It never happened. That’s the point. Our cycles never did coincide. All those fears were in vain. What did happen was, I suppose, worse.
It was her - Celeste. She wanted to die. She’d been saying that for years, and yet all the cutting, all the swan-dives had failed. She was still here, miserable and afraid – the same gentle person I’d known (and loved?) so long, now a tortured soul caught inside an aging body.
Her friends had been through a whole host of enhancements by then, of course. It had become quite fashionable to prostheticise. You could tone up - or just replace -virtually any organ you chose. Eternal life seemed pretty much around the corner. But Celeste wouldn’t – even the thought of an operation, of going under the knife, was enough to threaten a relapse.
It was summer vacation. The weather was very hot. We were in our apartment (the house I have now is the one we owned then – but only as a summer house, not a residence. I can’t remember offhand why we weren’t there – some renovations, I suppose). Anyway, my work for the year was over, but we were still stuck in the city.
We had an argument, I think. At any rate there was a lot of shouting, but that was nothing unusual. She stormed off to bed, and I followed an hour or so later, having taken my medication and fortified myself with a couple of drinks.
That’s the point, you see, the crucial point. I was on my medication. I wasn’t supposed to drink with it, of course, but everyone does. I’d done it so many times before. There was nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to arouse suspicion.
I woke with a start sometime later. Celeste was in my arms. Her neck was between my hands. Her head was lolling back. She was completely limp. I put her down and started to shake her, but she didn’t respond or stir. I started to understand that she was dead. My mind was clouded, but still I could hardly believe what I was seeing. Dead! And her neck between my fingers. Had she been strangled? Had I strangled her? Had I choked the life out of her, as she'd asked me to do so many times?
That’s right – she’d often begged me to put an end to it all, in a variety of ways. At the height of her fury and then again in the depths of her despair. She’d told me repeatedly that it was what someone who truly loved her would do. I’d even hit her once or twice simply to shut her up from that constant litany of “kill me's.”
But that hadn’t come up for years! How did it happen that … ? I had no answers.
All that night I did nothing, lay beside her, warming her body with mine. When morning started to lighten the room, though, lightening the scattered clothes and disordered sheets, I began to wake up to what I had done. I had killed my wife. There was no-one else here. It must have been me. And yet I had no memory of it at all!
I rang one of my friends. An important, influential friend. On the governing council. I can’t remember what I said to him. I may have confessed, or I may have pleaded innocence. I don’t recall. The point is that either one would have been true. How could I know what had taken place in that room? I’d been unconscious the whole time, my mind clouded.
He believed me. He said he believed me, anyway. He told me not to move, not to touch anything I hadn't already touched. To wait for him.
When he came it was with a group of doctors. I tried to talk to them, but they gave me an injection instead. I don’t remember anything more after that until I woke up back in the clinic, the same old bed in the clinic I’d been in so many times.
And that was that. There was no trial, just a hearing to determine my state of mind. I didn’t even have to testify on the spot. They questioned me in my hospital room. The doctors talked about me and about Celeste. So many of my friends had heard her going on about death, talking about her longing to end it all. They spoke up on my behalf.
But I never saw any of them again.
It was almost a year before they would let me go. My apartment had been sold to defray the bills, but the country house remained. As they drove me there I noticed some placards outside the hospital, some shouting people. It never occurred to me that they were waiting for me.
And then the phone calls started. People, usually young women, would ring up and abuse me over the phone. Some came to the door, until I installed the security gates. There were articles about it in all the papers. It became a scandal. Not what I had done (if I did do it – I’m still not sure. Not that I think she could have strangled herself … but, you never know. She was a very intelligent woman) – not so much about what I had done, as I say, but about the way it had been handled. No trial, no public airing of grief and rage. I’d literally, in their words, got away with murder - all because of my connections.
So there I was, serving a sentence of involuntary house arrest, since I could never go out anywhere without the risk of being accosted. I had to have things delivered to the house, and even then quite often they suborned the delivery personnel, planted messages - razor blades, once - in my groceries.
That's when I bought the gun.
I drank a lot, went downhill, then finally tried to pull myself together. If I was forced into isolation (I couldn’t do my former job – but they couldn’t face the complexities of explaining why they'd fired me – so I was on a kind of indefinite leave), I’d go back to my work. Which is why I wrote that book, the one you read, the one you saw the launch for, the day we met.
So, yes, I killed my wife, if you're curious. And yes, I loved her. And yes, she was the most truly human person I ever knew. And no, you’re not in the least bit like her …