I’m in the corner of a large room. It’s maybe the size of a small warehouse, lit by a single naked bulb hanging from the ceiling. Yet the light seems to get everywhere. There’s no hiding in this place.
Suddenly there’s a figure standing in the middle, looking at me. Despite the all-purveying light, I can’t quite make out who it is. I have an idea though…
She starts talking, confirming my suspicions. It’s an old friend of mine. ‘Friend’ — it’s such a nondescript word don’t you think? A place-holder word for a potential plethora of connected emotions. To say this person was a friend is like saying the Alps are pretty — technically correct, but missing out oh so much detail. I’m not so well versed in language to adequately describe this person — not if I had 100 pages, and certainly not here. So ‘friend’ is all I have to go with.
My friend starts speaking to me. I’ve hurt her. I’ve hurt many, and her more than most. She talks to me about how I made her feel — how inadequate, how unloved, how painful being around me is for her. She hates me, the way only a very few people in a person’s life can. I’ve destroyed her, and she is here to tell me how.
And I can’t respond. I try to find my voice, but it has abandoned me — like I abandon so many. In any case, I don’t know what I would say. I have no defence for this — she is right. Just as she was right when she said the same words to me in real-life, all those many months ago.
Suddenly she’s gone, as quickly as she arrived. But still I’m not alone in the room — another figure appears. Another ‘friend’.
The cycle repeats. How could I? I should have learned by now, the voice implores. After what I did before, how could I not learn?
I’m crying now. Begging forgiveness, trying as hard as I can to explain that I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. But they don’t believe me. They know me better than almost anyone, they’ve seen that I am not a good person. I am not deserving of forgiveness. I have cut others too deeply.
Again and again this happens, like some twisted version of ‘This is your life’. But there is no red book, only pain. Recounts of times I have hurt — vivid recollections of arguments, reminders of places and feelings and people and a constant undercurrent of pain and suffering. All caused by me.
At last, though, there is a change. This one is not hurt, and at first I don’t recognise them. Any hope this unfamiliarity brings is quickly quashed; this figure is not here to give me salvation. They are here to offer another perspective on the truth: how the lives of others are so richly improved when I am not there to sully them.
More stories — but this time of light and happiness and love. Stories of the people I know. Stories without me. The contrast is undeniable, unbearable. And once again I have no voice. In any case what could I say? It is obvious that the world is far better off without me. I see now that it is not just a matter of my presence causing pain — I actually stop the existence of happiness.
The figure disappears, to be replaced by what I sense to be the last one. I look up at this new presence and see my own face looking back at me. Here at last is the comfort. I know what I must do. The other me talks in subdued tones — not angry, just weary. I am not to cause any more pain, he says. I cannot be allowed to hurt anyone else. At last I have my voice and I try to plead with myself, trying to convince myself that I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.
But intentions are irrelevant — it is actions that matter, other-me replies. And he’s right, of course. Just as all the others were before him.
The other-me reaches into his pocket and draws out the solution to everyone’s problems. He hands it to me.
And finally I am alone. There is just me in the room, holding the object in my hand. It is heavy in my grip — weighted with the sense of finality it represents.
I consider all that I have done. The people I have hurt. The scars I leave behind me as I navigate this life.
And I do the only thing I can. The one decision that is left to me. I am duty-bound to make sure I hurt no one else. I owe it to my friends — those both with and without quotes, but especially those with, and especially those who have visited me in the room.
I put the gun to my head, and pull the trigger.