Please, Leave The Light On.

light_bulb1Some time ago I started writing a collection of stories called “Other Peoples Letters”. The idea was simple, to write a story but concealed within a letter ( and then a reply). Here is one of them.

Jenny,
It’s me. Please keep reading and don’t tear this letter up. I beg you.
Twelve years is a long time and I’m sorry. Sorry for so many things.
Sorry for leaving you the way I did. No note, no reason, just left. I was in a bad way back then and I knew that eventually I would drag you down with me. The signs were there already. I used every day and you were starting to do the same. You with our boy on the way. Not good. But not your fault, it was me that encouraged it. Without me I knew you could stop. But if I stayed I was sure you would lose everything. I couldn’t bear that.
Sorry for missing our boys entry into this world and not being there when times were hard for both of you. I don’t even know what you called him.
Sorry for missing his birthdays, his first day at nursery and school. His first steps and words. Sorry.
Sorry for making you cry. You were the one that cried at every soppy film we ever watched together, so I can imagine how many tears you wept in those weeks and months after I left.
Sorry for not getting in touch during these past years. I just couldn’t, not until I was sure that all the scars had healed. It’s taken a long time for me to get myself straight and now, eventually, I think I have. I’m clean. Have been for the past two years. The journey’s been a strange one. I’ve lived on the streets, in squats, shelters and prison. I’ve begged, stolen and mugged. I found god once and then lost him again somewhere on the A13 near Whitechapel.
Sorry for taking the money out of the tin. I left with nothing but the clothes I had on. I had no idea where I was going or how I’d get there. The tin in the food cupboard had exactly seven pounds and thirty six pence in it. I took it for bus fare. Two pounds of it got me as far as Canning Town. Then I spent the rest on half a bottle of scotch. The next day I hitch hiked all the way to Hammersmith. I slept under the flyover for more than a year.
Sorry for all the shit you must have taken from your family. I knew they didn’t like me, that was obvious. They must have seen us as we really were back then. A couple of fucked up junkies. Me, the instigator of everything and you being pulled along with blinkers on. I can only imagine how many times your Mum and dad said “You’re better off without him.” That must have been hell for you.
There are a million other things that I’m sorry for and I’d like to tell you face to face.
I’m close Jen. Real close. By the time you read this letter I’ll be almost there. You may hate me and that’s fine. But if there’s a chance…even a slim one. Then I’ll take it.
Even if it’s just to say hello and give my boy a hug. Then that’s also fine.
Jen, remember when we first met and I would go out with the lads and say I’d be home late?
Remember what you always said to me? About leaving the lights on?
So, give me a clue. Leave the light on in the front room. If it’s on. I’ll knock. If not I’ll just walk away. Either way, I’ll understand.
One thing has kept me going through these twelve years. The thought of one day getting back to you and our boy.
Please Jen, leave the light on.

Rob.

And here’s the reply…

Dear Robert,
Your letter was forwarded onto me by the new tenants of Jenny’s old flat.
I have read it and notice that you say “sorry” eleven times. Thank you for that.
Jenny’s father and I are also sorry.
Sorry that we had to watch her fall apart after you left, just six weeks before the baby was due.
Sorry that we had to console her night after night because of her panic attacks and the relentless paranoia that she suffered from. You were right about the crying. She never stopped.
Sorry that we had to call for an ambulance when she tried to take her own life by overdosing on the stuff you left behind.
Sorry that our beautiful grandson was called a “crack baby” and only survived three days after the birth. We called him Steven. The name Robert was never even up for discussion.
Sorry that you had such a hard time living rough. Jenny also had a bit of a rough time. After Steven died she became withdrawn and had to receive professional help. She spent a year in a Psychiatric Hospital and was forever dependant on medication. We visited her every day.
We’re also sorry that you couldn’t find the time to write or call her just to let her know that you were okay. She would have loved that. In the end she was convinced that you were dead and when that happened she just couldn’t bear to carry on.
Jenny passed away eleven months ago. We thought she was over it, but she hid her illness well. The Police contacted us just after eleven o’clock on a Sunday morning. I won’t go into detail, but the Thames can be very cold in February.
You mention us in your letter and you are right. We always thought she could do better than you. But you were her choice and we would have done what we could to see you both through your addiction. In fact on the day you left we were coming over to try to convince you to get help. We would have paid for any treatment you needed, but I suppose you had better ideas.
On the plus side, the letter you sent has answered one question that always troubled us. For ten years her electricity bill at the flat was enormous. Now we know why she kept every light on in the house twenty four hours a day.
Goodbye Robert.

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