Sunday, 27 May 2012

14. One ordinary day, with lobster

I am sitting in the park with Amanda. We have bought a bottle of prosecco from Marks and Spencer, some crusty white bread, and two half lobsters from the market. Amanda lies stretched on the grass, sucking lobster off her fingers. She is wearing a brief halterneck top and a short denim skirt, and the three teenage boys skulking under the oak tree are watching her as though their eyeballs are attached to her legs with string.

We decide we want ice-cream. She walks over to buy two, a lemon sorbet for her and rum and raisin for me.

Matthew comes to me then, like a cloud over the sun.


"Pretty rich coming from you, you fucking loser," I say out loud. I lie back on the grass and think.

When you actually have to make a conscious decision about it, there are very few things other people can do to you which are utterly unforgivable. I've met people who have bullied me, people who have told lies about me, boyfriends who've cheated on me, people who've stolen from me and betrayed my trust. There is only one person who has permanently made it on my "to get" list.

I'm not going to go out of my way - because I fail to see why I should waste one second more of my time allowing Matthew to dictate what I do and how I do it - but if the opportunity ever arises then I will fuck him up as hard as I can. And that's my promise to myself. Some people tell you to forgive, and I say you would have to be a fucking saint, and why should I anyway? What's in that for me? The satisfaction of doing the right thing? Matthew was never arrested. He zipped himself up and he walked away, and he got away with it. He's out there somewhere right now. Why should I do the right thing, when not even God does?

But it does make me think. Matthew claimed to know me, and he didn't. But I know him. I know something about him that I bet none of the people he meets in his day to day life know, and if they did know it, they'd melt out of his life faster than snow in sunlight.

I do feel sorry for him, in a strange way. He's so alone. I have no secrets; I try never to have them. I keep other people's secrets, but I have none of my own. They are a burden. I've given and received love, I've shared all of myself.

Matthew is made of secrets and he can never tell them, except maybe to strangers online, other faceless child fetishists. But not to any of those people he meets every day. The life he's constructed is as hollow as an empty box, and he's the only one who knows it. He's done a wonderful job of fooling them all. But what use is that, when you can't tell anyone you've done it? When you can't tell anyone your essential truth? Poor, pathetic, lonely monster.

How can you do anything when you know you have - calmly and with premeditation - held down and raped a child? How can you meet your own eyes in the mirror? How can you kiss your girlfriend? How can you go to work and sit in meetings and solve problems like you deserve respect? How can you smile at the cashier in Tesco like you're a normal human being? How do you not just...die of shame?

I'm not having a go or anything. I genuinely want to know. There are a lot of child molesters in the world, and they hold down jobs and 90 per cent of the time have normal lives, and I want to know how. I want to know how they do it. How they live with themselves.

Sometimes I have a little fantasy about Matthew and me. We're both somewhere where no-one knows us. (A black gondola in Venice, a carpeted café in Marrakesh, a red and gold restaurant in Hong Kong.) And we communicate, like sometimes you do under the right circumstances in a foreign country with the drink flowing, where you are enough yourself and yet far enough away from yourself to say things you've never said before. And he tells me why, all the whys, everything that took him to the place where he could, and I tell him everything I feel and everything I've felt. And we both walk away from the encounter changed.

The reality is that this would not happen. It could not. One cannot get to the place Matthew reached without telling an awful lot of lies - to yourself, most of all. I doubt he even allows himself to come near honesty. How can he? If he ever, genuinely and with empathy, understands what he has done to me he will fall apart. Lies are all that hold him together, like a witch in a fairy story; find the right words, cut off his little finger, kill the enchanted deer with the ruby in its throat and he will turn to dust and blow away...

Amanda comes back with the ice cream. She sits down beside me and I remember what we were talking about. Matthew fades away again, dissolving into the air.

"Do you ever have regrets?" I ask.

She thinks.

"No," she says. "I feel like...we're here. This is where we are. In the present. The rest, the past, it's all frozen, it's gone. A moment ago we were in M&S and that moment is unchangeable now. It might as well be 20 years ago. We went there, we bought the food, and we left and came here. That's what happened. I can't change it.

"I made the right decision for me at the time, and looking back, I still think it was the right decision. And I'm happy now. Well, happier. It's not always easy, but you have to have the bad times. If you don't, you'll never know how good it can be, to sit in the park and eat lobster in the sunshine. How sweet it can be to have an ordinary day."

Amanda pulls down her aviators and looks at me over the top of them. Her eyes are bright blue.

"Too bad I won't live," she says, smiling, paraphrasing Blade Runner, "but then again, who does?"

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