In the quiet of the night

I got up around 4:15 a.m. I'm not sure why I did. I mean, I do, I went to the bathroom, but I don't usually do that in the middle of the night. Were the cats restless, was that what stirred me? That was what I thought after, after it became apparent from the hushed voices in the corridor that there were people hanging about outside my flat.

One downside to living alone is that it makes me uneasy to have even one person loiter outside my flat for more than a couple of minutes. There were a couple of voices now, male for sure, but I couldn't make out what they were saying, even though I did what the cats were doing and stood alert by the front door to listen.

I decided I didn't need to call the police or anything. Not just yet anyway. Then I went to the bathroom.

Then the pounding on my door and front window began --- not loud enough to make me jump out of my skin, but enough to figure something serious must be going on.

When I opened the front door --- and the reason I dared to do this was because there is a reasonably stout and padlocked grilled gate that stands between the door and the outside world --- a man identified himself as a police officer and showed me his credentials. To be honest I was still too bleary-eyed to focus clearly on what was printed on them, so you could say I took a leap of faith when I unlocked the gate and stepped outside.

And then I saw the chair, standing beside the parapet, and I knew immediately what must have happened.

(I live on the top floor of a pretty high apartment building.)

There were four police types out there, two in uniform, two in plain clothes. They asked the usual questions, about the chair and if I'd heard anything. I closed my eyes when I answered some of the questions because my sleep-hazed mind was still trying to construct the sentences properly, trying to be helpful, even though I didn't really have much to offer. They took notes and thanked me for my time.

After I went back inside the flat and closed the door, I called a friend whom I knew would be up and we talked for a while, while the cats paced curiously about because they could still hear voices outside. It took a while before I felt more settled, sleepy once more, and we hung up.

But then there was knocking on the door again. One of the police types from before, requesting that I make a formal statement about what I'd told them. Which was fine, except that in the middle of it, he asked if I would be okay to look at an image of the deceased.

I flinched. "How bad is it?"

"Just try, okay?" he said nicely. "We're trying to identify him." When he showed me the image on his mobile phone, he reiterated, "It's okay. Just like in a movie."

And it was. Because in the movies, we've so often seen people with that wide-eyed stare and some sort of anonymous bloody wound. They're anonymous too, most of the dead we see in movies, as was this man.

As I was reviewing the statement before signing it, the police investigator asked me what kind of stuff I write. I picked up a copy of Singapore: A Biography and handed it to him. He did a double take --- I think he was pretty much in autopilot making-conversation mode by then, and didn't expect to be handed a big, heavy book. Then he asked me what book I was writing next.

It was close to 6 a.m. by the time the investigator left. My brain was spinning again, wondering if I was imagining the distant sound of running water --- were they cleaning the area before anyone turned up at the nearby school? Would they check the deceased's prints to figure out who he was, like they do on CSI? What must it have felt like, to look upon the same view I see everyday, and then to let go?

Everything looks normal this morning.

I wonder if the cats heard anything.

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At 3/04/2010 8:27 pm , Blogger Davester said...

Wow.. quite a night. Beautifully written post too.

At 3/04/2010 8:57 pm , Blogger naixuhs said...

What floor do you live on?
Where did the chair come from?

Strange, The anonymity of death

At 3/05/2010 10:42 am , Blogger sternstadt said...

very sad, very well-written

At 3/06/2010 5:06 am , Blogger blogpastor said...

Sad and unlikely. So unlikely I thought it was fiction.


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