It’s been fourteen years since I was relieved of my liberty. In a way, it’s cosy here. No taxes, free accommodation, meals, laundry, education, heating. I’ve never felt more free.
Are you one of The Nice People who wouldn’t dream of hitting someone who fucked you off in case you lose your job and your home? Do you shudder at the thought of spending time inside or meeting someone like me? A jail-bird, an ex-con.
I’m not the kind of man you’d like your daughter to bring home. That’s ok. I don’t particularly like your daughter much either. Well if you’ve come this far then I think you like me or perhaps I intrigue you. Don’t worry about getting too close. I’m at a safe distance. My grasping outstretched arms and overgrown finger nails will get nowhere near your wincing body. It’s ok. I’m behind bars.
But right now I’m also behind your eyes.
I am logically minded but in a round the houses way. I could circumnavigate the globe to end up in a village that was only a few miles away from the point of departure. My mind takes odd diversions. You may have gathered this by now. I jump from idea to idea, a flea in a world of dead dogs.
I am not one to take the easy way. Even as a child, my teachers said I would take twenty steps at something when only four would do. Everything seemed so complicated. I had no mind for mechanical things or remembering details. In fact, I always found the world overly complex, more so than needs be. I smashed up a radio once to see what it was like inside. It was all wires and things and blood. I did smash it over my brother’s head because I wasn’t allowed near my father’s toolbox so I couldn’t find anything to unscrew it with.
They told me I shouldn’t have done that. My brother died three days later and my parents divorced two years after that. I lived with my father. I think he lost the toss of the coin with my mother. He kept telling me that his real son was dead and that I was just his act of Christian charity.
The court ruled misadventure. I was only seven.
He was nice like that. He even bought me a Kylie Minogue tee shirt and cassette tape for my seventeenth birthday. She had split from Jason and become a pop singer.
I liked her. I wrote lots of letters but she never replied until one of her friends replied on her behalf asking me to stop writing to her. I wrote back asking why but I never got an answer. I carried out asking why and one day a policeman came to our house to tell me why in person. My father was livid and he asked me to leave the house. He didn’t leave me high and dry though. He gave me three hundred pounds and arranged for me to live in a lodgings house with Muriel who happened to be the aunt of a lady he knew from work. He worked as a teller in the Allied Irish bank.
So I moved out and into a bedroom that smelled of mothballs and old ladies. I spent most of my time in the room looking at pictures of girls in magazines. Muriel caught me one day and ran downstairs and made a phone call. It must have been to my father because he arrived at the house a little over twenty minutes later and hit me and called me an unhealthy little runt and that I needed to get outside into the world and meet and work with real people who would knock me into shape.
Whatever that meant I still don’t know.
So he got me a job as a junior clerk in another branch of the Allied Irish bank but in the same city. The staff knew my father though and they gave me funny looks and kept themselves to themselves. They seemed very shy like that but not with each other I noticed.
It was monotonous work but it paid the bills as they say. One of the army of triangle packed sandwiches guzzlers. The padded cell of the coffee break, quarterly personal performance review, targets, goals, core competences, meetings, minutes, personal time off and thinking about sexual encounters in the photocopying room..
That’s when I met Leopoldina.
Yeah, I thought the same myself.
Well, I didn’t really meet her. I just saw her every day from a distance, buying her scones and doughnuts from the sandwich man every morning at quarter past nine on the fifth floor. She was striking, but not in a conventional sense. I remember she had a dark complexion, dreamy eyes and braided auburn hair with a wide parting in the middle.
She must have worked in an obscure part of the building because no-one seemed to know her. I never saw her in the canteen or at any of the social functions that punctuated Her Majesty’s Stationary calendar. The coward within didn’t have the bottle to strike up a conversation. It’s hard to raise the spirits of conversation with someone who has just walked past and momentarily brushed your shoulder without one helluva subterfuge. I am pristinely logical but not quick of the tongue.
We danced this silent pirouette for quite a few weeks. I followed her without her knowing about it too. I saw her going out at lunchtime for walks with a man she held hands with and kissed a lot. I also saw her meet other girls for coffee. Sometimes she bought clothes in the women’s section of Dunne’s Stores.
Then a man was murdered.
Joseph Kerrigan, aged 54. He was stabbed by his son during a family row over them sharing a prostitute they both fell in love with. The IRA and the UVF had just stopped killing people that year and everyone was so pleased that Kerrigan was killed by someone who wasn’t in the IRA or the UVF.
An ordinary decent murder they called it.
But I remembered his name. Joseph Kerrigan. I didn’t have to ask him his name. The lady on the local news channel told me and I didn’t even have to ask her.
The next day I went upstairs to the fifth floor at ten past nine as I usually did and waited for the striking looking girl with braided auburn hair. I needed to know her. And like clockwork, she did. She made her way to the sandwich man, counting the loose change held in her left hand and waited in the queue.
That’s when I took a deep breath and walked straight up to her and stuck a knife straight into her throat
Time seemed to stop yet speed up at the same time. I couldn’t really explain why. Her coins fell out her hand and she crumpled to the floor, gasping for air. People screamed. Men tried to help her. Some men threw me to the floor and kicked me. Some men threw them off me and sat on me making sure I didn’t move. I had no intention of moving and someone should have thought to ask me in the first place as it was all no unnecessary.
Later on, the police charged me with the murder of Alice Dawes of18 Wicker Lane.
She wasn’t called Leopoldina at all.
That’s just what I called her.
But at last, I found out who she was. Her name was Alice Dawes.
A nice policeman told me that.
Sometimes I look in the mirror and see a man of a peaceful face stare back.
I wonder who he is.
Image entitled ‘Sadness 8’ courtesy of http://scarabuss.deviantart.com/