So, something I used to enjoy was sitting somewhere public and identifying someone. I’d then observe them for a few minutes before inventing a backstory. Tonight in the pub I did the same.
First up, poor old Derek.
Everybody knows him.
From the outside you’d think perhaps he’s a part of the furniture here, always been here, drinking his usual in his usual seat, at the usual time.
A lovely story.
But it’s all crap. Nobody knows Derek at all. It isn’t his age that’s causing him to shake, it’s nerves. Derek still lives with what he did, the things he’s done. His hair is grey, and almost gone, he’s lined with age, so many lines. Every line for another victim.
What a word.
A strong word.
The truth is that Derek ‘is’ a ‘victim.’
He pressed the button
He pulled the lever
He turned the tap
He flicked the switch
The details aren’t important, from his point of view he killed them all. From the point of view of his audience he delivered justice. The neutral would likely suggest that he followed orders, but he did kill many.
He killed them and returned home to his family. He’d kiss his wife, tuck in his children and sit quietly in his chair with a large glass of brandy. She didn’t complain, that was the way of the time, the man works, the woman cleans, man has a drink, woman doesn’t complain.
But is was nothing as convenient as traditional stereotypes that kept Derek’s brandy bottles empty. He drank because nothing else let him sleep at night. Let him forget.
It’d be funny, if it were a joke.
Derek pressed the button
Derek pulled the lever
Derek turned the tap
Derek flicked the switch
Derek did as he had to. Because the alternative was unemployment. There was no welfare state, no handouts, if you worked you ate, if you didn’t you didn’t. Derek did what he did because he had a family to feed.
Now Derek sits, he drinks, he’s old, he shakes and nobody knows him. Derek’s an old man, he’s a killer, he delivered justice. It doesn’t matter, isn’t relevant. What’s relevant is that Derek feels guilt. Enough guilt that his body fades, his hair has greyed and disappeared, he shakes, he really shakes.
He’s slowly outlived his wife, his friends, his drinking buddies, all he has left is his guilt.
Derek sits in his usual space
With his usual drink
At the usual time
And Derek is sorry, really truly sorry.
He did what he had to do, but he’s sorry
He fed his family, but that doesn’t atone
He followed orders, and accepted the regrets
Nobody knows him
He’s sorry, sorry for every button, sorry for every lever, sorry for every tap, sorry for every switch.
He’s Derek, and he’s sorry
He’s Derek, and he’s a good man
He’s Derek and he’s sorry
And that’s what matters