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Contemporary

“It was not your fault”

It was morning and the sky was the kind of pale grey that verged on being yellow if you caught it at the right moment. The kind of weather where it doesn’t really do anything at all for months on end, becomes cold and damp and grey one day and decides it is quite happy there. Inside the office was murky with old cigarette smoke and the large wooden clock hung on the wall was either ticking louder than usual, or he simply had not paid enough attention to it before. This was not the first time he had heard that sentence, but it was the first of the day so far. Not that he was keeping track, it was more that he had forgotten it was a thing everyone was trying to convince him off until he had heard it again. Unhelpful if he was to be honest, he had not given his culpability much thought until they reminded him of it, not quite the conclusion they were going for he presumed. Not that this particular person was much concerned with his welfare, no that would be wrong to say; they were concerned with his welfare, but only because being distracted by his partner’s death would prevent him from doing his best work, and we just couldn’t have that. Got to be on top form, no matter the day.

“It was not your fault”

He was no longer in the smoky office, he was outside in the car park, walking in time with the man next to him, trying to watch his surroundings rather than the gravel under his feet. He had to be on his best behaviour from now on, had to do his best impression of a very ok person. Could not have them knowing how much he hurt. Much better they believed his sunken eyes and less than delightful mood were due to his guilt rather than his loss. Not only did watching the people around him and even gifting some of them with a “mornin’” mean those people inevitably keeping a ‘close eye’ on him would think he was relatively sane, it provided a welcome, albeit pathetic, distraction from his thoughts. Because yes, the loss hurt more, but that didn’t mean he didn’t think it was his fault, and although he couldn’t do much other than run the ‘what if’s around his head, they were becoming undeniably repetitive. Being bored of being guilty probably made him a bad person, but it didn’t matter because nobody was ever going to know.

“It was not your fault”

Someone had rung him up, rather awkward if he did say so, he had been trying his hardest to downplay their relationship (“Oh yeah I knew the guy that died, we worked together, he seemed alright, unlucky”) and people going out of their way to ring him to express their sympathy, their condolences, and their ability to cater to his every need should he need anything at all, was not at all helping his cause. He did not want their sympathy, their pity, not for any noble reasons and not just because he felt he didn’t deserve it, but mainly because it was downright uncomfortable, watching colleagues debate with themselves whether they should avoid him, should give him a pat on the back, should share the stories of when Grandad John died when they were six years old and they got a day off of school to go the funeral. Poor Grandad John. If he could remember correctly it was pancreatic cancer that had taken him, but he was old and decrepit and bored and according to those close to him he didn’t mind dying all that much if it just meant they would all shut up and leave him alone to read his newspapers.

“It was not your fault”

It must have been the look on his face when he had told her he was dead that had given it away. She had skipped straight over the usual pitying remarks and gone straight for his jugular, grasping his hands in hers and giving him no choice but to make very extended and uncomfortable eye contact. At least he hoped it was the guilty look on his face, otherwise she really did think it was his fault and she was trying to disguise her blame. He was ok with himself blaming himself, but others joining in was beginning to become irritating. Quite why it was irritating him he was not sure. He should be agreeing with them, taking the pain and the blame and adding it to the ever-growing pile. Instead he was pushing it away, shutting the doors on stray blame that needed a home. There simply wasn’t any more room on the pile. Rather selfish of him that was, perhaps he should try to attract more blame, like a blame magnet, take other’s blame so they have somewhere deserving to put it, and make it all easier for them. Easier to process hardship when there is someone to blame.

“It was not your fault”

Slowly, the dripping of the tap next to him had decreased to once or twice a minute, nothing rhythmic about it and he rather missed when it was a constant noise, now it just vaguely surprised him every time. Fortunately for him, the toilets didn’t currently smell suspicious, they had just been cleaned and he could feel the smell of bleach at the back of his throat. He had come in here for the obvious reasons, washed his hands, and gotten stuck watching the man in the mirror. They were the work toilets, someone would be in any second and then that would be his excuse to look away and to get back to work, craftily avoiding his eye. But nobody had come along and he had stayed, scanning every inch of the face for any sign of guilt. Did that look like a guilty man? Did that look like a man who didn’t think he was in the wrong, didn’t think it had anything to do with him? He wasn't sure. He had tried out the catchphrase of the week on himself, stating it clearly but rather quietly, looking himself in the eye. “It was not your fault” he had said, but he was beginning to think it just might have been.

July 19, 2021 22:17

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1 comment

Carrie O'keefe
21:49 Jul 28, 2021

I like the descriptions. I can't think of anything that I would change. Good job!

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