#95 I burnt my memoirs for Her – A Short Story

#95 – I burnt my memoirs for Her – June 18, 09. 

I saw my face in the mirror, cut and bleeding. I hadn’t used a razor in months, and yet, I’d taken no extra care. My eyes were a cool blue, “we’re okay,” they said. I took a deep breath, sigh, exhaling what could’ve been five minutes air. Breathe, son. I made no attempt to mop up the mess, “A bit of blood will do you good, you lazy bastard.” Reaching for the razor, I turned it face up. The soft metal grinned back at me, teasing me with its readiness. My blond hair had gone a stale yellow with lack of sleep, and my ears seemed to drip off my face. Everything was a blur.

Red streaks drove a trail down my neck, searching for my bare chest. I wasn’t muscle, more brain, really. I never took my shirt off, I wasn’t proud of my body; however, today was different. I strode from the bathroom, making no attempt to align myself with conventions of neat, and tidy.

As I made for the corridor, my eyes caught the side of a box. They were memos, all ninety four. Today I’d burn the lot. There was no sense in the past. I needed a future.

I needed to fix the lights, amongst other things. Absentmindedly, I clawed at the wall looking for the switch in the dark. The bathroom light hinting at its elusive square fixture. I struck it down–nothing. Hands in front of me I traced the outline of an incoming door frame, careful not to miss the door. Soon I was standing in the kitchen. Still standing, like a monk meditating on the nightly vigil. The thoughts racing through my mind seemed to cut at my skin, and push me to my knees. I resisted quick enough to lean against the cluttered bench. My hip pressing against its fine edge like a chisel in the raw dark. “Too quick, slow down, don’t go bumping into things.”

I lifted a dirty glass to the tap. Listening to the gentle pitched rise of flowing water. I was scared for it to overflow. I didn’t like wet hands, nor cluttered benches. “You really have to do something about the mess, Philemon.” Yes, I’d taken to calling myself Philemon, even though it was Cameron. I fancied myself a bit of a believer you see. Trusted God for truth, and life. Got a bit idealistic, and changed my birth name. None of that mattered, now. “Son.”

The cupboards had latches, they were tough in the day, forget the night. I felt out the cupboard to my right, conscious my feet were cold, conscious I needed to hurry. I pulled on the latch, and closed my eyes, trying to imagine the cupboard’s layout. Pills were on the second row, far right. No luck. Pills were on the bottom row middle-back. Luck. For a while, they were all that kept me alive. My own antimatter to the atomic whole in my heart.

With a little more luck and courage I found my box, a lighter, and a bottle of whisky. “It might not even work,” I thought. Carefully placing the bottle, in anticipation for the hollow under my chin, I lifted the box. The cool smooth glass rested comfortably under my sticky red chin. Congealed blood. I ripped open the door to a stillborn night, balancing the box in one hand. Yesterday’s leaves were razors to my feet. I’m used to the contentment of shoes and slippers, you see?

Immediately my eyes caught the sky in ominous pitch-black. It was always so threatening. No stars as usual, not for years. Smog, “Smog.” Without hesitation or thought of the pain, I steadied the box, heading for the backyard. The cool breeze like sand paper on my bare chest, and fresh cuts speared me with pain. I didn’t care. It had to be done.

I didn’t have trouble locating a quiet spot amongst the trees. It was like my own site of ritual. If I had twelve stones, I might liken myself to a prophet or a wizard—or something. There was nothing magical about burning memoirs. Bending my knees at perpendiculars, I placed the box gently down. Patting my pockets—jeans—I was only wearing jeans; yet, where were they, oh yes. In the box, to the side, I felt it out.

Was the whisky even flammable? I didn’t even know, I guess I’d find out. Unscrewing the lid, I took a deep breath. It’s warmth radiating from the bottle. I drew from its depth without stopping for breath. “Careful, leave some for the deed.” Son.

The memoirs needed rearranging. As a kid, trying to burn my bible, I learnt you’ve got to separate the pages. “Separate those pages, kids,” I said aloud. Placing the bottle down, I tore at the books, creating space between the soft thin pages. “Build a teepee, kids,” I murmured. Laughing I began to dance and rend, dance and rend, dance and rend. Tipsy. Sh….just stay focused, son. “Philemon, don’t be a coward,” I scolded. Son. Son. “Son.”

With no hesitation, I poured the full half-bottle over the crumpled masterpiece of history. Struck a match. Dropped it in. Burn, burn, “yes, burn!” A slow shimmering glow cast deathly shadows across the pine needle carpet and tree roots. The yellow light casting a dull shadow between my shaking fingers, they were red with blood–dried blood.

I saw it all. I recorded it. For fifteen years, I watched, thinking I had the material for my masterpiece. I watched it, night after night. I told no one. Nobody knew. I was the silent observer. I was the night watchman. I would want to do something; But, then, every time, I was paralysed, I believed, it, only, a dream. For the cause of beauty, I held it inside, thinking I would let lives live beyond the vale. Now the evidence slowly burned. Too late. Too late. “Too late, son.” For her.

I had watched him violate those woman, all ninety four. I had crouched listening as he teased them of hope, and shook out their life. I knew their names, their families. I said nothing. What could I do? They were all so helpless. “So helpless, so helpless.” Son. So many bodies. No matter, no matter, matter–“No matter, Son.” My hands shook with glee as I watched their pages burn, the incandescent inferno ripping through lost souls, setting them free. I couldn’t watch him any longer. No longer. “No longer, No longer.” Son.

She whispered to me, “I love you.” When I was seventeen.

Tears, I licked them up. No.

She whispered to me, “I love you.” When I was nineteen.

Fears, I bound them up. Yes.

She whispered to me, “I love you.” When I was twenty-three.

Spit, I wiped it up. No.

She whispered to me, “I hate you.” When I was twenty-eight.

Blood, I shut it up. Yes.

She whispered to me, “Die, Die, Die.” When I was thirty-two.

Fun, I lapped it up. Son.

The wind tore through the ashes, leaving a wake of death and mould. Their souls were set free. Nobody would know what he had done. Nobody would know I had watched, and relished myself a poet of the highest order. Lofty in my incantations. Bruised souls slid from view, caught like stars on an indigo night.

A silent tear caressed my cheek. Philemon. Philemon. Philemon. Philemon. Philemon. Son.
I burnt my memoirs for Her
she didn’t come back,     Son.
© Iain Sutherland, 2013.
Disclaimer: not based on actual events.

6 thoughts on “#95 I burnt my memoirs for Her – A Short Story

    • I like to wrestle with complex characters, and ethical situations. In this case, can we sympathise with this twisted mind? Can someone regarded as so inhuman by many show human qualities? Why does he act the way he does? Will the reader be able to see the depths of his struggle, or will they see a surface level narrative?

  1. A man twisted by witnessing wicked deeds and never stopping them. At points, it sounds like he had pleasure in it. Yet, his mind seems a power struggle of resentment, horror, and sternness. Over the 15 years, he became attached to one of the victims.

    A very trouble man, and rightly so. There are consequences to restraining the good in ourselves.

    Another interesting story, Iain. Your story telling methods are so vivid and captivating, even before I grasp the main focus of the story.

    • Hey James! Thanks for commenting, I’ve got exams coming up in less than five days so I decided to give WordPress a break (Just to let you know).

      I purposely set this story up with two possible endings, or interpretations. I wonder if you can see the second?

      A good reflection, “There are consequences to restraining the good in ourselves.”

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