The Mercy on Silver Street
17th July 2014
We’re writing this letter to you from our old table at Café Denis on Silver Street. Please excuse us for not contacting you on a regular basis, but you seem so very far away. The truth is, we didn’t know if you wanted to hear from us at all anymore, especially after everything that has happened. I know we are taking a bit of a chance, but you might read this and feel a little different. We really hope so. Ryan and I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye properly before the end.
Anyway, just to let you know, we are both about to have your favourite dish. Omelette with chips and beans, also a mug of steaming, sweet tea. I take three sugars now, the same as you always did. Funny that, isn’t it?
The weather here is dreadful. Summertime disappeared years ago. I can’t remember when the last decent one was. It’s pouring with rain again outside, really teaming it down. The drains are filling up. The council never mend them and the smell is going to be horrible. There’s rubbish everywhere too. Chip boxes, beer bottles, condoms. Nothing changes and I’m so sick of it. Everything here is getting worse.
There’s been yet another stabbing in Pymmes Park. It was just the other day. A boy of seventeen, gone for good because of a silly argument over a bicycle. They are like gold dust these days and everyone rides them.
To be honest Shane, it sounds cruel and heartless, but the murdering does not affect us as much as it did in the old days. It’s just the normal way of life now. A bit like shopping or tying up your shoelaces.
Maria told me, just yesterday, that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, was talking on the radio about bringing in the troops, and even of national service. Mind you, they have been saying that for years haven’t they, about having soldiers on every street corner in Britain. Even Margaret Thatcher, before she died, was saying that it should happen, that the country is in a mess, and it wouldn’t be if she were still in charge. Bloody Margaret Thatcher. Do you remember the stones we threw at her memoriam statue in Trafalgar Square? Some things were worth being arrested for way back then. You know, I used to think she was an evil witch in the old days, but now, I just don’t know. She might have been right about a few things after all. I don’t think it will happen though, this bringing in of the army, not with the Iran business still going on. Christ knows if that is ever going to end.
Our little Ryan should be going to the comprehensive in September. That place up the road was never my first choice, but it’s the only school that he could have gone to though. They were such stupid rules. We always knew that he was brighter than most of the kids around here.
The poor boy, he still has that unsightly brace on his teeth. I think it was fitted all wrong, his gums bleed all the time. It’s was so hard to get an appointment at a good dentist’s around here. This will make you laugh. It did me. Have you heard about the new lottery prizes for free dental health? What is the world coming to? People are going to go mad for it. Mark my words. It’s hilarious.
We wish you were here Shane. Everything is changing so much. You wouldn’t believe it.
The land where the Arts Centre used to be has now been completely flattened. They are talking about putting a petrol station there. They tried to stop it and there were demonstrations. One bloke even chained himself to the front gates. You would have loved it. The television even came down to report on it, but it was all too late. I suppose the decision was made years ago to close it down, especially when the library went first. I still see your brother Andrew walking the streets sometimes. He looks so sad and beaten. He loved that place so much. We all did. Things that we love are always taken from our hands. I know this for definite now Shane.
I remember the night when we saw the soul singer Eddie Floyd perform there. He was fantastic. You got a bit tipsy and twirled me around in the aisles, nearly knocked Andrew’s drink out of his hands. You told us all that you loved us. That this was your family. You said that we would all be together, forever. You never liked impossibilities, even then. The pure, silly romantic in you. How did they ever get Eddie Floyd to perform there anyway? In this town of all places. He meant every word that came from his lips when he sang.
Do you remember the old manager of the theatre? What was his name? He was a right character. He kissed me once in the bar for no apparent reason at all. When he left, there was big fuss in the Gazette. I reckon he knew the council had it in for the place and he had to tell someone. He fell in love with a Yorkshire lass in the end and moved away. Nice man. He tried to change things around here.
I remember the exact moment that you and I fell in love. The Italians have a word or saying for it, something about a thunderbolt. That’s what it was like. I don’t speak Italian, but Maria does. She went out with Paulo Garcia for a while. You must remember him. She’s just gone out the back to have a cigarette. The café will be closing soon, so we’ll have to go. Perhaps I’ll ask her for that word and I’ll tell you in our next letter.
It seems as if it were only yesterday, the first time I clapped eyes on you. You looked gorgeous, so cocky and sure of yourself. You were as drunk as a skunk on Guinness and whiskey and even had a cigarette stuck behind your ear. What was that after shave you had on? You reeked of it, smelt like a coconut. I can even remember the record we danced to, ‘Have You Seen Her?’ by the Chi-lites. God! You were such a good mover, virtually lifted me off my feet. I still don’t know how you learned to dance like that; you’ve two left feet most of the time.
When you walked me home afterwards to my front door on Windmill Lane and kissed me. I knew that my life was about to change forever. You were a real gentleman, didn’t try to come into my house or anything. That had never happened to me before. Other blokes that I’d met always wanted something more than just a kiss and a cuddle. They weren’t even blokes really, more like boys. You made me feel special. Grown up. You were my first, my last, my everything. Just like that other song. The one we danced to when we got married.
I still sometimes look at our pictures of our wedding day. Who would have known I was carrying little Ryan inside me then? Not even we knew! That wedding dress flatters me. I could never get into it now, not even if I sucked my stomach in. You looked like a right villain in your suit, handsome and ready for action. What did it cost, two weeks wages? I suppose it was all worth it because our parents were so proud of us. Your Dad made a lovely speech. Such beautiful and kind words. I miss your Dad. I’ve tried looking for him, but he never shows up. He might one day.
For crying out loud Shane! We can’t keep this up, not anymore. These silly letters that are never sent or received. We are dead. Little Ryan and I are dead. So are Andrew, Maria, and your Dad. You know this and so does everybody else. Café Denis is a cafe of ghosts and we sit here all day looking out at this horrible, horrible world.
About an hour ago, you walked in, bought a cup of tea to take away. I reached out from our table but could not even touch you. Ryan wanted to show you his football stickers and he started to cry. It was awful. You looked so thin. You need a hot meal and new shoes.
Why did we all have to die? Maria to cancer, Andrew in a car accident, your Dad to drink. Why were little Ryan and me taken by an angry young man with a knife at the bus stop? We get so angry about it sometimes; remember each, tiny second of that final minute. It ticks inside us. We should have taken the car, but the petrol was so expensive even then.
All I asked him to do was pick his rubbish up from the pavement, his box of half eaten kebab and chips. He called me a slut and then pulled his knife out. He got Ryan first, straight in the heart. Ryan was smiling as he fell to the floor, almost waving at me. I was screaming and the man told me to shut up, that I was a crazy fat bitch. I tried to reach down to Ryan, pull him to me, but the knife went straight to my neck and he cut my throat. I went dizzy, fell on top of Ryan and that was it.
The young man who did this to us is still in prison, will be for many years. When he returns, we won’t even be able to talk to him, ask him the obvious questions. His family still live here, in those flats at the end, by the roundabout. I see his Mother walking up and down Silver Street at all hours of the day and night, picking up rubbish and putting it in the bins. She hasn’t got over it, never will. She’s not dead like Ryan and me, but she might as well be. I’m tired of recounting it, but I do. I’m so exhausted with it but I can’t let it go. I have to. We all have to.
So this is what we’re going to do Shane. Because this cannot go on any longer. Ryan and I going to make a deal with you, and ourselves. We’re going to gather them all up. The dead friends and family of our world. Maria, Andrew and the rest. If I can find your Dad, then we’ll take him as well. We are going to walk away from here, from this so called Silver Street.
I remember that you once said this to me, ‘Keep the faith, and always demand the impossible’. You said it to me as your Dad was dying. I tried to believe it and I did for many years. But, believe this here and now Shane. I can’t keep any faith at all, not anymore. It’s all gone. Ryan and I are just two skins that can only walk around the roads of our lives.
So we are all going to walk away for good now. As far as possible and to the very end. We won’t look back, not once. Down the paths we will travel, over the fields with the hours of our once better days. Through the days and the nights, the winds and the rains of history we will roam. When we eventually find our final destination, the sea, we’ll all hold hands, tightly. Maybe the sun will be shining when we get there. And then we’ll step into it, the cold waves. Slowly at first, with our eyes forward, until our heads are covered by the water. Until we are gone. Until there is absolute mercy.