The Dream of the Ridiculous Man - Part Two

It all happened in November; on the third of November to be precise, and since that day every moment of my life has been printed indelibly on my mind.

It was a terrible night, dreadful weather, pouring rain, cold, relentless.. piercing through. The sort of rain which has a distinct animosity towards people. The city where I live is a pretty depressing place at the best of times, but that night, it was the gloomiest hole on earth.

At eleven o clock the rain suddenly stopped and gave way to a horrible dampness, a freezing cold damp, piercing through. It made a sort of steam rise up from the gutters in the pavements.

I glanced up at the sky; it was pitch black. I could make out the tall wisps of clouds, and between them. fathomless, dark chasms. In the depths of one of those pits I noticed a tiny star. It sparkled, lonely, beautiful. I gazed at it for a long while. I was transfixed by it, because that tiny star had given me an idea; I would kill myself that night.

Oh, I had decided to kill myself long before that, at least two months before. In fact, despite my financial predicament, I had splashed out on a revolver. I had taken it home and loaded it immediately. So, you see, each night,for two months, I had returned to my rooms with the firm intention of shooting myself. It was just a question of finding the perfect moment; and now that tiny star had given me the clue. It had to be that night.

Now, you ask , why did that tiny star clinch the matter?

I have no idea.

There I stood staring up at the sky, when suddenly this little girl grabbed hold of my arm. She must have been about eight, and all she had on, in this cold, was a thin cotton dress, badly torn. She was soaked to the skin. But I particularly remember her broken sandals. I remember them even now; they struck me particularly. She seemed terrified by something. She clutched hold of my elbow, and she was crying out: "mama, my mama!".

Well, I turned and walked away and said nothing. She came after me, tugging at my coat, making that odd sound, that strangulated sound, the final moment of despair.

I know that sound.

She was choking on her words, but it was quiet clear that her mother lay dying somewhere nearby; or some other disaster had befallen the woman, and the girl had run into the street to find help. I didn't go; on the contrary, I tried to get rid of her. I told her to call the police. She grabbed hold of my hand; I shook it away. She ran after me. That was when I turned and stamped my foot and I screamed at her; and all she did was to cry out: "Sir! Please! - please!"  Then she stopped; she left me, and she ran across the road. I think somebody must have been turning the corner and she ran from me to him.

I arrived home. I went straight to my room. I sat down at my table. I opened the drawer and I took out my revolver. I looked at it. I lifted it. I pressed the barrel against my lips. It was very cold. My breath hung in the air. Very carefully I pulled back the catch, and as I did so I remember asking myself: "Is this it?" ;and replying with the utmost certainty: "

Oh yes, this it!"

And then I remembered the little girl.

Well, I was in a dilemma, as you can imagine. She had created a problem. If I were going to kill myself in a few minutes, then why should I be bothered with her?  Why bother with anything in the whole world?  And yet I felt pity. She had touched me. She appeared to need me; as if I mattered. 

Why did I scream at her.? How could such a tiny voice challenge all the conclusions that I had come to; question all my arguments?

All these things went round and round in my head; I just sat there, staring at my gun, turning these questions over and over in my mind.

That little girl saved my life, because then, something that's never happened to me before; I fell asleep in my chair.

                                                                   INDEX PAGE AND PART ONE