Establish remorse from outset. Express bewilderment at sequence of events so unlikely, so absurd and catastrophic. Assure all present of blemish-free record, respect for civic infrastructure, fondness for quiet life and simple pleasures (milkless Earl Grey, sensation of shower on collarbone scar, smell of wet denim, etc.). Adopt strong posture, upright but unhaughty, chin raised to illustrate mettle. Remain composed.
Nod solemnly when alleged acts detailed. Promise to provide context in form of days preceding—disorientating effect, toll inflicted on sense of self/place in grand scheme/professional trajectory. Blame said effect for alleged recklessness, surrendering to moment, abandonment of principles (loyalty, punctuality, even keel, modesty, graft, appropriate attire, camaraderie). Downplay partiality for music, arts. Highlight childhood aptitude in mathematics, science. Maintain eye contact to correct extent, avoid long monologues.
Declare intention to act as own legal counsel. Suggest deep knowledge of judicial protocol less important than conveying modern life’s near-infinite complexity, pressures of which intolerable. Use as evidence images chanced upon recently of Earth from space, utterly dark but for luminous streaks—flight paths, arcing and meshing across planetary surface, brightest over teeming cities such as ours, sparsest over distant wildernesses beckoning like empty rooms at party hosted by enemy. How to contend? How remain steady before visions so stunning, quotidian routine rendered (meaning-wise) scant? How defecate, shower, shave face, commute, toil, defer to superiors, remain polite at sandwich outlet when handsome, better-dressed, wealthier man barges past holding forth into hands-free set, causing spillage of expensive scalding-hot beverage onto newly-purchased, freshly-ironed shirt?
Expect prosecution to roll out photograph. Contemplate image, wince, tilt head. Express respect for Bill Pointer and work—recall The Singing Dunes tattered copy on Uncle Steve coffee table, youthful hours lost in pages, disbelief such places/people real, magnificence of world revealed. Voice regret current incarceration prevents visit to Pointer retrospective at V&A. State desire to encounter Pointer, shake hand, thank sincerely. With rueful smile relate compulsive maternal scrapbooking of every traceable picture appearance across international print media—three scrapbooks required, fourth purchased as precaution. Remark on poignant comparison with Robbie’s Achievements Book, maintained by mother throughout boyhood, pages stuffed with house-point cards, swimming certificates, snaps of smiling face atop podiums, on stages with trumpet to mouth, eyes closed. Contrast pride in said achievements with shame of alleged participation in riot, particularly striking of officer in face as captured by Pointer lens.
Shake head. Shuffle papers humbly. Gaze at punch-throwing hand as if at disobedient dog.
Begin at beginning re: date with Melissa in week preceding alleged acts. Delineate long-term fondness, years of admiration from across office floor, instances of hopes raised and dashed, cordial gestures (waves, smiles) mistaken for romantic overture. Lay bare ’09 Valentine events when, thanks to hopeless courier, dozen immaculate blood-red roses intended for Melissa make day if not year of Sharon McGrath, rotund colleague without life partner, consumer of canned tuna at desk. Confess transferring of bouquet to intended destination while Sharon in bathroom, Melissa in kitchen making Yorkshire with milk/two sugars. Horror of witnessing, upon return of both, Melissa accused of theft. Exchange of vitriol between women terrible. Later discovery of doomed roses stuffed into kitchen bin, tiny card with tasteful, anonymous message torn into thirds.
Christmas party ’10 hardly better. Admit to excessive punch consumption, misguided attempt to engage Melissa on dance floor, failure witnessed by lion’s share of colleagues. Final blow—glimpsing, through cab window at party end, Melissa lovingly in Jonathan Appleton arms, company director, family man. Memory unpleasant.
Move swiftly to euphoria, tinged with doubt, of email arrival in July ’11, four months after Melissa departure from firm, three since Appleton tragic death during seventh marathon mile. (Conceal at all costs feelings of triumph re: Appleton demise.) Honor private nature of Melissa message—give gist, i.e. date? Ask all present imagine—person of dreams, out of blue, proposes rendezvous. Deploy images of choral angels, golden tickets, divine handshakes, etc. while acknowledging dubiousness. Life to date bereft of such fortune—questions inevitable.
Date nonetheless arranged for Thursday evening. Describe nervousness in days prior—workplace errors, paltry sleep, near-miss at pedestrian crossing. Outfit selection challenging, patience of several shop assistants tested.
Recall early arrival, unsuccessful attempt to drink martini without spillage, last minute switch to less showy beverage. Melissa appearance glorious, beauty incomparable, first embrace all ever imagined. Immediate sidelining of doubt, renewed audibility of angelic choir. Underscore ease of conversational flow, sense of shooting breeze with old best friend plus added sexual charge. (Gloss over sexual charge.) Service fine, food exquisite, lighting and ambience spot on.
Pause. Clasp hands, swallow thickly, dab eyes with handkerchief. Allow all present to contemplate navy blue M&S suit, unostentatious Paisley tie—attire of violent potential re-offender?
Admit failure to notice during giddy first hour Melissa Riesling glass untouched while own glass drained and refilled twice. Disclose result of querying abstinence—tears, apologetic sobs. Feeling of tenderness and concern plus fear. Cut to chase—Melissa with child. First thought—bastard Appleton. (Refrain from speaking ill of dead.) Father in fact French dentist met on holiday, no apparent contact since. Ask all present imagine difficulty of hearing while emphasizing even keel. Tenderness for Melissa only heightened, also desire to assist and protect. Confess to visions of domestic bliss—Melissa/child/self hand-in-hand, skipping through autumnal Regent’s Park, kicking up orange and purple leaves, or self returning from hard day’s toil to embraces from and chats with Melissa/child. Powerlessness before such visions.
Date remainder wonderful. Second Riesling bottle consumed, formation of unbreakable bond apparent. Bill paid by self, generous tip left, Melissa escorted to summery street. Stroll through St. Christopher’s Place unforgettable—cobbles, al fresco diners, laughter and glasses clinking—streetlight glow on Melissa face sublime.
Repeat verbatim declaration made at Bond Street station steps. Allow voice to crack, as on night in question. Ensure all present grasp feeling depth, intention sincerity. Demand all imagine despondency when declaration met with further tears, shakes of head. Respect Melissa privacy—give gist, i.e. no chance, had hoped to feel something but no, great guy but no, huge mistake, etc. Evoke Melissa descent into station while self in street, buffeted by crowds, faith in universe smashed.
Pause. Allow moment to resonate. Lift chin, state with steady voice—only beginning.
Underscore scarcity of experiences more desolate than tube ride home. Somber Roman Road station-flat walk worsened by approach of anxious young woman in minuscule skirt and vest—disturbingly underweight, facially haggard. Depict deathliness in girl eyes, crookedness of grin. Sexual act offered to self in exchange for contribution to urgent narcotic acquisition. Reassure—proposition declined, attempt made to walk on, head down, without fuss. Confirm girl persistence, provocative phrases hissed into ear, manual interference below belt buckle, quoted price lowered, available acts diversified. Paces widened, confrontation avoided, reluctance to raise hands in aggression—ask be borne in mind.
Building front door finally reached, vanishing of girl down shadowy alley behind Mr. Sahid cornershop. Own up to collapse on hallway floor, brief sobbing episode amid strewn junk mail. Detection of neighborly ears pressed to doors—no wellbeing enquiry forthcoming. Recount trudging up stairs, squeezing past bicycles, aggressive music emanating from adjacent flat. Residence entered, pockets emptied.
Pause. Shake head wryly (memory unpleasant). Confirm—wallet stolen by street girl.
Skip ahead to following day, mentioning in passing paltry sleep. Sketch unusual office atmosphere—palpable tension, nervous jocularity, whisperings re: revenue. Recall seeing junior colleague shuffle into meeting room, emerge grey of face, gather things and depart. Surmise own fate suddenly apparent. Suspicion soon confirmed—called in, informed with regret must be let go, thanked for service, blame laid squarely at feet of recession. Liken slow return to desk to stroll through submerged aquarium tunnel, murderous sharks raking teeth against glass. Worst culprit—Sharon McGrath.
Ensuing hours a blur—dumping of desk box, roaming of streets, consumption of real ales in unidentified establishments, extended nap on London Fields bench, throwing of jagged pebbles at graceful, blameless ducks. Detection of malevolence at work in city, world, universe. Failure to discern positive forces operating in any life aspect. Yearning for Melissa, interrogation of point/meaning, eventual return to dwelling.
Pause. Sip from water if available. Inhale deeply, check posture, meet eyes. Impart via demeanor—crux imminent.
Describe watching Tottenham riots on live news channel deep into night. Remark none more surprised than self to note nascent participatory desire. Concede desire related less to cause than to sense of boiling point almost reached. Draw attention to admirable decision to retire rather than travel to scene.
Acknowledge own skepticism re: dream interpretation while insisting dream dreamt on night in question deserving of consideration. Spare details—give gist, i.e. extravagant sexual congress with Melissa, wondrous sensation of togetherness/love. Request imagine devastation of waking late Sunday morning to realize all mere fiction. Request further imagine strangeness of discovering riot scene now directly outside window.
Concede hesitation re: joining fracas minimal. Put in simple terms—one minute in bed, next pajama-clad in street throwing bottles.
Liken simultaneous terror and elation to ecstatic childhood trances—staring cross-eyed at patterned wallpaper in parental bedroom (parents not home) repeating mantra along lines of this really happening until blissfully overwhelmed by ferocious cascading unshakeable sense of self presence in space/time. Alternative, weaker metaphor—better be at hottest part of fire if condemned to burn alive.
Make clean breast—alleged participation in riot perhaps most thrilling moment of year if not life. But accompanying remorse, guilt, shame?
Pause. Mop brow. Request Pointer photograph again be rolled out. Regard image in silence for minimum one minute. Describe as if all present blind—pajama-clad self, face contorted, striking officer with fist while second officer moves to restrain. Suggest self unrecognizable but indeed self. In background, flame-engulfed cornershop where low fat milk, Sunday Times, wholemeal bread regularly purchased. Voice regret re: Mr. Sahid—nicest man ever met, always forthcoming with kind greeting, working all hours at health expense, forced to rebuild livelihood from scratch. Declare Mr. Sahid and ilk undeserving of such.
Hang head, press palms together. Apologize from heart bottom. Request leniency. Suggest all seek out (prior to verdict) aforementioned images of flight paths from space, ponder, note change in mood/perspective. Speculate images confirm point/meaning unknowable—all lives arcing, luminous, meshed.
Turn to gallery. See mother, scrapbooks in canvas bag. See Mr. Sahid smiling, giving thumbs-up. Beside him, Melissa, dozing infant in arms. Bellow devotion, tears streaming, arms aloft declaring willingness to kill if required. Perceive approving glimmer on Melissa face as guards surge forward to shackle wrists, tackle to ground, blows raining down on skull and torso as dragged kicking from room to rapturous applause. Hear sweet Melissa voice amid cacophony, promising to wait, remain loyal, endure, she will wait, oh my love, she will wait, she will wait.