Thick warm air gathered in my spongy respirators. Sweat dripping in pounds. I could hear a voice, but as I looked around, only the silhouettes of my emotions stood staring. The concrete slabs that arched towards the mahogany courtroom door narrowed my mind with fear. I wondered if the executioners felt scared. My hands shuddered as they took hold of the deathly cold handle, for a moment forgetting its use, and as I reluctantly shook the door open, my hands became heavy. They held his life.
“Mr. Gillian, thank you for joining us.” says a tall dark skinned man in a navy suite. He looks like a lawyer.
My throat feels lumpy; I know that’s where Collins hand is. I can feel it strangling me, his bloodshot eyes full of hatred. If only I could … no, I can’t break down now! I’ll hold on just a bit longer. I have never thought of myself as an evil person; not entirely. I have my faults, don’t we all, but I try to rise above them. Collin is the same, not good not evil, we are beings of the in-between; Lovers of pleasure but still seeking redemption.
“Mr. Gillian, hands on the Bible please, and repeat after me”, says another man, his eyes full of kindness and grief.
Why do I have to touch that book? From childhood, our relationship has always been one of push and pull. As I grew older, I gradually began to understand why I pushed. It was because that book didn’t want part of me, it wanted the whole. It demanded too much, it needed sacrifice. I was and still am a weak man, so I push. My mind isn’t holding up; it stopped communicating, my body stands frozen, with no neurons to guide the fear shuttered muscles. It wasn’t until the kind and grief eyed man, who introduced himself as Mr. Becker, ushered me to the witness stand. His grip on my shoulder tightened, and then he spoke in an icy daggered tone, “Remember, we have your family.”
Just a minute past, my numb, salt drenched, hypochondriac self thought it had found an ally in Mr. Becker; one or two glances his way would have reminded me of kindness, of compassion, and that sorrow is a universal bondage; but now those eyes were surveillance, the eyes of the reaper that juggled the lives of my Delia and her Mara.
I met Delia in spring, just after I turned 35. She wore a floral cotton dress, white ankle socks, and grey puma sneakers. Collin and I were walking through Cunningham Park, going back to the office, from a greasy hot dog lunch at one of the food trucks in Main Street. I stopped in my tracks. I was so intrigued, curious enough to leap off a building and spend the remaining eight lives being the arms that brought her comfort. Collin played the match maker, and before long we were dating. Delia was a writer of Child fiction; she was 36. She had written a fantasy series, Powers of the Young, and was on retainer by a fairly well known publisher. She had a daughter, Mara. Mara was 16, a kind gentle soul that loved everything except me. It’s been five years since then, we have been married for a great four. Mara still doesn’t care much for me, but I’ve gained her acceptance.
Collin’s staring daggers, he is sitting beside an elderly man, wearing a black suite and red tie. He must be a good lawyer; his watch is a Rolex. The elderly man approaches the stand, and in the twilight between his first question and my meditated confession, memory takes me down its potholed roads.
I was 23 when I met Collin; we hit it off from the start. He was easy going and confident, with a presence that made you want to escape your own comforts. We finished grad school at Aldrich Institute together and began working at a small brokers firm, Dillon Traders. Collin has always been the exceptional one, the epitome of that old adage; whatever he touched turned gold. Naturally as time progressed he got acknowledged and then promoted. At 40 he was made Partner; at 41 I’m still a junior associate. During the past five years we stopped hanging around in the same circles, stopped meeting regularly; in fact, the whole of last year our friendship was summed up in ‘hello’, although greetings were rare since we used different hallways. I think I anchored him to the past, when he had decided to sail toward tomorrow. Seventeen years, that’s how long I have known Collin, that’s how long I have cherished our friendship.
“Mr. Gillian”, says the elderly man, “how long have you known Mr. Sable?”
“17 years.” I say, with a shivering lip.
“And in those 17 years”, he continued, “Has Mr. Sable ever come out as hostile towards any of his coworkers?”
“Not that I know of”, I say, guilt foaming inside.
I am such a snake! Collin has never once resorted to violence, his self control was one to envy. He once told me of how he had almost killed a boy in his neighborhood with a rock, because the boy had laughed at his toys. The boy got hurt pretty bad, and Collins parents had to pay for the medical bill, it haunted him; the repercussions’ of violence were not worth the satisfaction of its indulgence he would say. I hate myself.
“Mr. Gillian”, his tone rougher, his person more intimidating, “Were you there the night of Jolene Parkers death; and if you were there, did you see Mr. Sable there as well?”
My throat lumps up again, I know what I have to say, but I can’t bring myself to speak, because with these memorized words, Collin Sable, my oldest friend, will surely be executed.
Jolene Parker was 27; she joined the firm at the beginning of the year, a graduate from Kings College. She had light red hair, a dimpled smile, and a pleasing aura. She was beautiful. The day before her death was the first time we ever spoke. I saw a sonnet stuck by her cubicle. It was Shakespeare.
“Do you like literature?” I asked, with the best smile I could master, in hopes the conversation would not flow into awkwardness.
“I love literature! But I tend to argue with some authors definitions of love.” She said, smiling so broadly as if her dimples were calling me, and her glowing marbled eyes seeking company.
We spoke about literature, about music, about love, and about us. She told me about her mother’s death and her father’s abuse. I told her about Delia and Mara, and how sometimes I felt lonely, because they had each other. And as the grey of night replaced the azure’s joys we went our separate ways.
On the day of her death, I was so busy catching up with yesterdays work, besides hello and a couple of glances stolen from across the room, we never spoke. I was falling. I consumed myself in work, clearing my head from the possibility of maybe. She had asked me to walk her home after work, so I stayed behind, playing candy crush in my cubicle as she handed in her trade reports to Mr. Gavin; the managing Partner.
“Pretty girls like you deserve more”, I heard Mr. Gavin say.
“Pretty girls like you deserve clothes that make you stand out”, he
“Mr. Gavin please don’t touch me sir, you are hurting my arms. Sir you are drunk and not thinking rationally!” cried Jolene.
“Pretty girls like you need to shut their mouths”, he roared in animalistic hunger.
I stood up and began to run to the office, stapler and scissors in hand. Upon reaching the doors threshold, I saw Collin; blood drenched, holding Jolene in his arms. Mr. Gavin was standing behind him, pointing a pistol to his head.
“Now listen here”, Mr. Gavin ordered, “at this very moment Gillian, I have sent men to your house. Your wife and daughter will be under my kind care for the time being.” My bones quivered with the sheer tone of his voice.
“Your little girlfriend”, he continued maliciously, “saw the deal I signed with the devil, and I can’t be going to jail on her account now can I. So here is exactly what you’ll say when the police get here…”
I was to tell them that Collin had tried to force himself on Jolene. When she had proved unrelenting in trying to escape he had stabbed her in the neck. I was standing outside waiting for Jolene, so it wasn’t until I went to check what was taking her so long that I saw her bleeding and breathless on the floor. One of the security guards who followed me inside the building, as was practice after clocking out, called the police. Three days later in the Henry James courtroom, I was to nail shut the coffin with my living friend.
The elderly man stared at me in judgment; I could tell he thought I was pathetic. The whole courtroom was pen drop silent. With stressed syllables, intimidating the more with each of their utterance, he repeated his question.
“Mr. Gillian, were you there the night of Jolene Parkers death; and if you were there, did you see Mr. Sable there as well?”
“Yes I was there that night; all three of us were there...”