I just found a note, sent by young man who could not have known it would be a much older man who read it. Like a message in a bottle, it was just a scrap in a box that has floated around the world, following me since I wrote it in 1987.
‘The woman walked onto her balcony where she lit and smoked a cigarette. The CCTV coverage also showed that she extinguished it, unfinished, by squashing it underfoot on the balcony. Then casually, she stepped onto the chair beside her, took a deep breath and tipped herself off into the night. Her five storey fall terminated her 42 year journey.
And yet her life wasn’t quite over. There was a notebook on her bedside table that contained twelve short stories. She had written each one about the death of a character she called Agnes Bookpen. Each of her deaths appeared to be suicide yet none were solely by her own hand.
The toxicology report from the autopsy came as a mild surprise. She had eaten a mushroom risotto that included psychotropic mushrooms, sufficient in number that she should have been hallucinating when she stepped off the balcony.
Reportage on the opening of an investigation suggested there were irreconcilable differences between the CCTV and circumstantial evidence surrounding the death of Ms Baker.’
The seed of this seed of an idea was to be found among the home lives of a few people we knew. I didn’t have the language for it then but the realities that are covered by today’s understanding of the concepts of coercive control were hiding in plain sight. And then there were newspaper stories of defenestration that shadowed another vicious contraction of the industry that employed me. Once case involved a building reentry by a faller who was wind-driven through a window of a lower floor where his arrival killed a man at his desk.
Isn’t it odd the things that come to the surface during spring cleaning. (I replaced the idea of a witness with CCTV to make it more current since CCTV wasn’t ubiquitously watching everyone back when we lived in Texas.)
Back in 2011, I used the first line from books as the first line in my posts on the WalkingCommentary2011 blog. That blog was a fund raiser for a charity walk that involved tackling three of Scotland’s peaks: Ben Tee (901m), Ben Ledi (879m) and Ben Cruachen (1126m). I posted something about each of my training walks in the 100 day period we trained before the assault.
In this date, 6 February 2011, I read that we took a Sunday stroll around Killiney and Dalkey. We had coffee in Mugs where today people sit outside in the sleet. Coffee shops have been changed by the pandemic. So has my walking habit.
- Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukranian divorcee.
- The boy’s name was Santiago.
- The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.
- So now get up.
- I have to start somewhere, trying to understand.
- Dear Dr Jones, We have been referred to you by Peter Sullivan at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (Directorate for Middle East and North Africa).
- I would like to write down what happened in my grandmother’s house the summer I was eight or nine, but I am not sure if it really did happen.
- He always shot up by TV light.
- This opening line was from A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
- The boy called Santiago opened The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
- VS Naipul told us that men who are nothing have no place in our world in opening A Bend in the River.
- Hilary Mantel opened Booker winning Wolf Hall with ‘So now get up’.
- It was Margaret Foster who was trying to understand in her novel Over.
- The letter starts Salmon Fishing in Yemen by Paul Tordoy.
- It was Anne Enright who told us about what happened in her grandmother’s house the summer she was eight or nine in The Gathering, for which she won the Booker Prize in 2007.
- It was James Ellroy who wrote about shooting up by TV light in American Tabloid.