For the want of a simple hello


Posted by on April 21st

Editor at Large

For the want of a simple hello he killed himself.

One particular image haunts me, a guilt ridden gift from 25 years ago when time seemed infinite and generous; he is stepping out of John Menzies clutching a carton of 200 cigarettes – a curious purchase given what happened next – that was much remarked upon after the event. Offering conclusive proof, according to his family, that his death had not been premeditated. 

At the  time I tried to match my eyes to his in order to exchange some “time of day” pleasantries but he was already gone. He had ghostwalked right through me, and just fifteen minutes from this frozen moment he would be hanging from the cool steel rafters of his mother’s  garage. Unnoticed up there for the best part of a week until someone went in to look for the lawnmower.

For the want of a simple hello he ceased to exist. 

But, in truth, he had ceased to exist a long time before. That was his trick and, ultimately, his curse. Even when he was there he was never really there. He spoke from the margins of society in a language that could not be translated. Words came to him as murder might come to another, in short stabbing attacks that he had no control over. 

So he avoided words as much as he could, and by extension, those who spoke them. Preferring to pull himself inside himself and stalk the edges of things like a shadow puppet in a world without light or shade. He was not possessed of a nuclear imagination which is to say he could not confront the abyss and be liberated by it. 

We, who label ourselves normal, make this choice every day in the vague hope we will not be found out. His was a darker destiny, after all no one can find you if they don’t even know you are missing.

For the want of a simple hello he grew to lack kindness. 

There was talk of attempted attacks. One victim on recounting their ordeal seemed to find it more comic than horrific. He had jumped from some bushes, his face hidden by a pair of tights, and was trying to kiss her when she screamed. He immediately pulled up the tights to reveal his face and said in a voice that was parched through lack of use, ”it’s alright darling, calm down, it’s only me, John.”  

We, who label ourselves normal, make this choice every day. His was a darker destiny, after all no one can find you if they don’t even know you are missing

The stories came thick and fast; he was trying to kiss them or cuddle them. Only connect. Of course he was beyond the pale but I like to think his motives were pure enough. He was looking for the human touch, speaking from the margins of society in a language beyond translation. Lacking that imperceptible something that reminds us we are alive. The lack of it was making him hairy of soul only his measured breathing telling him he was alive.

For the want of a simple hello he became an accident of history. 

A pathetic statistic that we are gathered here now to discuss. All his life he had been confronted by a series of closed doors. And that morning, the one when I didn’t say hello outside John Menzies, he decided to open the biggest door of all. Who knows if he found what he was looking for and who really cares? Excepting perhaps his mother who never fully recovered.

She waited until the darkness came to grieve her only son but we know, don’t we, that she would never be herself again from that day on.

Info: www.mind.org.uk

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