery would’ve ruined your life.”
“No,” I say, cheese omelette-scented breath warming my face, “it would’ve made my life insanely good.”
I feel the cat purr. I can relate. For nineteen minutes, I was happy too.