UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION - 09/2012
TERRY PAUL PEARCE


CRYPTIC

         There are over one hundred thousand adjectives in the English language, but if Iíd had to select just one to describe Amy, I would have chosen laconic. So I think she would have forgiven me the crooked smile that somehow found its way onto my face when I read the suicide note. She had outdone herself. Even I, so used to interpreting the meaning of her every one-word sentence and raised eyebrow, could make nothing of a final statement that consisted of a single character: the letter C.

         I stared, I donít know how long, at her naked body in the darkening bathwater, asking her silently: why? Her eyes, staring through me, seemed indignant.

         I wrote you a note, what more do you want?

         I looked at the piece of crumpled paper again as I fell to my knees.

         If there had been no note at all, it would have been easier; a mystery. But this, this was like a code, a test. Iíll deserve an answer if I prove I know her well enough to figure it out. I sat for days at her 1947 BŲsendorfer, hitting middle ĎCí again and again. I spoke to everyone we knew and everyone in her address book whose name began with C.

         Is there anything that would have made her think of you in her last days?

         Did you argue with her at all?

         Can you think of any reason she might have to do this?

         I spent two weeks in the reading room at the British Library, poring over alphabetological texts, tracing the letter ĎCí through its Semitic and Greek forebears. Maybe I knew at the time that it would be fruitless, but I couldnít stop. The promise of an answer tantalised me, and the search kept her alive, in a way. I meditated for hours on the speed of light in a vacuum and the number one hundred. I learnt the basics of programming in C and read through every file on her C: drive. I drew C after C on the wall and stared. I was waiting for a flash of sudden knowledge: Of course! I never even found a Maybe...

         Friends stopped calling. Work stopped calling, and paying. I was supposed to be her executor, but nobody stopped me using our joint account, and I continued to be able to pay for sustenance and my Ďresearchí. Eventually even the lawyers stopped calling. The pizza box towers began to hamper movement through the apartment. The bins started to smell. The tidying and cleaning had always been her arena. When the building manager came, we fought. Iím extremely sorry for your loss, sir, but I must remind you that this is Kensington Villas.The regulations are quite clear. It took a threatening call from the bailiffs to make me realise I had to go. Maybe it was for the best; things in that place didnít need to begin with ĎCí to remind me of her.

         That all seems like a long time ago. I think of her less, now. I still donít have my answer, but as the ache has dulled, as Iíve started to piece my life back together, Iíve wondered if inscrutability was her intention. Perhaps it was a jest, a way of reaching back from beyond the grave and flicking two fingers at a world that had confused and laughed at her too long. She could be very irreverent at times. Or perhaps, at the end, she could think of nothing that summed up her feelings, and by selecting something that meant nothing, said everything. Maybe she even had some inkling of the effect it would have on me; it would have been a fiendish punishment had she felt it was I whoíd failed her.

         I suppose I will never know, but even as I move on with my life, I can see it has changed irrevocably. One twenty-sixth of the letters that make up the words in every sign, every book, all the writing everywhere I look, shine out like beacons. All I have to do is read a news article on vitamins. Get on the Central Line. Spot a woman with a Chanel handbag. And I start to work out how it could connect to her and her reasons. I think of her.

         Maybe that is what she intended, all along.

Terry Paul Pearce is an unapologetic Londoner who, when he isnít writing, stands in front of rooms full of people and helps them work out how to do their jobs better. When he is writing, it's usually about the grey area between reality and perception. His work has surfaced in places like Right Hand Pointing, Cezanneís Carrot, and Grey Sparrow Journal. You can read more at terrypaulpearce.blogspot.com.







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