There are many who dare not kill themselves for fear of what the neighbours will say.
The worst thing about living in a ground floor council flat is that it’s too easy for drunk randomers to walk right up to your bedroom window at three am- centimetres from your sleeping head- and bang on it loudly, causing you to a) wake up and b) shit yourself.
“John,” he said, between banging. “John, it’s Dave. John. Are you there? JOHN?!”
I looked at the clock. 3am. Witching hour. Indeed.
Most normal people would have responded with a simple “This is 62, you fucking idiot. You’ve got the wrong flat. Fuck off.” I decided to keep quiet. I regret this.
“Open the door!” he shouted. “For fuck’s sake!”
There was a strange determination in his voice. What did he want from the person he thought I was?
After about fifteen bastard minutes, he left. I fell asleep.
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
Why won’t this guy leave me alone?
Wait a minute. The buzzer for that bell is on my flat door. That’s inside the block. Must be my dad. He’s got a fob for the block. Why’s he here at- I glanced at the clock- 8am on a Sunday morning?
I hauled my ass out of bed and slammed my dressing gown on. By the time I’d got to my door, the ringing had stopped. I looked through the peephole. Nobody there. I opened the door.
I stared at the trail of bloody footprints on the floor. They led to my flat and turned around. I stepped carefully out of the doorway. The trail came from the floor above and doubled back on itself. A giant splodge half way up hinted to where the victim must have stopped, finding strength, and continued up.
I darted back in and found my phone. I told the police what I could see. It was then that I remembered the banging last night. Had I mistaken a plea for help for a misaimed threat? Had my ignorance caused this man to die? And why was he outside, when the footprints didn’t make it past the main door?
The police were on the scene within minutes. They followed the prints up to the flat directly above me. A pensioner lived there, an old woman with a very high-pitched voice (I know because I could hear her when she’s on the phone, through my ceiling). They radioed a name-check.
“Doreen,” the officer called. “Doreen, open up. It’s the police.” He darted downstairs again, and returned with a battering ram. I stood in my doorway, listening.
Three loud bangs. A crunching noise. The old lady’s voice: faint, indecipherable.
Minutes later, the ambulance workers arrived with a stretcher and a rucksack full of life-or-death instruments. They manoeuvred her down the staircase past my flat, and I laid eyes on my neighbour for the first time. I’ve lived there for four months. Sign of the times.
From my window, I watched them strategically slide her into the ambulance, frail and damaged. Something told me that nobody would be bringing her back.
I knew who this would be.
“Just so you know,” said the officer, “Your neighbour dropped a knife. She’s bled quite heavily from her foot. She’s been taken to hospital. So thanks for calling it in.”
Anything I can do, I said, just let me know.
He left me in my doorway. I looked at the footprints that turned around at my door.
I couldn’t help thinking that if I’d have just got out of bed faster, she might have stood a better chance. She may have been very old- and much too frail to be living alone- but she was strong enough to get out and climb down a flight of stairs to find someone she’s never spoken to before. She wasn’t ready to die.
It’s the housing guys who have to clean up the blood. I’m left with only one question in my mind: Who the hell was banging on my window at stupid o’clock in the morning?