Thursday, January 27, 2011
Clarence Street _ 3 #
Clarence Street - 3
But with her I couldn’t help myself.
The old man smiles around his cigar.
‘Things have always been so good between us, far better than they’ve ever been with anyone else. We’ve always been so happy together.
‘So what’s changed?’
I look at him. Behind the veiling smoke his eyes hold a hospitable kindness.
‘She came home late last night. She’d been out somewhere whilst I was at home waiting for her. I asked her where she’d been but she wouldn’t say. She’d been drinking, that much was obvious: her speech was deliberated and hurried at the same time. Eventually, she said she’d been out with some girlfriends from work, but it was obvious she was lying. I’m worried she’s seeing someone else.
My companion is silent for a moment, tipping his drink so that ice-cubes rattle. He looks contemplatively at the smoldering tip of his cigar and then says:
‘How much do you love her?’
I answer immediately. ‘A lot’
He shakes his head. ‘No, tell me how much you love her.
I think for a while, not really understanding what the old man means, looking for an answer that will satisfy him. But when I eventually speak, it is with a heartfelt honesty.
‘Sometimes I think I couldn’t go on without her. She’s everything to me. When she smiles I feel alive. If I didn’t have that smile to look upon, why would I want to continue seeing? What is there beyond her?
‘That sounds pretty serious.’
‘Yeah, I guess it is.’
‘Do you know what you must do?’
He stubs out his cigar, drains the last golden remnants of his drink and looks deep into my eyes.
‘You must kill her.’
I choke on my beer, leaning forward to cough-up loose liquid. When recovered, I stare at him incredulously, thinking I must have heard him wrong.
To dispel any doubt, he repeats.
‘You must kill Claire.’
I am lost for words. My mouth opens and closes impotently, as though it knows there are words that should be spoken but which my brain is unable to supply.
‘That’s what I did. I murdered Eileen. I loved her so much that I had to kill her. You understand that?
I sit unbelieving, listening with a horrified fascination.
‘There came a point where I loved her so much I couldn’t bear the thought that it would come to an end. So I ended it myself, while things were still so good. There’s so much pain out there. People get cancer; people die slow, horrible deaths: what if such a fate should befall her? How would I cope with that? The way I saw it, things were so good that they couldn’t get any better. They could only go downhill. Everything was so perfect I had to end it then.
‘I smothered her with a pillow while she was asleep one night. She woke up, started thrashing about, but it was a quick, painless death. I went down for ten years for that, but it was worth it. Because when I remember her, it is only ever good. I finished it before the bad things could settle in.’
I sit in stunned silence. My head swims not just with the effects of alcohol.
‘And that’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to kill Claire. While things are still good.’
The old man turns away and waves a ten-pound note in the bar tender’s direction. My mind swarms with a multitude of emotions: confusion, anger, fear. I still recoil from the old man’s startling disclosure.
‘That makes no sense,’ I tell him.
‘Why would I want to kill her? Why would I want to hurt someone I love so much?’
‘Because you know it can’t last forever. Things are going to go bad. She’ll get ill; she’ll become old and ugly; she’ll find someone else and leave you shattered and broken.’
I’m thinking back to last night, sitting at the kitchen table waiting for Claire to come home, wondering where she was, with who she might be.
‘If you kill her, the present will be suspended in time. Things won’t have to degrade, she won’t have to hurt you.’
My mouth splits in an ironic smile. Despite the ridiculousness of his argument it does hold a twisted logic. Someone more gullible might lend it some credence; start to see some persuasiveness in such crazy ramblings. Claire, for example, has always been one that is easily led, listening to people with a trusting belief. But I’m more cynical than her and look at things with a cold, logical reasoning. I dispel the old man’s argument unequivocally.
‘You’re crazy,’ I tell him, standing up to leave. I no longer wish to sit with the man I had supposed to be so genial, but whom I now see only as a sick, twisted lunatic.
As I go, he says to me:
‘If you truly love her, you will kill her.’
I ignore him and leave the bar quickly without looking back.
I walk home in a daze, my mind filled with the old man’s poisoned assertions. They have struck me hard, maybe because with the growing fear that my wife is seeing someone else, they don’t seem so unreasonable.
I get home and go through to the kitchen where I find Claire sitting at the table. She stands as I walk in and turns towards me with wide, worried eyes.
‘Where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you.’
‘I just went for a few drinks after work,’ I tell her, my mind still heavy with an old man’s twisted evil.
‘We need to talk,’ she says, wide eyes now looking slightly fearful. I sit at the kitchen table to await what she has to say.
I’m not expecting the words that leave her lips.
‘I went to that American bar after work last night,’ she says, and I start to feel fear slowly creeping through me. ‘I got talking to an old man there. He made me think about a few things.’
She takes an object from the draw below the microwave and holds it in both hands before her.
‘I love you so much,’ she says.
And comes at me with the knife.
By - Rahul Banerjee,Olga.