Today I accidentally rang a murderer.
Yes I had a similar reaction. His wife was lovely. She spoke softly and with a countenance that was completely at odds with the news she delivered. Its not every day that you ring the supporter of a conservation charity to hear something that chills you.
‘He isn’t available…may I ask who is calling?’
‘Oh yes he loves your magazines. I take them to him when I visit, he says it is almost like being outside again. You see he’s in prison, so there’s that. It was a Chinese girl you see, they had an argument and he hit her with the car.’
‘The pictures make him smile’.
As much as I hate to admit it, I very nearly hung up. Have you ever had the feeling that cement has been poured into your bloodstream? That is the only way I can think to describe it. Everything stopped working. My fingers would not click. My lips would not form syllables. Breathing shuddered. Then I informed her it was lovely to hear and we will make a note on the record. I hung up and opted out of further contact. I logged my phone and walked to the toilet. I threw up into that white bowl and tried to work out just why this freaked me out so badly.
My job is generally safe and sanitised. The most you will hear is abuse about your audacity, or the fact that the charity is not doing what the supporter wishes. Occasionally you get incidents of blistering stupidity or stunningly racist remarks, but these are often from people who just don’t realise that ‘darkie kid’ is perhaps not the best term for an African child, or that ‘those slopes in Fucky-whatsit’ is a less than honourable way to refer to people still recovering from nuclear abandonment. Actual evil, malicious people are rarities. And this wasn’t even aimed at me. Consolidating the two sides of this person, the man who I looked up at home and discovered to have run a girl over twice because of a spat and a mild mannered charity giver who at one point must have cared about the world he was in…that is just such a strain. I wanted to revoke his right to sponsor us.
After all, call me prejudiced, but why the hell should he be given even the simulation of freedom? Blue skies and whispering glades are not there to be used as an escape from a grey box you put yourself in. Do not paper the insides of your mind with pleasantries you get from people who don’t know what you are. I sicken at the thought that his wife will on her next visit, mention the fact a nice young girl rang up and thanked him for his support, that she is glad to hear he enjoys the magazine, that the charity is thankful for his support.
I feel grubby.
Later I was sat in the pub with friends. I considered telling them and asking their opinion, to judge whether their reactions were as visceral as mine were. I refrained however – my gut reaction seems too big too overblown and the fear of them judging me for my own reading of the situation stopped me. So I will keep it here and try to forget the day I judged a man I didn’t know by his crime and actions, and found him on balance, wanting.