Melanie Dixon 2013

When you set me that assignment I’m sure you didn’t imagine it would all turn out like this. You were expecting a neat story with a beginning, middle and end, but then perhaps that would have been too predictable, too cliché. The problem was I wanted to impress you, wanted to make myself stand out amongst all the other wannabes and misfits that night-classes tend to attract. So what started out as a simple story quickly got complicated. The characters took on a life of their own, stuff happened that I’d never planned, innocent people were implicated and by the time I’d finished I just hoped you would approve. The piece I wrote had all the vital elements, believable characters who spoke convincing dialogue, a plot that transfixed the reader from that first memorable opening line, and an ending that would have had you reeling, desperate to know more. Of course I put in a few funny lines, I know how much you like a laugh. Then there was that bit that made me cry, even as I wrote it. I didn’t mean to kill off such a generous, kind, character, especially not like that. My story had jealously and guilt, as well as a happy redemption. The conglomeration of emotions neatly elucidating the human condition. I thought you’d like that bit, I know how much you like long words.

I was looking forward to showing you my work, fantasising no less about the A grade you would surely write in the top left-hand corner, in that lovely, cursive script of yours.

But when I heard what happened to you that week the story suddenly seemed to be in such poor taste. I didn’t want to make light of your situation, it didn’t seem fair. How was I to know what was going on in your life outside of class? I’d actually been past your place a few times, even heard shouting once but I never realised things were that bad. Your wife should never have done that to you and as for your mother being in on the act, I was appalled. I know you’d been sleeping the car, I saw you. Not that I was spying on you. I just thought it might help my work if I understood where you were coming from.

I was sitting outside your house in the dark, on that bench by the reserve, when it happened. The police arrived in a flash of blue and red, sirens blazing. I didn’t want you know I was there so I hid behind the dustbins by the tennis court. They dragged you outside, handcuffed. I’m sure they didn’t have to be that rough with you. I should have gone to the police then, told them everything, but they probably wouldn’t have believed me. Your photo was in the paper, standing outside the District Court, exonerated. But the look on your face told a different story, like you’d lost everything. At least my story had a happy ending, except for the character I killed of course.

The college disbanded the writing course, ‘due to exceptional circumstances’. The principal called you a ‘timewaster’ and some of the other students said things that I wouldn’t like to repeat. Nobody asked me what I thought. They’re looking for a new teacher for next year, but it won’t be the same, not without you.

So I’m not going to show you the story I wrote for that assignment, not now at least. Perhaps one day, when things are going better for you, perhaps I’ll let you read it then.