Friday, 11 November 2011

A Day in the Life

Lights on

No doubt he took the tube/bus/train/bike as he always did. I can't say if he had bacon and eggs, or porridge, or just a cup of coffee and a rueful cigarette as part of his normal breakfast routine; can't know whether he might have popped into a CaffĂ© Nero or a Starbucks or a Fitness First before heading into the office. I don't even know if he had a wife, husband, kids or a dog to give a kiss to as he headed out the door, or if he stared at his reflection with a grin or a scowl while brushing his teeth or letting them stay stained - just for today, or most days - because he was sleeping on a friend's sofa.

There might have been a long wait for the bus in the rain, or a steady walk to the tube station - unseasonably warm as it was; alternatively, he was given a lift, dropped off perhaps with a kiss. Or not. Always a chance that he stood on the train all the way, cramped and pressed against others' sweaty frames, holding his nose or holding in his own foul breath to blot out the smells around him or from him. Maybe there was a raised voice, a small increase in the tension of the commuters from some real or imagined slight that served to changed the tenor of the day. Or else he was blessed with a safe middle seat as soon as he got on, able to read his Metro or his Dostoyevsky - his James Patterson or his Daily Star amid the blissful racket of the clattering wheels against the rails.

Maybe someone who knew him would have detected a difference in his demeanour, something not quite right about him. Perhaps he was sweating, agitated, quick to anger or suddenly sullen. But if no-one on his tube or train carriage or bus had ever seen him before, or had perhaps only glimpsed him on the odd morning - a slightly more familiar face in the relentless faceless crowd, but nothing more - then who could have had a clue that today would be any different to the hundreds of other days which had gone before? Only him, maybe. Unless at home, the significant other fumed or fretted, raged and texted and fruitlessly called, cried and wailed, plotted and schemed, laughed and derided...

When he walked past the security guard on arrival at the office, showing his pass as required, it might have been that a gentle half smile, perhaps a word or two, were exchanged. And it might have been that there was only the almost unnoticeable flash of recognition that the pass had been seen and that he was clear to go through. His co-workers on the 4th floor could have wished him a good morning, chatting about last night's telly amid the clatter of kettles, and milk taken from fridges, waste bin lids opened and closed. Or on an early shift, he might have been alone at his desk, reading emails and answering calls.

As he typed, he may have felt the itch of needle marks in his arms, or the familiar nagging pain of the tumour in his belly, pressing against his ribcage; may have confronted again whatever demon had hold of his mind - debts, disease, religious fervour, loneliness... And the hours would have passed - no doubt - the hands making their relentless circuit around the face until lunchtime arrived.

He took the lift the last two flights up and stepped out to look over the balcony, where he saw the usual hubbub of a Friday passing on the floors below; straddled the balustrade and lifted his leg over the top... Then he pitched himself forward and down the 80ft drop to the hard tiled floor, smashing his body apart in front of the groups who were sitting eating their sandwiches.


Don Cake said...

This is a great piece on an awful thing. Several years ago, after one of my students had committed suicide, myself and others realised he had often been interested in discussing suicide in class. Nobody noticed anything wrong.

Myeral said...

Thanks. I didn't know the man, but he worked in one of the offices I work at. Made me think about the millions of possible reasons for someone to make such a dreadful decision.