If you are going to commit suicide it helps if you are organised: otherwise all your plans may come to naught.
It would be just my luck if I fell right now: no-one would appreciate the irony of it, no-one. Not the wife, not the kids, not even the bloody dog. Iíd just be another smashed up body on the rocks below, another statistic: another incident for other folk to idly speculate about. ďAye,Ē theyíd say, ďhe was a quiet man, kept himself pretty much to himself, but heíd a bonnie wife and some smashing weans, you wonder what got into him.Ē As it is, no-one will ever know. Not if I keep a tight hold onto this guard rail. Not if I make it down to the bottom intact.
Slowly I go down, each step a step closer to my destiny. Slowly, carefully, feeling each foot as it finds the step below. Pressing down firmly. Stopping. Breathing in. Breathing out. Clouds of steamy breath caught in the torchlight. Each step part of the rhythm of my descent. Slowly, deliberately, I make my way down. Step down, breathe in, breathe out. Step down, breathe in, breathe out. The rhythm steadying me against the gusts blowing up from the sea: steadying me against the wee small voice of doubt that nags at me. I have no doubts about what Iím doing, you understand Ė there can be no turning back now Ė just that Iím still worrying that I might have forgotten something, that I might have overlooked something.
This was no spur of the moment decision, no sudden act of desperation. On the contrary, everything has been meticulously planned. For months now Iíve been working it all out. Everything from the clothes Iím now wearing to the wording of the note that will be found in my wallet. Call me a perfectionist if you will, but Iíve lived long enough to see how things can get fucked up by the simplest oversight.
Too many examples come to mind: things that seemed minor at the time, but proved to have substantial consequences. The intricacies of the laws of causality only become manifest with age. Iím old enough now to see the virtue in fastidiousness.
If I could turn back the clock to say, Saturday 3rd June 1989 and approach the night with the same due care and attention to detail that I employ now I would not be here now, descending a spindrift soaked, treacherous staircase to that mythic point of no return. If I had read the sell by date on the condom packet, if I had even noticed that it didnít feel quite right when I put it on, I would not now be in the fucking mess Iím in. That is to say, in a nutshell: no insemination = no first kid = no wedding = no more kids = no soul destroying career path = no mortgage etc = no slippery descent by torchlight on a moonless night.
Attention to detail is everything. That night I was too full of sperm to take care.
Tonight, I have a spare torch and batteries in my backpack, just in case. Fuck it, I even have a first aid kit! Thatís the difference that the years make. Thatís the difference that experiencing the laws of causality makes.
Step down. Breath in. Breathe out. And you know, itís not even like I loved her. She was, at the time, a total babe. She made me horny, just looking at her; and she delivered the goods - she wasnít all wrapper and no chocolate. We liked the same bands, same sort of movies, same football team even. But thatís not love: itís narcissism. Of course, as time wears on, you find youíre better off loving yourself. Itís more efficient. So we ended up loving only our selves; and managed, for the most part, to tolerate each other. We didnít love the kids much either. Iíd say we probably loved the dog better. Itíd do what you told it and wouldnít answer back, whine, cry or tell you it wished you were dead. I think Iíll miss the dog most.
Breathe in. Breath out. Step down. Last Wednesday was my 30th birthday. I got home at 6:15pm as usual. She was out at an aerobics class. The kids were planked in front of the television, didnít even say ďhello dadĒ when I came in. Dinner was in the microwave. There was no cake, no cards, no nothing. I ate alone. Then I went into the sitting room, ordered the kids upstairs to do their homework; and I sat down, watched a soap opera and a home improvement programme. Iíd drunk the best part of three malt whiskies by the time she got home. She poured herself a glass, re-filled mine and chinked my glass and said ďhappy birthday, what you watching?Ē ďOh nothing, Iím just waiting for the footie highlights.Ē ďAgain?Ē she said, her voice turning sour. ďAye, well it is the World Cup, you know.Ē And that was how I celebrated my 30th birthday. Germany versus Ireland. A score draw.
Breathe in, breathe out, step down. Breathe in, breathe out, step down. Theyíll think it was one of those mid-life crisis things. Maybe it is, but I think of it more as the process of attrition reaching critical mass. Gradually everything gets worn away. You start off as a sharp edged, sparkly gem and end up a smooth, dull pebble.
Iím a fucking pebble. One of those lifeless grey things that lie on the beach, waiting for the next wave to clatter it against all the other pebbles.
Breath in, breathe out, step down. You donít notice it at first, this wearing away of your sparkly bits. At first you feel comfortable. Youíre no longer jumping around like a mad dog trying to impress her. It feels good. You feel relaxed. It doesnít matter if you sit around in your pyjamas, unshaven, till three in the afternoon of a hung over Sunday.
But then the ease becomes a disease. All your disgusting habits are out there, as are hers. Sheís no longer a maiden in distress and youíre no longer a knight in shining armour. And, of course, there are all the ordinary cares of the day; just to make sure that what was once a romantic dream becomes drudgery. Nothing like a sink full of dirty dishes and a baby vomiting over your shoulder to cool whatís left of your ardour.
Breathe in, breathe out, step down. Of course, you keep fantasising that itíll get better soon: once youíve got that house, once youíve got that promotion, once the kids are at school; and, of course, it doesnít get better. It gets worse. You know the desperationís kicking in the day you go and buy that first lottery ticket. Youíre handing over your destiny to the fates, but you blind yourself to this fact by whiling away the hours, dreaming of how youíll spend the millions youíre never going to win.
Then comes the day you acknowledge that youíre beaten and you never buy a lottery ticket again. That day happened for me nearly two years ago. Ever since then, all Iíve ever fantasised about is my end
When I reach the bottom of the steps, it feels like too soon. The crunching of my feet on the granulated shells of the beach stops my thoughts from their fluid completion. I think of sitting down and having a cigarette, of poking further into myself, but there isnít much time before dawn; and I need to be finished before it gets light, just in case some early morning tourist or fisherman interrupts me. So, I donít stop: I take a cigarette from my waterproof cigarette case (pre-rolled, of course), light it, and continue onwards, towards the cave.
I take deep drags on the cigarette. With each hit of nicotine, my mind becomes more focussed. I stop thinking of whys and wherefores and concentrate on what I need to do: swiftly shifting into the here and now.
Six feet into the cave I build a bed for my fire. I make a circle of stones (gathered and left at this spot, the day before yesterday). Then, from my rucksack I remove a smaller daypack, a bag of kindling, three newspapers, a litre bottle of paraffin and a box of firelighters. I crumple the newspaper into tightened balls. Then I place some kindling on top. I place pieces of firelighter under the kindling. Then I soak the lot in paraffin, light it and stand back.
The fire blazes for a minute or two, scorching me into a sort of primitive stupefaction. Then, it dies down and I organise myself. I open the daypack and I take out a bundle of five pound notes. I place a few of them in the fire. Then I drop a few others just outside the ring of stones. Then I take another small wad of notes and carefully, partially burn them with my lighter. The half-burnt notes, I scatter round the back of the cave.
Once this part of the ritual is complete, I begin to strip. I take off my jacket and drop it near the mouth of the cave. Then my shirt, tie, trousers, socks and shoes.
I donít remove my underpants. Everyone who knows me knows I am not the type to go running around bollock naked; and it would be inconsistent to do so now, even under the cover of darkness.
I fold my clothes neatly, as I am wont to do. Then I place them on top of my jacket (but only after checking again that the note is in the wallet and the wallet is in the jacket pocket). After that I take a brand new set of clothes out of my rucksack. A green fleece, a grey t-shirt, a pair of black combat trousers, walking boots and socks and, last but not least, a Barbour jacket. I put them on: feeling like a stranger in such uncharacteristic clothes. Itís a terrifyingly beautiful sensation.
I sit down, light another cigarette and smoke it down till I burn my fingers. Then I place my cigarette tin carefully in my daypack alongside the remainder of the twenty thousand pounds I withdrew from the bank yesterday. I put the daypack inside the rucksack and lock the rucksack carefully. Finally, unable to help myself, I take my wallet out from the jacket pocket, open it, remove the note and read it one last time.
ďDear Jackie,Ē it says, ďThe fact that you didnít bother your arse for my thirtieth birthday was the last in a long history of insults and abuse. It was maybe a small thing to you. But for me, it was the straw that broke the camelís back. Well, this camel is going to get itís own back! You may not care about or even notice my absence, but you will take notice when you discover there is nothing in my bank account. Iíd rather burn the lot than for you or the bloody kids to benefit from my demise. Your unloving husband, JimĒ.
I spent ages trying to write this note, but never made much headway. The inspiration for the final draft came on the birthday itself, of course. Itís kind of neat though: the big three-oh is a major one for most guys; and the fact that none of my family cared enough to even make a token attempt for my big day should be convincing. At least, I hope it is. Iím still not sure of the wording, but what the fuck? Itís too late to be worrying about it now, eh?