Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Some scuffling in the corridor, a clicking of heals and the distinct sound of those below being questioned? Door to door salesmen I think. I receive a knock and my attention darts to the door and I wait inside the darkness of a side room, for them to go. They take their time. I hear feet tapping and then a brief silence. Up and down the stairs they go, rapping the letter boxes and getting no response, each resident I think hiding, waiting, having first scrambled over to turn their stereos down.
I hear the distinct sound of police radio’s echoing through the brickwork, ear pinned to the wall, a sound for condensed electrical cheering comes through from their little hand held gadgets. It’s definitely the police or children with speaker mobiles. Already they trace me; I suppose they must have my details from work; flashes of a possible Trial cross through my brain, the exposure, the humiliation! I know that the next time thy knock I will be too curious to hold back. I will not be able to help having tea with them out in the corridor to drill them on all their activities and before they are finished I will be blurt out a long self-confession of all my crimes in my life thus far. They will cease their inquiries right there and then and begin looking at me with a newly focused intensity; I will come across so suspiciously that my case will become a priority ‘down the yard’.
They seem to be lingering in my corridor, knocking and fiddling with the handle of the opposite door, clunking keys. The rectangular block of my door shakes with yet another knock, I lift the latch tentatively, receiving a flood of light, reflections bouncing from the white floor panels, the corridor open and cold. The policeman stands contrasting the white glare, his mouth expounding muffled sounds through the haze of my newly awoken hearing deficiency. I break the harsh light by digging my knuckles into the corners of my retinas before crossing and raking my misshapen hair. What are they staring at me like that for? I stand there a while focusing on them, their eyes of course focus on my facial signatures, logically fitting a mug shot of my features together; is he a suspect or not, we must take into account his dishevelled state. They talk at unfamiliar speed, the interplay between the two officers hard to analyse and understand in the instance of my just having opened the door, still in my night clothes, wondering how I was going to respond with sufficient confidence in the required dialect, to cohesively knit myself into their speech pattern.
- Hello sir, do you know the man at number eight?
- No never hardly see him, he’s never about or I a mean, I never see him, that is.
- Can you remember the last time you saw him?
- Er, I dunno, about a month, maybe a month ago. What’s happening, what’s happened?
- We’ve had an enquiry, just checking it out.
- His mothers asked us to check on him. He’s not answered the phone in a month and she’s worried.
- Oh, hmm.
- OK we won’t keep you. We may have to force the door in so if you hear anything.
- OK, right, OK then, I understand.OK, Bye.
I close the door slowly, not wanting to do it too fast so as to not cause suspicion; “er could we also search your flat sir, just procedure in these circumstances sir, nothing to worry about, nothing to worry about here, is that your rug sir, buy that yourself did you sir? I wandered about the flat trying to act normal, sit down, try to think about comics, check plants have grown, count the books. I just couldn’t concentrate somehow, with the police still roaming around the hallways knocking on doors; it was eleven in the morning, nobody in except me and that fact could being suspicious in and of itself. Must manage this situation delicately I thought, not wanting to fall accidentally into any wanted list, get trawled in as a percentage case; fall into a new personality category, where they are ninety percent certain I could have done it or if not now but likely to do so in the future given the correct circumstances, motivation, etc, etc. Get me on a charge enabling the interrogation to carry on yet further, plant something in my flat, create a muffled tape confession of someone that sounds like me, my twin brother. But that said, that man across the way, it must be serious, and would they come and find me if I… no, my circumstances are quite different. That man had a suite on, a grey pin striped suite. Was he the one who the family at number 3 persecute mostly on Sundays with vile language out of their window for slamming doors way past curfew time and is he the one drunk and growling at me for staring as I wait for him to go first and not get in his way and therefore mind my own business on the way to my flat just a cross the way from his, I didn’t know that.
Another knock at the door; I recognise the officious tone of it, my excitement grows, I speed, I try to get there before they burst in with that iron door bashing machine, that I’ve seen on TV. The policeman stood directly in the middle of the door this time, his partner to the right, eying me with more apparent interest and concern.
- Sorry to bother you again but can you give us more detail about the man at number seven.
- Have you found out anything?
- I’m afraid he has passed away.
- Oh, dead. God! Oh, what, suicide or something?
- We can’t make a judgment on that until forensics have been in there. Did you know the man at all.
- Well to be honest I um, not sure what he looks like, I’m sure we’re talking about the same person though. I think he drives a…(looking out of the hallway window) Which car’s his?
- The one in the middle.
- The large grey one.
- Yes, I that’s it.
- Sort of quite large build.
- I know him, well vaguely, yes. Hardly ever see him. Last time he seemed a bit agitated about something, angry or something. Oddly he had a grey pin striped suit on which seemed most uncharacteristic as if he had been to an important meeting or interview, I don’t know, just vague memories really.
- Bit of a loner was he? The policeman casually aired as if it was the most normal thing to say, expecting an instinctual agreement, casual response.
I did not answer, feeling that the pigeon hole had just there been blocked by those last words, feeling the oppressive atmosphere created by a stereotype; a loner, the loner, two words conjuring a whole array of negative image types, denigrating the grey man in his grey suite to the back pages, gossip column spaces, that mostly end up in disagreeable court cases.
- Can we have your name sir, just for the record?
I gave him it; I had become one of his records for that day.
- Do you know about any other tenants who might be able to give us more information, next door neighbours? Who lives below, above?
- Well, there’s a family downstairs, number three I think that is, they I think would know more about him, been here longer than me, upstairs just kids I think, students,I’m not sure about anybody else.
They had the look of wrapping the case up, flapping the notebook shut, one of them already at the staircase waiting to go. I did not focus my eyes in time to catch their name labels, a couple of sergeants.They went away I closed the door after saying OK, right, that’s all then, right, Ok, Bye.
Only two hours later I heard in the corridor, a lady, could be a cleaner, could be from forensics complete with white powder and cameras, talking with familiarity to the policemen, who were still hanging around. A clatter of a trolley as it wheels past my door. Amongst the inane surface chatter, the police gossip, the weather, what time are you off type banter, I hear the distinct sound of a bag being zipped. It was a long zip, perhaps for a long bag, a coarse zipper of industrial strength, sweeping the length, the sound coming to a definite stop. The final closure, body bag number 451, heaped onto the trolley, to be parcelled off, filed away, slide into the cold metal draws at the morgue to wait dispensing. I wonder how many people would be at the funeral. How many people during the past five weeks had phoned him or sent letters, knocked at his door while he had laid down dead on the living room floor.