FIVE SEATS AT THE FUNERAL



There is something strangely erotic about scotch eggs. After thinking this matter through, for almost certainly more time than it deserves, I have concluded it is something to do with the layers; that bland looking, rough exterior which when bitten into leads to the soft and innocent, naked white. And then finally, the sweet yellow sex of the yolk. This is why I have chosen them for my final meal, because sex and death are invariably linked aren’t they?


As I walk through the brightly lit and epileptic isles, I try and block out the echoic offerings from the store radio. But I can’t stop my eyes bouncing off the dozens of special offers and the promises of faux-rewards of loyalty. And I take in and scoff at the multitude of couples rowing about the price of peanut butter and the cost effectiveness of different brands of refuge sacks. This is all part of the reason I’m opting out.


Beware! Here comes the small talk. This is not a drill. Yes I’m well thank you. No I don’t think it is going to rain. I will need a bag thank you. I don’t have a store card. I don’t want an application thank you. Thank you for validating my receipt although I will throw it in the bin as soon as I leave the store. After a good few minutes of this nonsense, smiling, plump Jenny, has managed to process my shopping, one premium brand packet of scotch eggs, one litre bottle of Russian vodka and a cheap 32 pack of store brand paracetemol.


Where to go then for the final deed? That’s easy. I will walk up to the top of the University hill in the midday heat so I can look down on the city for one last time. I can watch all the bullshit going on around me, further evidence that it is time to call it a day once and for all. I can watch all the cars, buses and taxis competing for the racing line, the horns of impatience ready to ring out at any minor indiscretion. I will be able to see the office blocks in the distance, imagining the workers moving from room to room, having meetings with their bosses who will state they are short of their targets and they need to show more spark. And then those bosses will have meetings with their bosses, in other rather more plush surroundings, who will tell them that they are short of their targets and they need to show more spark. Round and round it all goes like blood around a diseased heart.


When I walk up the hill I start to sweat. I am the lucky one though. Jesus had to carry a cross all that way. All I have to carry is death in a small plastic bag. He could see where it was going though, humanity I mean. He knew.
I have tried to find hope, I really have. But let’s face it, it is one big factory, one big conveyor belt from the cradle to the grave. All we are, are names. First on our birth certificates, then on school registers, then on work rolls, and then on tombstones or polished crematorium plagues. I’m getting off early that’s all.
I find myself a spot on the grass and get comfortable. For the first time I have doubts about what I am going to do. This is an intellectual decision after all, not one born of desperation. It would be easier if I was desperate. I think about the people I will leave behind, the devastation I will cause. But it’s alright 'cause I do the maths and realise that my meaningless demise will only affect five people. There will only be five people that shed a tear.


I eat the scotch eggs first, wash then down with the vodka and then decide to take the tablets one at a time at ten minute intervals. The slower you do things the more pleasure you get out of them after all. And by dusk I would have done enough.


There is an old man sitting on a bench looking out over the city. I watch him for the next hour wandering what he is thinking while I swig on the vodka and every six hundred seconds knocking back a little white bullet. He must have had seventy years on the planet but he finds himself on a bench, alone looking out on the city. I wonder how many times he had to buy his wife flowers after a row, how many times he slept with other women, how many times he had to suck up to his boss when he just really wanted to punch him. I wonder why he is alone now.


I close my eyes for a while and drift off, the sun and the drink taking effect. As I open them up again the old man is on his knees. I wonder what he is doing at first but then I realise he is in trouble. Do I leave him there? There is an instinct in me to go and help. When I get there I hold his arm and ask if he is Ok. He is having trouble breathing. There is a look in his eyes, they are staring into the distance but further than any earthly horizon. It is as if death has already got a grip of him. Someone nearby calls an ambulance. I let them all take over, I have other things on my mind.


After he is carried away I keep thinking about that stare. I sit on his bench and try and take it all in. The scotch eggs have gone, so has most of the vodka but I realise I haven’t even started on the tablets.


At dusk the city takes on a different feel. A kind of peace descends framed by the streetlamps and peppered with the lights in the houses. All the workers have gone home and there is no traffic to speak of. And as I sit there I think again about the way I want my final goodbye to look like and I decide I want the church to be packed with people that knew me, loved me, respected me.