My Final Hour As A Condemned Man

The music has finally faded away; it keeps drifting in and out of my mind. I cannot seem to remember what song it was. I hardly have time for such contemplation. I do not mean to be churlish but there are things on my mind that are far more imperative.

The clock has struck eleven. I guess that means this is the final hour, my final hour and here I am driving imperishable songs out of my head.

It was nice of Mittal to place the clock outside my cell, though he advised me against looking at it too much. But this is the final hour of a condemned man and I can pursue as much clock staring as I want to.

An introduction? Yes I think that would be appropriate. I killed her. I killed an innocent girl. I am the condemned man. I have been condemned by the nation. Can you feel your flesh cringe? You have been listening to a murderer. You cannot deny it now, its in print; at least my side of it is.

And I can hear that harassing music again. Hold on. I recognize the tune now – “what a wonderful world”, by Armstrong. Are you planning to leave? You cannot go now. I have spent moments of my last hour talking to you about music. It is incumbent on you to stay. Besides there is something I have forgotten. I have a presentiment that it is something relevant. I need to write about this whole affair

The song is growing louder-

“And I think to myself… what a wonderful world!”

It reminds me of her and our first date. (Yes we dated)

*       *       *

That song, it was played at the corner café on Main Street. That is where we met. I had chosen the song on the touch screen juke box. It was eleven in the morning. We had an hour to fall in love; I had to get back home soon.

We had coffee together, sufficient, I’m easy to love with. She was too. She smiled at me that was all I needed. We had fallen in love in an hour.

I requested the song again and we followed in an unmelodious duet. Common lack of symphony is so much more endearing than perfect tune. Then the hour was up. We were in love. I had to go.

*       *       *

You have taken five minutes out of my last sixty, now you will just have to bear the remaining eleven digits on Mittal’s clock, numbers I have borrowed to take me through this time.

The music has started again, it’s playing sonorously, pointing accusingly at me and I faintly recollect that last black night with her. There was a cold wind blowing outside, admonished by occasional bursts of shower. Lightning broke forth exposing the malevolent sky, whose darkness bore witness to her dead body.

She was dead, intruded; and I am the condemned man, a justly condemned man.

She fled form my house that day. For the first time she perceived the monster in me. It was our first real fight, our last as well. That’s at least something to boast about. How many relationships can go through twelve months of mushiness with one single argument?

A minute from midnight I stood above her lifeless, precious form. But the music did not play that night. And the clock never struck twelve for the two of us.

*       *       *

Mittal just passed by. His facial muscles twitched charitably on seeing me. Or maybe he just restrained himself from displaying his rapture on seeing a guilty man being paid his due.

That last hour is still exceptionally vivid. And yet it feels more like a malicious façade. I can remember her bloodied garment, the impolitic red visible despite Darkness’s best efforts. I do now, but the music has started again, we’ve reached the “2” digit on the clock and I am being propelled forward by the proclamations of a wonderful world into February.

*       *       *

February, that magnificent second month, split right in the middle by a celebration of love.

It was Valentine’s and I was prepared with all the outward gestures essential for the material solidification of passion.

We had decided on the conventional movie date. I cannot remember the movie and that was precisely why we chose it. A forgettable movie, a dark theatre, inconspicuous corner seats. Reconstructing what we did should not pose a challenge to the meanest mental faculty.

It was undoubtedly love.

There was all the longing in both our eyes and all the fluent vivacious kissing necessary.

We went to the café again that day and were unanimous in our belief of a wonderful world.

Looking back, that was where the trouble really started .That was where the hours started ticking towards my last. That cozy afternoon was what genuinely caused our first fight and her last night.

Physical contact. That’s always so dangerous. As intrepid as we may have been even then we were probably aware of embarking on something beyond us, maybe that’s why we liked it so much.

Even with all my male desperation for any form of physical contact, I cannot help but occasionally consider how much simpler a platonic relationship might have been. But the hour in the café passed away. The music died out.

*        *       *

The minute hand has touched three: eleven fifteen. My first quarter is up. No time for idle banter now. I need to plunge into our next meeting. There is something I can’t seem to recollect. I just have to remember what it was.

Why did I kill her? I can sill hear a moaning sound from the last night. Was it me, did I cry? Is that when the music died out? But it was not midnight, I still had a minute, the music died early that night, I have been cheated by fate.

*        *        *

I give up. I can’t seem to fathom that incumbent minute. Something still has to happen.

*        *        *

I conjured up the music the third time we met. Guitar in hand, standing beneath her balcony. Everything was going fine; her eyes were glowing with warm surprise, and the music as ever made us both forget. She forgot her father. But forgetting people does not kill or even make them disappear. The “noise” soon woke him up. He was a strict man and boyfriends were a damnable debauchery in his eyes. She was pulled in. He threatened to call the police.

“Go to hell!” I said.

It was a bitter end to symphony that night.

I was predestined to meet her father again. This time we were formally introduced. I endeared myself to him with suave ease. I am quite affluent and he was not beyond wealth.

This is what makes me blame that afternoon in the theatre. If we had not consummated our feelings that day, would she have dared suggest a tête-à-tête with her father? Would I have bothered to come?

Actions make believers and lovers out of all of us. It is only when we believe in something that we pursue it, often through the most treacherous depths. That afternoon in the theatre made us both believe that what we had was real.

“I hear you run shops up in the U.K?” her father drawled greedily.

“Yes,” I prefer sticking to monosyllables with men I have cursed to the fires of hell.

He persisted gaining all the details of the income the shops were giving and establishing my financial position.

“My daughter told me about your chance meeting at the café.”

I nodded, wondering where she was. I was feeling claustrophobic stuck with him but she had disappeared. I faced the barrage of questions and went out with his blessings.

“Can I meet her I asked?” I of course was talking about the present.

“Yes, but it shouldn’t affect her studies”, he replied. He appeared to be speaking about the vague future. But that was enough.

Love makes believers out of all of us and time kills all of us.

*       *       *

We’ve skipped a couple of digits. The minute hand is hovering around 5.

I can hear people talking about me. They are preparing the injection—my humane end.

Her father would probably prefer disembowelment. He was up in arms when the case against me was on. I think he was more disappointed because he knew my money had eluded him. You cannot blame him. All of us have our dreams. I can feel a spasm of guilt. I feel like I had cheated the man out of his dreams.

The next time we heard the music was in September. She had a colossal quantity of work to do and I as commanded by her father did not trouble her.

Having completed a considerable part of her work she herself suggested that we should meet. I readily agreed. We met up at the rhythm and blues café. You can probably hear the inevitable music playing in the background. The whole thing was a bit stiff initially but the music soon soothed us down as did the substantial and well prepared dinner. We were just getting down to the tender post date intimacies when I mentioned how long it had been since we met. She backed off and immediately got onto the defensive saying I did not understand how essential her work was to her and how much she already had to bear to meet me. Me the loser .Me the ordinary guy, not the rock star she always wanted, the rock star I thought she wanted. I should have understood that I was rock star enough.

*        *        *

I never realized how immaterial most of this story is. I mean, to us as it seemed to be the romance of a lifetime.

It is so monstrously difficult to express these feelings. I would not have had to if that last December hour had not happened. Not that it matters now. I am going to be injected—vaccination against all the evil coursing through me.

I never really waned to write about our infatuation, but there is something I have forgotten and I have to recollect this in the next twenty minutes.

I am sure it has something to do with all this physical affinity—half the infernal troubles of our relationship were caused by it.

Even our last fight would probably have been less harmful if did not prick at sensitive already touched skin.

We fought so horribly that night, the night she ran out.

I can hear the clock now. The ticking has drowned the music. All my thoughts seem to be drawn by the clock. There is nothing musically equivocal anymore. ‘Tick tock tick tock’; two more seconds have sunk into eternity. I am almost there now. But my time is running out. It is going to be close. Just this one last rendezvous.

*       *       *

One more ordinary occurrence in our minor tale. Once again the music played (I am sure it did, but I can’t here it now. Mittal’s clock is getting too loud.) And once again we could not resist each other. We got close, a step away from the pinnacle.

Everything else was dark. All I could see were her dark eyes.

I can hear the clock now ticking away now, but that was a timeless hour. The music grew louder but we had to stop, the hour had stymied. We left in carnal expectation. I knew what was going to happen the next time we met. 9 minutes to death. I am almost there. People around are busy preparing my irrevocable perdition.

*       *       *

We decided spend the New Year day at my place. We wasted no time (and I mustn’t either).

The clock had started ticking as I entered her house and its hands were itching to touch each other just as we were to satisfy the urge that had gripped us from the first touch.

We rose in each other’s arms. The last note of the song held, for an infinity. And then we dropped.

But the clock kept ticking, restless, relentless. This was not to be inception of eternal love.

*       *       *

And its still tottering forward-Mittal’s clock. How glorious it must feel to birth and destroy so many.

But I must recollect what happened that fatal night.

*       *       *

She ran out. She was scared. The ultimate act scared her. Sex; that’s what it is called once the act is finished. Sex—the lewdness seemed to grip her. The responsibility was too much to bear. She rushed out desperate to fulfill the fate accompli.

Was it then I killed her? In those moments when I did not understand how bitter the plunge would be for her. When I assumed that protection and wealth were not safeguards enough, when I forgot that I was breaking something far beyond anything physical. She ran, I rushed after her but there were irreversible seconds between us.

Did I kill her?

*       *       *

The music has risen again but the clock is fighting a hard battle. Its hands fighting an unremitting battle, fighting like separated lovers

*       *       *

I saw her in the distance and rushed towards her trying to make up those unforgivable seconds.

*       *       *

My cell has opened they are asking me to leave now. Yes they’re all asking me to leave.

*       *       *

Hush. I see a flash of light. I see her eyes. She is running, away from me into eternity. I can feel my tears and now I feel nothing

I am standing over her. She is dead.

*       *       *

The music has died. This is that last minute. Its here now. We are all in this last minute now. And she is dead.

I killed her, I did not understand her.

This is my final minute our final minute and I have remembered. The music has risen. I cannot hear the clock anymore. It does not matter.

The clock hands have finally joined in a mocking salute. I must leave. I am man guilty of desire and now I must leave, for love cannot be desired.

It is now that I can celebrate our love because it lies in eternity, an eternity that she chose and an eternity I will now taste. And now I will get my chance in this eternity to prove that I understood and the music will drown the ticking clocks.

Gideon Mathson