She was a beautiful silver-blonde girl,
not exactly Swedish but not exactly not either,
married to a most likeable guy,
widely considered
handsome, upright and decent.
So far so good.
But after fifteen years or so of marriage
they divorced;
and she soon married again,
this time to an ‘unknown’
who had not really registered with anyone,
least of all me.
I knew nothing about the divorce,
so of course I didn’t know
anyone had been replaced by someone else.
And it turns out this unregistered guy
—essentially a ghostly cipher—
was not a happy chappie either,
so after a year or two, and
despite his beautiful but
not exactly not Swedish wife,
he went and killed himself
by jumping in front of a train.

Truth was, is, she was slowly losing
her not Swedish not magnificence,
and turning instead into something
desiccated and grim.
The flesh had been slipping away from her cheeks, and
her eyes had been sinking into their sockets.
She became a challenging sight, difficult
to look at, and impossible to reconcile
with how lovely she had previously been.
So maybe he topped himself because
she began to look so ghastly,
or maybe she looked like that
because he was sinking
into horror.

But as far as I knew, she was still
beautifully married
to the nice guy everyone liked to look of,
so when anyone asked me
how they were getting on,
I would say that this nice guy had
inexplicably committed suicide,
jumping meaninglessly and worthlessly
—and perhaps wordlessly—
in front of a train.
‘Oh, the damn fool!’ they would all say,
emphatically. ‘The damn fool.’
And yes, you had to agree,
what a damn fool, and what
a waste by train
of such a nice guy life,
and what a vicious blow to his
not Swedish but not exactly not Swedish either
slowly beautifyingly unravelling wife.

But then one of these people I had been
explaining all this to
contacted the nice guy’s mother,
and through discreet inquiries discovered
that the nice guy is absolutely fine, and doing well, and
has just taken a new job in Dubai, and so
not at all the wasted damn suicide fool
I had been going around telling people about
all along.

That didn’t make sense to me,
as death means dead, surely,
—whatever the criteria you’re applying—
whether suicide by train, or suicide
by cop, or whether you’re
tucked up under your duvet
with pills and a pistol.
How on earth do you get from there
to Dubai, for godsake?
Obviously what had happened was that
I had been telling people that
the first husband had died, when
in truth it was number two.
Interestingly, I’ve descended into this
uninvited lunacy before
—and more than once—
confidently declaring someone dead
when it turns out they’re standing next to me.
I remember working in an office
and taking a phone call in which the caller
asked to speak to someone there and
I said I’m afraid not, he’s dead,
but the caller said no, he can’t be,
I was just talking to him a moment ago;
just put him on, please.

And nothing whatsoever to do
with any of the above, but a friend of mine
—chance in a million coincidence—
used to live in Cranley Gardens,
north London, the exact same street as
serial killer Dennis Nilsen, though
at the time of Nilsen’s arrest
not one of us thought to ask him
if he had been able to smell
—from his house, or when he might
have been standing in the street—
the smell of Nilsen’s chopped up
victims’ body parts
rotting to stink in the drains.
And o yes I’ve just remembered this friend
telling us at work one day that someone
cut the brake cables on his pushbike.
And it’s all steep hills in his area!
Couldn’t have been Nilsen; he was
already under arrest, I think.