[I apologise for the graphic nature of this post. I am writing the first draft of my book and I am posting some short extracts here (totally random and out of order). If you want hearts and flowers from me, then today is not your day …]
He was the second dead person I had seen. The first was long ago when I was a 3rd Form student at Sacred Heart College, a posh private Catholic girls’ school that had a fully populated convent attached.
Sister Mary Something (they were all Sister Mary Something) died in October 1977 and was laid in state in the small school chapel. Viewing the body was by no means compulsory but my morbid curiosity saw me standing in line with all the other girls in green uniforms, eager to take a look.
Her tiny, shrivelled, old body lay in a polished timber coffin in front of the altar. As we all filed past silently, I saw her lying there like she had fallen asleep and forgotten to wake up. Dressed in full nun’s regalia, the old-fashioned black and white kind, all I remember is how still she was.
She didn’t look like she was sleeping really at all. Sleep looks completely different – eyelids flicker, tiny moans escape into the silence and the body moves and shifts as lungs breathe and muscles relax. Sister Mary Thingy was utterly still and totally devoid of life.
J. was utterly still as well. But he wasn’t dressed beautifully or laid carefully in a polished coffin inside an immaculately groomed chapel. He was sitting on an over-stuffed blue armchair in the room that had once been my study, surrounded by a mess of papers, photo albums, ashtrays and empty long neck beer bottles. The picture was dim and muted as curtains were drawn even though it was early morning.
I couldn’t determine if his face was relaxed in peaceful imitation of sleep because of the green garbage bag over his head. From beneath the garbage bag a hose pipe ran down over his shoulder and chest to a metal cylinder on the floor. It was the same type of cylinder as the ones you use in a gas BBQ, but instead of being grey and featureless, it was bright red.
He was wearing shorts and a singlet, clothes he had never worn in the 19 years we were together, but recently purchased to facilitate his new interest in getting fit. I wondered if he had worked out first and then decided he’d had enough. How do you decide what to wear when you die?
His freshly acquired tribal tattoo on his left shoulder and arm in blue and black ink was mimicked by the black and blue bruises of decomposition showing on the exposed flesh of his belly where his singlet had ridden up. I had seen enough medical and detective TV shows to know living people or the recently deceased don’t have those marks. He was long gone and I was too late to save him.
Instead of rushing to him to check if he was still alive, I got out of the room as quickly as I could. I grabbed my phone from my handbag and called 000.
“What is the nature of your emergency?” the female voice said.
“My husband appears to have killed himself”.