“Yes, who is it?”
“Police. Can I come in and talk to you?”
“Sure. Just show me your identification first.”
“We need you to come to the station to give evidence.”
“I don’t know. We’ll have a car come and get you.”
“Do I need a lawyer? What is this about? Should I pack a toothbrush?” Smiling.
“No, no no. Nothing like that.” A smile. “You’re not in any trouble. We just need you to give evidence.”
Eventually a patrol car comes and picks me up to take me to the station. The patrolman and patrolwoman both deny knowledge of why I have to go to the police station, just that I have to give evidence.
They escort me to a detective’s office. “So,” he says. “What do you want to say?”
“About the case. Your evidence.”
“The case today. The dead man.”
“Didn’t they tell you? I am so sorry. It’s hard, no one likes to tell it.”
“Who is J to you?”
Thus it was that I learned that J, with whom I had been very close some years ago, had been found dead in his home this morning. I felt suddenly very cold, began to tremble. I cried for this man whom I had not seen in over a decade. My head began to pound.
“What happened? How did he die?”
“We don’t know yet. The investigation is just beginning. We have to wait and see.”
“Investigation? Were there signs of violence on his body?”
“We have to wait for the PM.”
“What happened? An accident? Did he take his own life? Was he killed?
“We have to wait… Ma’am? Do you need medical attention? Can I get you anything?”
The detectives asked me about our relationship back then and the years between then and now. I am listed as his next of kin and so I had to sign a lot of papers, including permission for a post mortem. From their questions, I gathered that he had led a high-risk lifestyle recently. They finally told me that they were waiting for the pathologist to determine if it was suicide or murder.
They didn’t tell me anything, really, but there are two ways to draw a picture – or a conclusion. Some people draw the subject of their picture; other people draw the space around it. I am not unused to drawing conclusions from what is not said, taking form from the peripheral space. The questions the detectives asked me made for an ugly picture. I feel so sorry for J. Whether he lost his life to his own hand or that of another, he had clearly been unhappy for a very long time.
And me – what do I feel? Shocked, sad. Guilty. I most certainly could not have prevented this, but I still feel guilty. I think it’s probably because if I feel guilty, that means I could have done something. It is somewhat easier to feel guilt over inaction than to feel completely helpless, even though helplessness is closer to the truth.
My head hurts. I need to sleep.