It was with inconceivable circumstances that I came to learn of things that are not meant to be heard. Whilst maybe the events did not end in light consequences, they were finalised with a lesson learnt by all. The situation all began with a call which woke my household of one at the late hour.
“Hello?” I said less spritely into the phone.
“Gregory. Someone’s been shot.”
I was speechless for a moment, unsure of what to say in reply to this outburst of a comment. “Richard, what do you say the problem is?”
The voice returned hurried and frantic. “Harry’s been shot.”
I did not know any by the name of Harry, and had never heard Richard speak of him. “Richard you have my deepest sympathy. But who is Harry?”
There was still no calming in his voice. “I don’t know, I don’t know, but someone shot him.”
It dawned on me suddenly what he had been doing.“Richard, have you been tuning into the police radio?”
There was silence, then a soft answer. “Yes.”
I had consulted with him many times about the radio he had that unwittingly could tune into the police radios. “Richard you shouldn’t listen to that, we’ve already discussed this matter.”
“I couldn’t help it. And now Harry’s been shot.”
“You didn’t know Harry. Turn the thing off and forget it.”
His tone had lessened in desperation but it still had not returned to normal. “I can’t forget it, someone just died.”
I sighed. “You don’t know he died, he may just have been shot in the arm.”
“He died Gregory, I know he did.”
He had told me often the things he heard on the radio; thefts, assaults, but it had never amounted to this.
“Forget it Richard. You did not know Harry, and you can’t do anything about it now. Forget it.”
There was no noise on the other side, and I knew he was contemplating.
“Richard I’ll come over in the morning, but for now you should go to bed.”
There was only a slow pause on the other end. “I suppose I’ll see you in the morning Gregory.”
“Good night Richard.”
“Good night.” I let there be a moment before he hung up.
It was with an easy mind that I returned to bed, as I was sure it would be with a heavy mind that Richard returned to bed. I had known the radio would not bring him any good and it had proven that just before. In the morning there would be a hefty conversation passed, and with all hope on my side, he would never touch the radio again.
The morning was brisk as I set off for the few blocks in which Richard lived. The sun had yet to entirely lift the winter fog, and I watched as my breath exhaled before smoothly dissipating into the air.
I rapped swiftly upon his door and he answered in an instance. Seeing his appearance I doubt he had slept; dark circles laid under his eyes and his clothes covered his body rumply.
“Gregory.” There was relief in his voice.
“Richard, it’s good to see you.”
He let me into the living room and we each took a seat. He sunk into his seat and for a moment his eyes fluttered. Then they rose and he turned his gaze on me.
“I’m going to throw the damned thing out.”
“That’s a very wise choice. I’ll take it if you want.”
He glanced at it and I saw it sitting on the table; a small black box.
“Richard you must remember that you didn’t know Harry. Do not be vexed about it, it’s just like something you hear on the news.”
He sunk again. “I won’t think on it for too long. Do you know what irritates me the most? That I was listening when he died. When the blue vests got there he was still breathing, they declared him dead three minutes later. Where was the point that he stopped in life and started in death. There must have been one moment, one millisecond where he was alive, and then the next he was dead. Why couldn’t that small moment of been dragged into just one millisecond more, and then so, why not an eternity of milliseconds more. I think of dying, and wonder whether I’ll beg for that millisecond again and again and wonder how I can’t have it, or just let it pass.”
I was struck with nothing to say. What I had thought was just a worry that a man had died had become more, and I knew not how to quell it. “Richard, you shouldn’t worry about these things. You have many years left in you; he died because he was shot, you are in great health.” I attempted to be as reassuring as I could, but I was not sure my words would soften him.
“I’m just a man, and death and time are like gods, just hovering over you, knowing when you will fall into its grasp. I’ll meet them both one day.”
“As will we all, but not for many years to come.”
“But it will come. Time is just waiting, always going at the same pace and always waiting. There is no way to stop time, and it waits knowingly. It smiles , there is evil in its smile, a crooked, harsh, knowing smile. And death, it stays with time, make deals with it, wanting to always take another into its hold. It finds ways to cut time, but never quicken its pace; always the same constant pace. Death doesn’t smile, but laughs; a laugh that cuts to the very core and shakes a person’s hold on life to its roots. They are both evil evil things.”
“Richard! What you think is not true, there is no need to think of these things now. You cannot change time, or death, just as you cannot change what happened yesterday. You must put all these things out of your mind, and never think of them again.” I was increasingly worried about my friend, he had never spoken in such a manner before and I did not know what it would lead to.
His eyes fluttered again and he sat up, as if spurred by a spritely attitude. He gave a sigh, a long sigh and then spoke. “Ah Gregory, the ignorant mind is the better is it not. We will not discuss it further then.”
“Then you will not think of these things further.”
“Once a mind has left ignorance it can not go back. But I will not bother you with these thoughts again.”
He smiled and I returned it, though I was still wary of the matter. It was not good for a man to think too much of things he can not control, and it would be better to forget such things and be surprised when they came upon one. I knew I would not dwell on any of these matters beyond the front door.
We moved to easy conversation, just as we always would. When midmorning came I left, the radio tucked within my hands.
“You won’t worry about these matters any longer will you Richard?” I put out as a leaving comment.
He smiled warmly. “Do not fear Gregory, I have found a way to forget these thoughts.”
“Good man, I will see you tomorrow then.”
He kept his smile up in reply.
It is now with a heavy heart that I relate all these matters. I did in fact see Gregory the next day, when I called on him after he had not called on me, but I did not talk to him. I wondered if they would relay the matters over their police radio, and an unwitting stranger would find that he could no longer be ignorant. I dared to hope not, lest they meet the same pondering that Richard felt, and ultimately, the same fate. For a long time I wondered if I could have said something to stop his actions, but as I considered his demise, I realised it had not been that at all. I was sure in his final moments he had smiled at time, and laughed at death, for taking things to himself. There had been a lesson for all, and it would be only mine that I could put to use. Ignorance can be easy, but knowledge allows one to understand how ease can be brought, and whilst I was not knowledgeable, I was neither ignorant, and in that, I found my ease.