Mood swings the last three years had been a fact of life for Barclay McGee. More than during his competitive cycling years when ambition and poor performance would exhalt and condemn him in equal measure. Since the “accident” he had known real lows. Initially he managed them through excessive drinking. Soon he discovered whisky is a poor medicine and picked himself up through fresh air via a quick 50 miles on the bike and through music. He discovered he liked words. Lyrics could now change his mood and help him express the emotions that would tumble out of him during moments of weakness. The first time his wife’s birthday came along he was struggling. The words of Some Fantastic Place helped him through that day. He printed the Lyric and used photograph magnets to attach it to the side of his fridge. Funny how a smiling photo of a lost loved one can lift your spirit.
Fighting through the crowd at the tube station McGee walked trance like to where he thought the shop was. He was grounded and calmer than he thought he would be at this point. There was a clarity about his future that freed his mind. He found the square and then noticed the shop in the corner. The square was busy and the shop stood still among the people and traffic passing by. He was there for fifteen minutes, staring. Nobody entered or exited the shop. The windows were covered with posters for various models of laptops and tablets. Gadgets for camera phones and services for network management aimed at small companies. He could see no movement inside, so he moved closer. As he approached the door he noticed a poster that was nothing to do with the business being promoted inside. The poster was for a Samaritans hotline. This was the prime real estate of the shop window. It stuck out among the other marketing blurb and made McGee hesitate with his hand on the door.
Man’s anxiety about death leads him to behave in a certain way. Conforming to societal norms, accepting the judgement of the system and staying within the accepted boundaries of behaviour. At this moment that anxiety was gone from Barclay McGee and he felt this freedom like an injection of adrenaline rising in his chest.
The rush of the street behind couldn’t mask his racing heart. Hands beginning to sweat, he pushed the door. His senses were on overload. The song he loved so much was playing inside the shop. It stopped him. This song was never heard on radio and he didn’t know many other people who would recognise it. A tear fell across his cheek and he brushed it away before anyone noticed. He was gasping for breath, raw with emotion that hit him like a thunderbolt. He dropped his bag and knelt down on one knee so he was out of sight of the shopkeeper. Wow. Amazing. Chris Difford finished his lyric and John Spencer appeared around the corner of the display asking if he could assist.
The first thought that McGee had was how much John Spencer had aged since the trial. . There was a kindness and a vulnerability in Spencer’s face that he didn’t expect to see. Although Spencer was easily recognisable to McGee, out of context like this and perhaps with an unconscious desire to bury his past, Spencer did not recognise McGee.
As the two men looked at each other, McGee’s existential predicament prompted his words.
“You killed my wife” he said, surprising himself with the calmness and lack of anger in his tone. Spencer was wrong footed and his eyes explained that he needed more information.
“three years ago you killed my wife” McGee picked up his briefcase and started to open it, fumbling at the straps and at the same time looking for recognition in Spencer’s face.
The penny dropped. For the first time Spencer recognised the man he had seen everyday during his trial. Sitting, listening, taking notes and generally looking like a hollowed out shadow of a man. He stepped back instinctively sensing danger.
“oh I see” he said raising his hands in primordal defensive stance. “Sorry”. He knew that sounded odd.
“I mean sorry I didn’t recognise you” and he knew that sounded even more odd.
“I mean of course I am also sorry that I …” he didn’t want to say the words. Spencer’s face flushed red.
“Look” he said as McGee finally opened his briefcase, “Can I show you something?”
McGee stopped himself reaching into the bag and nodded out of curiosity.
“In the back, please come and look at something”. Spencer held out an arm like a policemen guiding traffic to urge McGee into the back of the shop. Before following, he locked the shop door and turned the sign to closed.