After Sammy, our adopted son, had served his time in prison he came home but didn’t stay around for too long. He drifted from place to place, living out of a holdall, spiralling into debt and worse.
He took work wherever he could - on a farm, in a sea front hotel, in places he didn’t remember, places that, after time, blurred together in the myth of his own life.
He said he liked the farm best – working with animals, doing hard heavy labour, living in a simple way. His time at the sea front hotel, though, was acrimonious and brief – an incident with the manager that didn’t end well.
Inevitably, he’d return and stay with us, waiting for the employment agency to find him another job, occasionally disappearing, then re-appearing on the doorstep, usually broke, sometimes with just the clothes on his back. If we asked what’d happened he’d shrug and say: ‘You know what happened.’
There was tension in the house when he returned but we did what we could. We bought him a car, tried to get him settled. Then he went off again, this time for a year, without saying goodbye, expecting things between us to be the same.
One time, he was living in the north and his appendix burst. We made the long journey, stayed in bed and breakfast for a week until he was back on his feet. He was lodging with a couple of friends and we thought his life had turned around. We met them but they weren’t what we expected. We drove home in silence.
A few months later the police called, said that a car registered in Sammy’s name had been found abandoned at an airport. Did we know where he was ? We said that we didn’t.
It turned out he’d gone to Spain, spending his time on the beach, drinking cheap wine, hanging out with ex pats. He got in with a crowd – drinkers and bums. When darkness fell, they hustled outside the clubs. Then he graduated to a cleaning job in one of the many ex pat hotels. He seemed to move easily among these people. And it was no surprise when we learned he was involved with a woman – a much older woman with children of her own.
He seemed different in the photos he sent us. His hair was thick and long and he cultivated a beard. He dressed in Hawaiian shirts and had taken to wearing bangles and beads on his wrists - a colorful style that made us think he was beginning to live again.
That was how he looked when he was found - not washed up on a midnight beach or crumpled in a blood-soaked alleyway, but hanging from a noose in a dingy motel room, a photo of his birth mother in his pocket, at the very end of a cheap story where the hero dies.