It was early in the year, March 26th 2006, and the night time air was cool and refreshing on my mashed mind. Intoxication from the celebrations earlier that evening had numbed my brain, yet my senses were awake. Something wasn't right, that had become obvious to me as I awkwardly peddled my bike into the street. My Step Dad, Ray, was by my side on an equally as rusted push bike, both of us were silently thinking the same, each daring not to tempt fate.
Our destination was my Dad's house. For whatever reasons he'd ended up living in Port Clarence, Middlesbrough, not his proudest moment. A rough little council estate brimmed with substance addicts and dysfunctional 'Jeremy Kyle' types. The area has a potent stench of pollution, similar to rotten eggs, that hung over it permanently due to the industrial wasteland that made residence close to the estate. Behind the houses and over the battered fields that were often frequented by stolen cars and stray dogs and through the bushes used as drinking dens, you came to a 'nature area'. This held foul, green coloured ponds with a consistency of lumped soup and copper coloured knolls that were lined with fed up looking trees, hanging. From the top of the knolls during the dead of night, you can look out over the nearby factories and industry and it resembles a scene from a film, a city from the future. For miles and miles it stretches, decorating the skyline with tall, square buildings, multi coloured lights and flames shooting from towers that stand hundreds of feet tall. Beside this was Middlesbrough's Transporter Bridge, blue and glowing in all its beat up glory. Considering what it is you're looking at, it really is breath taking. My Dad passionately despised this place and described the locals as rats with two legs. For him though, a broken man on the run from his past, choice was a luxury he couldn't have.
The house stood dark and silent as we approached it. I knew this was unusual so I asked Ray to come inside with me, taking no care in dropping my bike where I stood. I opened the door and the two dogs, Scruffy and Mini launched into a frenzy of barking at me.“It's only me,” I reassured them.“Ssh it's OK.” They recognised my voice and launched into another attack, this time of licks and tail wagging relief. The house was in complete darkness, broken only by the T.V flickering on and off with white noise in the living room, the stairs stood long and black ahead of me leaving a lot to the imagination. I walked into the living room, the safest looking option at first glance and it was a derelict room, the sofa was on its side, a cushion and some magazines had been ripped up, the shredded bits layered the floor like dirty snow. It looked like the dogs had been alone a while. “F'ckin hell.” Ray was straight to the point,
“going to take a look upstairs.”
I carried on my scout through the living room and into the kitchen, eyes scanning the dark corners as I walked, my heart felt like it was punching through my chest. It concerned me that the back door was wide open, leaving the place feel like a morgue, more an actual morgue than we first realised. I found nothing worth mention in either the kitchen or garden so I started back towards the stairs, hoping to find my Dad and Ray on the landing having an awkward chat as they always did. As I took my first step up the stairs I was instantly ambushed and pushed back down by Ray, he held onto me and lead me into the living room. His face was grey and his hands trembled as he gripped me. Without saying anything I had a feeling what had happened, “he's dead ain't he?” Ray nodded and I collapsed on the remains of the couch, head in hands.
I have no idea how long I was sat there that night, I was pissed off, confused and in bits. I over heard Ray make the call to the ambulance and police, only bits sunk in, “...ambulance....suicide...hung..”
Two notes were left, nothing written on them made any sense as I read over them. I later handed the notes to the police, something I came to regret because after the inquest I was told I couldn't claim them back, they were now evidence. I'll never know what they said. The police made no effort to arrive quickly after the call and even turned up in the wrong street.
“Fifty two Limetrees?” Ray's voice echoed across the road. The bobbies looked at each other like confused boys, hopped back into their patrol cars and corrected their arrival. The ambulance arrived shortly after, the paramedics were obviously practised as they were patient and understanding. The police tried to talk to me but I remember nothing of what was said between us. I couldn't handle all these people cashing in on my families dirty laundry being aired in public for the nosey neighbours to lap up, I did what a child would do in this situation, I hid and cried. I sat on the cold hard pavement in the alley leading to the back garden and was stalked by the smallest of my Dad's dogs Mini. She was a small brown and black mongrel who was friendly and smart, she was clearly aware I was upset and since she'd been in the house for at least twelve hours with a motionless, shell of a man. She sat herself beside me and started licking away my tears as if to comfort me.
The police had driven me and Ray home, I spent the night sleepless between the sheets, questions and nightmares flooded my head. As news spread, family members made appearances, people who previously weren't to be seen, now wanted answers for what had happened. I told them what I could but wasn't interested in reunions. As there was no space at my Mam's for the dogs and no one was there to look after them, me and Ray once again made our way to Port. We were only there to feed them and make sure they were OK until something more permanent could be arranged, we decided between ourselves to be in and out of that house rapidly. I looked up the stairs of the house and saw the loft was still open, a pair of step ladders stood underneath. I felt his eyes watching me. The house stunk of misery, hopelessness and loneliness, this detestable feeling hung in the air like a poisonous mist and sent shock waves deep through my guts making me wretch. The previously unseen hammer holes in the kitchen ceiling from failed noose attachments made me physically sick. Grey as concrete, we left and never came back.
I decided I wanted to see his body, I didn't know if it would help or not, it didn't matter, either way I was condemned. A few days later, lead by a young woman in blue pyjamas and wooden clogs, me and a few members of the family made our way to the North Tees Hospital House of Rest. The stairs descended into darkness, dimly lit up by candles with crosses lining the walls, it was an awkward atmosphere to visit the dead. The stench of formaldehyde and rot filled our noses, I was so nervous, sweating and clammy even though it was cold. After a lifetime of walking what felt like the Green Mile, I entered his room. He laid there, purple with bruising, swollen, motionless, cold, hard, lips half open, one eye slightly open. He didn't look peaceful, he didn't look asleep, he looked troubled, pained, dead.
© Copyright 2016 Lee Bryan. All rights reserved.
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