You were a sunny child, into tree houses and throwing pinecomb bombs, part of the rough and tumble mix of neighbourhood life. Loud, scabby-kneed, natural. Then something happened which you now realize was a catalyst in changing your shape, your personality, towards something more inclined to sit always outside the circle; you became introverted.
In 1976 when you were five you got Scarlet Fever. It must have been bad because as Dad took you ino the local doctors you left your body and saw him carrying you, small and slumped in your flame red dressing gown. You saw the shocked faces in the waiting room and how the receptionist rushed you straight into Dr Glassspole’s office. Your face! Suppurating red sores where only an hour before your freckled skin had been.
During the six week recovery you saw the EverReady Bunny come through your pink and orange floral wallpaper, quite a few times. You saw an angel that looked like Glenda from the Wizard of OZ. Sores popped pus into your ears and you got an ear infection. Trolls gambolled beneath your bed; fever and shakes; you rode life-sized My Pretty Ponies, shakes and fever.
From then on your ears were vulnerable to tinnitus, a low whining that made you feel as though a mosquito was trapped in your head. You also had a form of synaesthesia, that weird little crossing of neurological pathways and misfired synapses: words could have tastes so viscerally real it made you pull faces and salivate. Once someone said ‘due diligence’ in a meeting and you gagged on the taste of Coca Cola syrup, so strong and present it was as if you had sucked Cola laybacks from the post-mix gun behind a bar.
So now you have this aural sensitivity that makes sound, especially voices, a tangle of threads to be unpicked. Chatter spools all over the floor like old ladies crochet yarns. You understand conversations better from outside the circle. You hear better from the front of the room. It got you labelled Geek years ago, something you cultivated with talk of seeing angels, demons and ghosts. . But they weren’t. They were people. Doing things that looked real. It just took you til adulthood to figure it out.
The first time you helped the police you tried to do it anonymously, but you were so naive about the perfect accuracy of your ‘tip’ you became a suspect. Oh irony, it has a salty sweet taste but it will always smell like brackish water.
You had slept and you had followed a woman, through brush, who seemed to be following a grey metal lock-box held out in front of her. You saw the grey van with its bong-smokers parked on the gravel in-road. You saw its license plate number. You saw the signage on an old warehouse nearby.
You saw the slick sepia river, the tree stump at its edge. You saw a beautiful woman in heels being led by a lock-box that yearned towards the water.
Then, a week later, her face and shining hair were on the news.