Creative Nonfiction: Better Living Through Death

By Graham Rae


“To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand naturaly shocks
That flesh is heir to: 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd.”
                         - Some long-dead English hack.

February 2011. Nine sharp on a snowblown Chicago Monday morning, the start of another weary work week. I crunchily trudged through the inches-deep everywhere-whiteness to the back door, fished out my keys, unlocked and opened it. I started kicking the snow off my boots at the side of the door, preparing to remove them. Then I heard a weak and small voice pathetically pleading from inside the dimlit expensive apartment: “Please…please…” 

I ran through to the bedroom and threw open the door. Aldus was on the floor on his knees, diaper-clad backside sticking up in the air, blue pajama top bunched up halfway down his sweaty back… and his face… where was his face… ? He’s been decapitated was my first impossible, abstract thought. I stood looking for a second: What the fuck…? Then I figured out the complete insanity that was going on, and I hit the ground running…

November 2010.

I was living in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, a sterile, buzzing WASP’s nest. Parts of John Hughes movies had been filmed there, as they had in a lot of other nearby frigid, affluent, highly-educated, North Shore suburbs. Some of the richest people in the whole of America lived in these prying-eye neighbourhoods. It was three months after a devastating and extremely painful separation from my to-be-ex wife, and I was living in a rented room in Emerson street, in a black household in the black part of the city.
Just a mile up the same street were the Northwestern University dorms. Undergrad tuition to that place will set you back a cool seventy-five grand annually these days, so the disparity between my own situation and that of the less-well-off black residents versus the sniffy white students… was ironic indeed. Cop cars would ceaselessly sharkprowl round the dorms, making themselves visible, shining searchlights into bushes at nine at night. They were basically babysitters for rich brats, serving and protecting them, and it was headshakingly ridiculous.
I would go up for a walk round the dorms at night, knowing it would be safe as Hell there, marvelling at how utterly alienated and isolated I felt, looking at these privileged young people like aliens from another planet. Then I would go ‘home’ to my tiny room and sit staring at the walls or telly, thinking, drinking, writing, homesicking, what-the-fucking. This house was the only place in Evanston I felt like I could relax and relate to people. Lady Reed, the beautiful young black woman who owned the place, was in her mid-20s. She supposedly ran a home-based cookery business, but I very rarely saw her actually cooking anything. There were, however, a steady stream of wealthy middle-aged white men going through the place, and she sometimes would nip off to Europe or wherever. I ultimately came to the conclusion she might have been some sort of high-end hooker; she certainly had the looks for it, anyway. She actually asked me if she could have a “sample” one night in her kitchen, hot, light-female-touch ballet dancing round me to taste a batch of something on the stove, dipping her finger, trying her luck, licking, smiling, testing. The thought was extremely tempting but, after having just been through a lot of shit to find the place, the idea of it all fucking up after fucking my landlord and getting chucked out was less than appealing. So I just smiled and said no and that was that, no hard cock feelings.
I would leave the house and pull out in my car and get instantly pulled over by representatives of the overly zealous, bored police force. They always reminded me of a line from Naked Lunch: “And always cops: smooth college-trained state cops, practiced, apologetic patter, electronic eyes weight your car and luggage…” They radiated cold, quiet, boring menace, and clearly thought that, because I was a white man coming out of a black household, I must have been selling drugs or something. As if; would have had a lot more money if I was. This was the only time I have ever been racially profiled in my life, so it was educational. They would look at my licence (seeming almost disappointed when they radioed it in and nothing was wrong with it: “Okay, this checks out.”) and look at me slightly askance when I told them I was living there. My skin colour, coupled with my accent, made me a pretty damned strange resident of the place. Aye right, Yankee copper, tell me aboot it ya prick.
I had recently been pushed out of the hospital I had been working as a receptionist in by their coldly corporate, cunty middle management. They were pushing some staff out so they could get younger, inexperienced ones in, often white women in their very early twenties, and pay them less. They liked their middle-class dizzy wee lassies (“Don’t like your type round here, foreign boy!”) and, if your face didn’t fit, they would rack up a few bullshit, petty, supposed rule violations against you. When they thought they had sufficient grounds for getting rid of you, well, so long, farewell, auf weidersehen, fuck off!
I wasn’t that sad to go, and I at least got to call my fat bald clown of a cheapskate, insulting manager a dick to his face before doing so, something I had wanted to do for the previous two-and-a-half years working there. But however glad I was to be away from that shitty position, it still left me with the usual thorny life sentence problems of how to stay fed and keep a roof over my head in a country where I knew very few people, absolutely did not fit in, and had no real support network.
I started looking for work in the care industry. I was going to train to be a nurse back in Scotland before emigrating to America in 2005, had even been accepted to Stirling University, so I had been trying to at least stay in work somehow connected with healthcare in the states. I started scouring job listings online, and found a nearby Craigslist listing for Evanston: an elderly gentleman was in need of a caregiver, and if that person was into literature and the arts, all the better. I don’t claim to be that well read, but I suppose I can hold my own in any literary or artistic conversation, so I applied and got an interview for the job.
Recruiting was being done through an intermediary for the gentleman, Aldus Mude, divorced, whose only family was a married daughter, Beatrice, who lived in Philadelphia. I turned up for the interview at the Starbucks segment of the now-defunct Dominick’s on W Howard to meet Daniel, a ponytail-sporting Evanston social worker. He was amiable enough if slightly… off, in that way that some social workers can be. I worked in the social work department in Edinburgh for six months in the early 2000s, and could tell you some interesting stories. I explained how the mention of literature and the arts is what had attracted me to applying for the position. Well, that and it was close, but of course I didn’t say that. Daniel thought that Aldus should meet me, thinking that if we clicked that intelligent conversation would be stimulating for a man of seventy who had been a big literature and theater lover in his younger years.

So I met my potential client at his apartment in Custer Avenue. He was a thin, slightly haunted-seeming man with early stage dementia, who bore more than a passing resemblance to George Carlin. Tiny wisps of white hair hung round the sides and back of his bald-top head like gravity-defeated clouds. He spoke in a relatively soft, world-weary voice, which he could raise upon occasion, if merited. On top of his dementia, he had been in a car crash a couple of years earlier and had sustained injuries that made him feel pain both real and imagined. His caregivers were told to just take it as given that he was in real pain, because there was no real way of knowing if he was or wasn’t. Just to add to that clusterfuck of personal damage, his early-thirties son had gone into hospital round the time of the crash and had died during a simple foot operation. Aldus basically didn’t want to be around, but here he was, stranded in life like us all.

When we talked, we got along alright, and I got the job. It was $13 an hour, which is really shitty for a self-employed caregiver, but I was naive and inexperienced at that time, and didn’t know any better. My routine was to be pretty simple: work 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with another caregiver doing Friday through Sunday. I got Aldus up, made his breakfast, warmed his shower, made his lunch, did his laundry, helped him do things during the day – he walked with a walker – made his dinner, then put him to bed at 7 p.m. I helped him with his range of motion exercises, which he had an expensive personal physio devise for him. It was weird, and oddly intimate, being on a bed with an old man, manoeuvering his legs and knees around like some sort of daily weird slow-motion arthritic homosex ritual. I would drive him to doctor’s appointments (without the correct car insurance, in retrospect, but I knew fuck all about that at the time), and go shopping for him. I would also give him his medication reminders – the meds were refilled on a monthly basis by a guy who came from a nearby CVS Pharmacy to do so, putting them into a plastic dividing case marked for a month with the days of the week. The usual stuff, really.
The first time I turned up I met Melinda, my coworker for the days I wasn’t on. She was a redheaded middle-class Evanstonian bombscare, and she gave off bad electricity from the start. A big-boned redhead, the minute she saw me and heard me talk she started prattling off about herself and her life. You know how some people just wind up and start off and continue talking talking talking no matter what? She was one of those. Within five minutes of meeting her she had asked me if that was a wedding ring I was wearing and where was I from, and she used to work in the financial sector but it was too stressful and she was a functioning alcoholic doing it and now she was doing this as a step away from the madness of her previous work life and it didn’t pay as well but the work-life balance and stress levels would be better and blah blah fucking blah. Sitting in the dining room as she pottered around the kitchen, I just nodded and grunted something occasionally that would hopefully be interpreted as vaguely interested, but I already couldn’t stand her. The last fucking thing I needed was another crazy bitch in my life. She was spouting this fountain of boring self-revelation as one of Aldus’s previous caregivers, a Filipino woman named Rafaela, was giving her own goodbyes in the living room to her ex-employer. They had been working together for years but something had gone wrong, nothing concrete or confirmed, whispered innuendos, inadequacies, foreign bodies, contract termination. Rafaela came through slightly crestfallen, but soon perked up when she heard me talking. She told me she had had an English boyfriend when she was younger and that my accent was “such a turn-on!” I just smiled vaguely. Nothing I hadn’t heard before. It was actually something I couldn’t stand, unless I initiated it. If I was ever in a bar and started up a conversation with somebody, male or female (I wasn’t looking for a woman, cos I couldn’t stand the women round here), the minute I started talking I would have the same first conversation a million times: “Where are you from/Why are you here/How long have you been here/What kinda whiskey do you like?/Trainspotting is awesome!/Braveheart!/ FREEDOM!/Star Trek! Scotty!/My ancestors are Scotch/If it’s not Scottish it’s crap!/Say donkee! “and most of the time I didn’t even try to speak to people because it was just too depressing. Even when I did speak to some people, it was as still as if they were speaking to me through a plate glass wall, the muffled thump of their stunted words failing to connect with me on any meaningful level. And then Rafaela left, and I was her replacement.
Christmas 2010 was horrendous, a total numb snowy hypothermia void. It was my first hollydaze season alone since arriving in the country in July 2005. I crunched round the frigid Evanston city centre in my cheap knitted blue dollar store hat, staring numbly at my fogbreath reflection through the windows of bars and restaurants, dazed eyes glittering through a surfeit of purchasable sweet fuck all. I couldn’t understand the warm happy smiling laughing people inside these places, the friends, families, lovers, coworkers, party-heartyers.
I was not one of these people, and never would or could be. Hell, I wouldn’t even
want to be! I did not go to their kindergartens or elementary or middle or high schools, their colleges, their churches, their youth clubs, their seen-in-teen-films summer camps. I had never played football or baseball with them. I did not grow up in their neighbourhoods, had not dated them, hung out with them, had not drunk in their bars, not eaten in their fave food places, except sporadically over the last few years. There was zero chance of me striking up an instant-things-in-common conversation with somebody in a coffee shop or bar or fast food place, shared pasts and presents and potential futures buzzing in the suddenly-electric conversational air. I had absolutely nothing whatsoever in common with these people except a pulse, a language (sort of), and being alive on the planet at the same time as them.
I felt like I was oddly deep behind enemy lines of nowhere understandable or familiar, stuck in the empty belly of some huge savage beast, swimming through endless waves of depression and loneliness and headshaking fuck-it-allery. The flickering neon lights of braindead excess spilled mockingly out across the changing-colour snow and I had no idea what or where the fuck I was or how I got there. This would be the theme for the next five-and-a-half horrible years, so I got used to it quite quickly. I was nearly always alone. But I was used to being by myself, a misfit, story of my life, said without self-pity, and this gave me an edge. What I went through would have killed some people, but I am Scottish working class stock, made of sterner stuff than just collapsing when my life was trashed and a lifelong half examined dream was brutally murdered.
So I felt my feet grow cold and numb in my snow-soaking boots as I choked back bitterness and anger and sadness and pain at the glass-silenced, ceiling-tossed laughs of a class of people I had no real time for, after having associated with them for the last half-decade. Why the fuck had I ever emigrated? It was the worst mistake of my life. Fuck this insane country and fuck this place and fuck these people and fuck their shallow cunt happiness and their… togetherness.
Walk idiot walk, get moving, fuck this shit, just get out of here before you scream. And then back to the small room and the four judging walls. I used to turn on the telly and put on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson to hear even a half-Scottish accent, and I don’t even like him. Twelve geographic miles and a million variant unlucky breaks separated our Scottish births and lives, and that was fine, had to be, fuck it. Cliché sera sera. There were no therapeutic conversations, no how-ya-doings, no sanity-savers, no I-can-relate nights. Fuck it. Oftentimes a man just goes through what he goes through on his own, sometimes crying and silently screaming at the four bare uncaring walls, no rhyme, no reason, no excuse, no help. And we just get on with shit, despite the learned-helplessness therapy-junkie calls of the mild. But hey – I got a $25 Christmas bonus from Aldus – he gave his physio $300 – so life wasn’t all bad! Very kind of the rich, mad old bastard!
I knew Aldus had money because of the area he was staying in, the apartment and its eclectic international décor, and because of Melinda. She liked to snoop through his private files and papers when he was sleeping, or watching a film. She told me he had had a big payout from his son’s death, and the son –
juicy liplicking shock horror! – had been into drugs. The woman fucking nauseated me, gossip-mongering and prying nutty bitch that she was. I just got on with the job and went home, figuring that the ill man’s private affairs were exactly that, and I had bugger all interest in them anyway. Melinda would hit on me, bumping her hips into me and such, and got pissed off when I gently, smilingly rebuffed her. Women can’t handle rejection any better than men can, though we get it more often. She would go to Aldus for advice for her love life, and he would give it to her! That showed how fucking mental she was, going to a deeply mentally unbalanced man – he himself admitted he was “nuts” – for advice! She shouldn’t have been burdening the man with her lack of sexual prospects, it was really unprofessional. She was a sick fucking joke all round, and I was just glad we didn’t actually have to work physically beside each other, just literally bump into each other here and there occasionally.
She would phone me at night half-drunk to try and get me to agitate against Beatrice’s husband Ken. He was the one who paid us by a Paypal-like online money transferring account, and sent money for groceries that way, too, for which I would send him the receipts. Apparently Ken and Aldus hated each other, ho-hum. I can’t even remember what Melinda’s problem was now, probably too-low pay, but her phoning me after hours and pouring her shitey shallow woes onto me pissed me off until I had to nip it in the bud. After that, if we ever had to run into each other, she would bump around the apartment vacuuming or whatever, wearing headphones and listening to music. This was a total fucking blessing, cos of course it meant we didn’t have to speak.
There would be weekly therapy-like sessions over at Daniel’s house in Evanston (
damn but those Evanston people were fucking weird as Hell! Not a normal one amongst them!), where we were supposed to discuss any problems with the case, or with life in general. She would sit and bump her gums to her bland narcissist heart’s content. Annoyed and disgusted at this crap just cos I was doing a job, I pointed out the odd thing here or there, but no way, no fucking way was I getting involved in this American middle-class therapy-obsessed horseshit. I had signed on to look after an old man, not to be fucking analysed, and was offended by the whole thing. So I listened to Daniel’s touchy-feely solutions to any problems we (she) could be having, nodded, smiled, cracked the occasional tension-relieving joke... then got the fuck out of there as soon as I could. Weird, creepy bastirts!
The Mude family was an interesting and humourous study in contradictions. Before his accident, Aldus had been the head of a large Jewish charity organization – despite not being Jewish. His father, Aldus Sr., had been a commercial illustrator who had done a load of album cover paintings for black jazz musicians and singers in the 1950s on Quicksilver Records. He got a call one day from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that they had nominated him their Artist of the Year. He had to smilingly inform them that he was white! His beautiful record covers dotted the walls round his son’s home here and there, vibrant neon colours, the sounds of the tracks of long-gone sonic fashion trains quietly clacking through the apartment when the lights went off at night. He sometimes would paint himself into the covers, and he looked, oddly, like a burly Italian man, despite his German ancestry. The rest of the apartment was decorated with an assortment of knick-knacks from round the world. You know the drill: African tribal doodahs, Egyptian tat, Japanese whatevers. The usual cosmopolitan cliché buffet, in other words.
But I have to admit, Aldus was an interesting character. He told me about doing census-taking in the Deep South during the 1960s, and getting the shit kicked out of him “for being a nigger lover.” This sort of stuff was fascinating to me, like recent American history I had only ever heard about second-hand suddenly come to life, a kaleidoscopic loop of civil rights marches, vicious sunglassed cops, MLK murder, dogs, hoses, nightsticks, black suppression, nigger-lover beating. Sad and inspiring and depressing in equal measures, especially thinking about how little America really had seemed to have come human rights-wise since the 1960s. It hid its bonedeep racism better now, but in a racially divided city like Chicago the evil was still there festering, glowering, exploding in random violence 24/7 365, staining the snow with blood and hatred.
But that was for slaughterhouse places like the South Side of Chicago, far from a genteel, Arctic, emotionally dead Hell like Evanston. Here the violence and menace were more subtle, underskin, plain sight-hidden. This place bred people of the type who would wear “I RAN THE RACE AGAINST HATE” (a local 5K/10K run and walk) teeshirts during better weather to show how caring they supposedly were, or who would cycle to work to save the environment, or make crappy pretentious crafts to sell at outdoor fests, or tie-dye their fucking pubic hair in solidarity gestures with Nicaraguans. But they would still walk past you with a shovel in their hand and not stop to try and help you get your car out of a snowdrift, as happened to me once or twice. Total wankers. The women radiated greed and cruelty and sexlessness despite their tight jeans and flicked hair and hooker boots, spoiled and rotten pillow princesses, North Shore constipation-contorted faces, penis flytraps of instant financial death and fury. The men thought they were cool calm collected cosmopolitan cos they could witlessly witter about craft beers and organic lattes and football and such shite. It was no wonder I didn’t want to talk to or have sex with them. Fuck that. Or not, as the case may be.
Aldus had been a big reader and theatergoer. When you stepped in his front door, the whole wall along the corridor was full of books from top to bottom, mainly classics, no potboilers or throwaway timewasters. I would cock my head and browse sometimes, amazed at his decent taste, open a volume here and there, read, pause, smell the beautiful old spice aroma of the crinkled pages, and put the horny volume back. Aldus mentioned Shakespeare, of whom he was a huge fan, and Orson Welles’s film Chimes at Midnight, based on work by the Bard. He said it was a rare film, he’d only ever seen it once, and nobody could get a hold of it. That instantly set my ‘obscure film radar’ off and I went online at the local library, having no home net access at the time. Raking through the net, I found a bootleg DVD copy (it only got legally released in 2015 on DVD and Blu-ray) and bought it for him. He was delighted when I gave it to him. We sat and watched it together, me sitting slightly behind him so I could watch his reactions. He loved it, reciting beautiful poetry passages along with the characters onscreen. It was a poignant and moving sight, to see such a depressed man released from the cage of his phantom-pain-tormented flesh for a few brief dizzy skybird-free moments, forgetting everything but the beauty of art. I smiled knowingly, and he never saw it.
The really good part of the whole job was sitting watching films with Aldus. He had great taste in films, owned a lot of DVDs, and he would show me classic old films I had, shamefacedly, never seen: Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, The Third Man, Sunset Boulevard, that sort of thing. Being a modern film snob like everybody else, I had more-or-less assumed that older blacknwhite films would be boring shite. Watching these films showed me how wrong I was, what an inverse lazy snob I had been, how well-acted and scripted and filmed they were. He was a big fan of Rumpole of the Bailey, something I very vaguely remembered from my childhood on the telly. We watched it episode after episode, and I marvelled at how prescient it seemed, dealing with pressing social issues of the day, all with a marvellous wit and humour. Not to mention a peerless performance by Leo McKern as the titular character, of course. I’d certainly had worse jobs than getting paid to watch films and eat sandwiches and talk about poetry and literature, it has to be said. My big album at that time was Nail by Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel. I remember quoting him the line “Power makes pain so wear rhino hide” from the song Anything (Viva!) on it, and him repeating it approvingly. He also said something that has stuck with me since: “Cynicism is fine, but it can become a prison if you let it.” So despite his mental illness, he could still throw out the odd zinger here and there.
So that’s the way it went on, painlessly enough, from November 2010 to February 2011. Now let me flash you back to the start of this story. Aldus hadn’t been decapitated, obviously, cos that would have made moaning for help somewhat impossible. What had happened was that he was lying on the floor, arse in the air, with a white plastic bag over his head, which was why I couldn’t see his face. An electric shock jolt hit me as I took in the scene: it looked like he had broken his wrist, and there were butcher’s knives and pills scattered all over the floor. I jumped over and ripped the plastic bag off his head, shouting at the top of my lungs: “YA FUCKING AULD BASTIRT! HOW DARE YE TRY TAE DAE THIS TA ME N YER FAMILY!” I didn’t even really know what the fuck I was saying. I was in shock and angry, pissed off, but moving, moving, moving. There was a
second plastic bag on his head! The old cunt was nothing if not determined! How the fuck had he even done that?
I ripped off the second plastic bag to see,
finally thank fuck, his sweaty, moaning face, hair plastered to his pale skull. I looked at his broken wrist, which was weakly clutching a dull knife, and I took it away from him and threw it away behind me, kicking away another couple of knives lying near his reach. I just hoped he hadn’t cut or hurt himself in his stupidity and desperation. He was pitifully grateful to see me. I had no idea how long he had been there; for all I knew, he could have been there since Melinda left him the night before, fourteen hours ago. I was saying soothing things to him, nothing of consequence, baby charm utterances, as I tried to figure out what the fuck to do. I could now see what had happened. He had been sitting in a chair and tipped off it onto the floor in his thus-far failed suicide attempt, where he was now lying piteously mewling. Getting a towel, I wiped the sweat off his ashen features. I then called 911 and explained the predicament, waiting with him until the ambulance arrived, trying to be gentle with him, still in a bit of shock. I didn’t want to move him. It was certainly one of the most unusual starts to a work week I have ever had, I must say.
The ambulance and cops didn’t take long to arrive. The paramedics got him off the floor – he hadn’t broken his wrist, thankfully, it was just the boneless way he had been lying – and took him out to the ambulance. There were three or four cops just boredly snooping around after Aldus was taken away, filling the place with muscled blue, looking at the paintings and pictures and news clippings on the walls. “His grandad was a football player!” enthused one dolt. Well whoop-de-fucking-doo, I thought, saying nothing. I just stood there watching the low-motion cop tornado breeze softly round me. I gave them my details and explained what had happened, which they could obviously see was correct. It was fucking surreal. A half an hour before I had been knocking snow off my boots; now I was talking to Evanston police about an attempted suicide. It was hard to take it all in.
“Where are they taking him, are they taking him to Resurrection?” I asked, cos that downtown Chicago hospital had been mentioned in his therapy notes.
“No, they’ve taken him to Evanston Hospital. You’re the only one who’s done any resurrecting this morning,” smiled an attractive young female law enforcement officer, who started cooing over my accent. I laughed and shook my head. Surreal stuff indeed, nearly impossible to believe.
Eventually they all thankfully fucked off and I went home, after one of the most bizarre days of my life. I found out what had happened. After Melinda had left the previous evening, Aldus had obviously decided that America was no country for old men in pain, and that he wanted to bow out disgracefully. We had had no real indication his mood was so severely black. He was always depressed, but refused anti-depressants. He had gotten himself unsteadily out of bed and crept on through to the kitchen, where he had stocked up on the insomnia drug Ambien from a cupboard, taken a couple of butcher’s knives (which were pretty dull anyway) and two plastic bags. He’d then gone back through to his bedroom, tanned a load of Ambien and stuck the two plastic bags over his head and waited to big sleep, perchance to dream of fuck all but an end to the daily pain nightmares. Only he’d gotten woozy, had toppled off the chair, had been immobilised, and that was how I had found him the next morning. As I said, there was no way of knowing how long he had been stuck there. It was almost blackly comic, in a tragic way, though I certainly wasn’t laughing at the time. I should have known. It was the only job I ever got through Craigslist, which I suppose in itself should have been enough to set off a whole frantic semaphore of red flags merrily waving away. Still who could have predicted this deranged madness?
Beatrice was very apologetic when she emailed me, saying it must have been a terrible thing for me to see. I had an email back-and-forth with Ken about final expenses. The cunt tried to stiff me for
seventeen fucking bucks for groceries! Guess he wasn’t too pleased that I had saved his hated father-in-law’s life or something; typical horrible rich cunt. I told him I had sent some receipts by post and he sent the money by email, though I hadn’t sent them. I could have, but to try and gouge me for such a tiny sum after such a traumatic event was totally beyond a fucking joke. I just tore the receipts up and threw them in the trash the next day, tidied the apartment up, sighed, switched out the lights and walked out of that bizarre chapter of my life.
Well, not quite. I went to visit him in hospital once. His physio was randomly there at the same time. Aldus wasn’t too happy to see me, communicating sparsely, clearly embarrassed. I genuinely bore him no ill will, and was just glad that he was alright. Well, as alright as he could be, at least. I didn’t stay too long, and neither did his physio. Outside the room, the physio, whom Aldus regarded as a friend, bemoaned the suicide attempt, saying “The quality of the attempt wasn’t very good.” I thought damn, and this cunt got a $300 bonus at Christmas from the old boy! Mental! I wasn’t sad to see the back of him. I only ever visited Aldus once more, a couple of weeks later when he got home from the hospital. He had gotten in a caregiving agency 24/7, in case he tried anything again, and he was not happy to see me at all, refusing to me even speak to me. I think he was angry that I saved his life. Whatever. I made no attempt to go back again. For saving his life I lost my job and got snubbed. That’s gratitude for you.
Idly recalling my suicidal employer a few years later, I checked the net and found out that he had died in 2013, a couple of years or so after I had saved his life. He finally got what he wanted. I hope he finally got the peace he could not find in life, and maybe even a reunion with his dead son. You never know.
Perchance to dream, indeed.

Graham Rae has been published on both sides of the Atlantic since he was a teenager, on the net and in magazine form. He has written for venues like Deep Red, Samhain, The List, Cinefantastique, American Cinematographer, Diabolique, 3am, and Dangerousminds. Wherever normal is, he is not.


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