‘The past lies like a nightmare upon the present.’ (Karl Marx)
Still befuddled, Egon enters his studio flat, which really is the real-estate agency’s term for bedsit, on Graham Road. There always lingered a slight morbid and musty smell in these Victorian houses and Egon resented the fact that he kept looking at the same four walls.
Lying on his bed, he feels as if the walls are closing him on him, or maybe he’d just been here for too long, but as he isn’t paying rent he isn’t complaining.
After splitting up with his ex, he felt lucky not having to move back into a flat-share, which he thought was undignified at the age of 35, but unavoidable in London where being able to live on your own was considered a luxury.
He dropped a bag of PG Tips into a mug, which had written You are the biscuit to my tea on it. Okay, not very original, but at the time it had felt like a sweet token of love from his girlfriend. Though maybe it was time to take it to Oxfam. At the end of their relationship, this was exactly what he had become: a biscuit dunked and dissembling inside her hot and murky brew. The signs were there from the start, only he had decided to ignore them.
Egon is sadly pleased having come up with the biscuit metaphor and gently stirs the teabag with a spoon in order to release its aroma and loosen up the tea flakes inside the bag.
Mesmerised by the resulting vortex, Egon remembers how, as a seven-year old, he fell into an outdoor pool. He was wearing quite a few clothes, so it must have been late spring or early autumn and even though he had just learned how to swim, all he could do was flapping his arms and the more he flapped them the more water he swallowed until his shoes and jacket were dragging him down and he had no oxygen left in his lungs and gave up the struggle, sailing into a safe white space, when a hand grabbed his neck and pulled him up.
Strange, he hadn’t remembered that incident for years. Like so many other things it had become an often repeated family anecdote of children’s foolishness versus adult bravado, told so often that it was almost as if it had happened to someone else. But it hadn’t. He had flashbacks of the dread and also the lightness as he gave up fighting for his life and accepted what was happening to him. He hadn’t been in a pool since.
Egon tried to put more pieces into the picture but couldn’t. Had he slipped? Who was the man who had pulled him out? His younger sister had started wailing and thus alerted the partying adults indoors. He’d been told the rescuer was a neighbour, but couldn’t put a face to him.
To distract himself from unwanted thoughts, he rolls a slim cigarette trying to make the tobacco last as long as possible. He needed another cash-in-hand job but even coffee shops now were asking for the National Insurance Number.
Inhaling deeply, Egon feels forlorn. There were definite advantages to being single, but right now he couldn’t think of any.
Needing to do something, anything, he takes out his phone, scrolls through the images and deletes every single picture of Deborah. Instantly he feels better. If only the past was as easy to bin.
He comes across the picture he took of Gilda in the old lady’s home, a sneaky act he committed while the old lady fluffed up one of her crocheted pillows. He enlarges it and spots a date. It must have been taken with one of these cheap cameras which put the date in the right hand corner unless you disabled that function. He could clearly read 03/05/2007. That was nine years ago. How old do dogs get? And what kind of breed was she anyway? She seemed young and full of optimism, but definitely not a puppy anymore. Compared to the picture he took after the Kingsland Road incident she looked skinny and buffeted by life, not to mention death.
Gilda, for Dog’s sake, what had happened to you?
There must be a way to find out more about her life. Going back to the old lady would be pointless unless she decided to give him more information or he found a way to make her talk.
The stern policewoman might be an option. Maybe she could be coaxed to release facts about the case if he appealed to the Animal Rights Charter. Or he could walk around the neighbourhood and show Gilda’s picture to people in the hope that someone might recognise her and provide him with clues.
There were a lot of things on his To-Do-List for tomorrow. Slightly exhausted just thinking about these, Egon reached for his favourite Conan Doyle book to see whether Mr. Holmes had any advice for him.