Past Redemption (opening)
Everyone has secrets; most secrets are trivial, even ridiculous in the light of reality. Women lie about their age; men lie about their salary. People lie about the things they think will make others think badly of them, but when it comes down to truth-or-dare time, those secrets and lies are just plain silly. They lie about how much they give to charity, about how much they weigh, what size jeans they take; they lie about how important they are at work, they lie about their parents, about having met celebrities. As I say, all just plain silly really. Mine’s a secret of such huge size and implications that I’m hesitating to let go and speak its name, in case I collapse under the weight of it.
I don’t quite know why I’m doing this; after all, I don’t want anyone to read this while I’m still alive. Even I have some pride. But this is still such a risk, even so. That’s why I’ve put a password on this computer so that no one else can just stumble on what I’m doing. It wouldn’t take very long for someone who knows me to guess the password; I’d never remember it myself if I made it hard. I’d have to write it down somewhere I’d remember to check when I forgot what that sequence of letters and numbers I’ve chosen to be the key to my soul. But no one really knows me so I guess for the moment I’m safe.
I said I didn’t know why I’m doing this but again that isn’t quite true. It just isn’t a simple, one sentence reason. It’s lots of reasons and one of them is that as I get older the weight of my secret has increased with the years until I think I may not be able to keep silent any longer. Most mornings I still wake and don’t remember for the first minutes of the day. On good days, I don’t remember till lunchtime; bad days it’s there within seconds of opening crusty morning eyes and it’s there with me all day, as close as my own shadow and just as dark. It’s usually there when I settle to sleep but each day is usually so full, I haven’t spent any time thinking of it. It’s a bit like a disfiguring disease that ruins your looks but otherwise does no harm; you forget it until you see yourself in a mirror or in the revolted eyes of a surprised stranger.
I can hear you asking, my unknown reader, “Well, get on with it, tell us what your secret is. We won’t tell anyone; we don’t even know who you are yet.” It’s a silly conceit, really: writing for someone I might never have known. But like poor Anne Frank with her diary named Kitty, I can’t write in a vacuum, thinking it’ll never be read. I have more ego than I thought I did. When I thought of doing this, I intended it to be a straightforward record of what happened all those years ago. And now I have found like so many before me that the story is a living thing that twists and shapes what you aim to write into something rather other than you expected. This has already happened; I glanced back over what I’ve already done. It should be reading back like a police statement; bare facts, a naked narrative trying to cover its shame. But it isn’t like that at all. I’m still trying to hide the truth even as I reveal it. I’m trying to weave it into a story, a black fairytale so that my reader has some sympathy for me, some understanding of what happened and why.
“Oh, get on with it,” I hear you mutter.
OK, I will. But in my way, understand? I’ll stick to the tried and trusted method of starting a fairytale. Once upon a time, a very long way away from where we are now, I killed someone. Is that a big enough secret for you?