You were born in Birmingham or was it Manchester? I can’t quite remember any more, but don’t think this means I don’t care. You know above all else that I care.
I’ve followed you every step of the way from the small, green village where you eventually settled with your sister (or was it your grandparents?) to the Big Smoke’s mysterious anonymity. I sat next to you on the train, worrying about what you were wearing. Did an orange, mohair jumper really work with the dark jeans? What had you got in your backpack and were you prepared enough for the journey you had no choice but to make?
After all this time, you still haven’t revealed your real name to me and I suppose the name you prefer to go by does the job. Eliel.
I’ve often wondered about your voice. It’s hard to pin down - on the edge of breaking. Girl high sometimes, deep on occasions. A strange voice that I can clearly hear in my head, but cannot hope to reproduce if I say it out loud.
I got off the train a stop before yours so I could wait for you at the station. In the cold, on a stool outside a coffee bar – a spare seat for you next to mine at the table. I considered buying you a drink, but wasn’t convinced you’d want it. Instead I thought about what you might have ordered. I reckoned a mocha, medium with a flake.
Sometimes, I wish your opinions were more your own. More yours and less mine. I do wish you’d steer clear of the easy Trump-bashing that masquerades as politics these days and the echo-chamber emptiness of Twitter. A thing we can agree on though is we both know with certainty that Jeremy Kyle is Satan.
I listened to music through my headphones as the train drew in. Jesus Alone, by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I love the repeated line, “With my voice, I am calling you”. Part plea, part incantation. It struck me as the train doors opened and I caught sight of you in the crowd that this was what I was also doing with you. Calling you with my voice.
You came to sit next to me and I messed about on my phone because I felt a little embarrassed to see you. I didn’t want you to think I was stalking you. I couldn’t have born that. You looked bone thin, like you needed fleshing out and I wondered if a conversation would help.
“It’s good to see you.”
“How was the journey?”
“Oh you know. So so.”
No, apparently a conversation wasn’t going to do any good at all.
By the screen with the train times, I noticed a young woman staring at us, or rather at you, with real concentration. From the angle I saw her, I couldn’t tell what her expression showed. Was it curiosity? Lust maybe? Or bad intent?
We continued to not talk as she moved quickly towards us.
When it happened, it happened fast and there was literally nothing I could do. She took the knife out of her bag and it was in my side, hot blood spraying everywhere before I had time to say anything. I do remember seeing her face looking into mine though, and the expression on it was one of anger.
“He’d never drink mocha”, she said. “No way, not mocha. Now instead, if you’d said he drank…” But I’d stopped listening. In my head, I was repeating an opinion of Neil Gaiman’s like a mantra. “When people tell you there’s something wrong with a story, they’re almost always right. When they tell what it is that’s wrong and how it can be fixed, they’re almost always wrong.”
You sit there next to me as my life bleeds out, but you don’t help me. Why should you? I’m only your creator, but you didn’t ask to be born. That’s on me and I’m sorry if it’s not what you wanted. Like all parents, I only wanted what was best for you.
I never expected thanks. Maybe a little compassion right now wouldn’t go amiss; but no, not thanks.
There’s a shiny eagerness about the young woman who stabbed me. A determined curiosity to get to know you. Hell, she’ll pretend she knows you already. She’ll tell her friends at the book group she understands you in a way they can never hope to. That she sees all sorts of nuances and shades in your behaviour. You smile at her and you walk hand in hand out of the station. She has a long taxi ride ahead and she wants to hear all about you.
Me? I’m done for and I slip quietly away to pastures new. Because if the truth be told, I’m not very faithful either.
So farewell and God speed, Eliel. Enjoy your time with your new woman. After all, the death of the writer is the birth of the reader.