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It’s three o’clock in the morning and I have just left the club on Prince of Wales. I am crossing the street heading to the nearest kebab house. I am not drunk though I have drunk. I enter. Three sweaty, dark-skinned men are watching closely a sizeable piece of lamb rolling on a steel plate. I place my order, pay in advance and head out for a quick cigarette. I take a stand just outside.
[private]I stare at the people who have just exited the nightclubs. It’s closing time, yet the street seems less busy than usual. Maybe because it’s August and the students have gone back to their homes; maybe because most of the locals are getting a tan somewhere in the Mediterranean. I take long drags and can’t wait to replace the butt with some meat. Then I see them on the other side of the road, ready to cross the street.
It’s a group of five. They wear stretched t-shirts, baggy jeans and white sneakers. They look particularly drunk – but again, who doesn’t? They are coming towards me. It’s a popular fast-food joint, I say to myself, no need to worry. They are talking loudly and they spit out the vowels and the consonants with casual violence.
I look the other way. What I see is the future coming swiftly towards me, aiming at me. The future enters through my nostrils, rides the appropriate neurons and gets carried all the way to my brain.
They are going to come near me. One of them will ask me something I will not be in a position to grasp. I will shake my head. Another one will feel obliged to rephrase it. Although I will understand, more or less, what they want from me, I will refuse politely. Then the one who was the first to talk will start cursing. I will repeat as clearly as possible that it’s my last one. Then a third one will try to get it out of my fingers. I will let him. They will start laughing and cursing me with words I will not fully comprehend. After that I will say something stupid, something like ‘you must think it’s quite a brave thing to do, five picking on one’, or something equally stupid – the precise phrasing has not yet been formulated.
It’s then that they will assault me. They will not stop kicking and punching even after I hit the ground. At some point one of the two guys who’d remained silent will pull out a knife. None of the bystanders will interfere, though I will hear someone calling for the police.
In the ambulance I will see a blue light and a void will suck me in. The doctor at the hospital will simply announce the time. The following day the coroner will perform the autopsy. Among other things he will discover some lumps in my lungs. Although he is sure of what he has found he will give a sample for biopsy. The results will be ready in three days.
Meanwhile, a police officer will make an international call. It will be rather short because he hasn’t taken into consideration the fact that my mother does not speak English. Later on that day, a member both of the thriving Hellenic community and of the Norfolk Police Force will redial the same telephone number.
When the results are out the doctor will not see his jaw dropping. It was an aggressive form of cancer that would have had me dead in six to nine months. He will then debate whether he should inform my family about his findings. He will discuss the issue with some colleagues of his and with his wife. Words like ‘ethics’ and ‘purpose’ and ‘irrelevant’ will be heard in the several exchanges. After a sleepless night he will decide not to reveal anything although he will not be in a position to explain why, exactly.
Back home my mother will spend the rest of her life on a rocking chair going back and forth all the time, a habit that will not be disrupted even when the phone will ring and a voice on the other end of the line will inform her, in broken Greek, that all five men have been identified and two of them have already confessed.[/private]