Catastrophe: Dear Suzie

Words by Jack Vening

Published on April 4, 2013

Firstly: Two friends of mine, an old man and a young man, boyfriends I met making deliveries for the food company, got caught on Friday night lifting low-grade medical equipment out of a warehouse in the city. Now the government’s got me back in prison, drying my feet a little while. I’m in on what some people would legally define as a “heist”, but don’t worry about this too much.

Secondly, how are you? The nights are colder, but there are things to be grateful for. Both your parents and my parents are still living as are all our brothers and sisters. You are working and the police can’t do too much with me. What they have me on isn’t much worse than saying a bad word in church. All I have to do is wait. I am a grain of sand stuck inside the wheels of a clock, listening to the radio until they tick around enough to let me loose. I’m a little silver ball in a plastic maze, etc.

They are ok too, the young and the old boyfriend. They are alive and in prison but their relationship is shot to pieces. At what looks, on paper, like the climax of their crime, the young man hit the old man. Don’t ask me why. They had been moving boxes steadily between the service entrance of the warehouse and the back of my car. They were talking quietly and I was playing with the air-conditioning vents in the car, playing them like rib cages. They were dressed regularly, they were talking about us all getting food, and the lights came on and an alarm went off and the old man began screaming and, without skipping a beat, the young man’s hand flashed out and he hit him right across the chops, standing there at the door of the discount medical warehouse, in the headlights of my car, with the sirens beckoning to heaven to send the police.

Pow.

Before that they had been in love. They had travelled to Malaysia where the young man’s mother lives, where his grandfather works as a famous doctor. His father is a doctor too, living here in the suburbs where nothing goes right for him. One day, the boyfriends are smiling at a table by a pool at a resort, drinking from tall glasses with the young man’s famous grandfather, having their photos taken by aunts, biting each other’s necks in the shower, and so on, and the next day they are performing a heist, getting worked up enough to do terrible harm to one another.

And I thought about the things we do to each other every day of the year, and have done to each other throughout history, forever; about me and you. So without much else to do, a few days ago I wrote down on prison-paper a list of the things I can remember committing, for better or worse, while employed as your husband, which you can read at the end of this letter.

I don’t know how long my time here will be but I would like to finally see you again at the end of it.

Love, J.


For the benefit of all:

  • Case of expensive Japanese spring water taken from Japanese restaurant near our first house, said I won in online contest.
  • Wheels from your sister’s car stolen when she was studying abroad (made sure was insured).
  • Electricity syphoned from apartment of ancient couple living across hall from us, second place we lived, first apartment, possibly contributing to blackout that cut ancient woman’s dialysis machine off, possibly killing ancient woman.
  • Never paid for petrol, ongoing.
  • Stole copper wiring from your parents’ lake house after it was sold. Stole brass doorhandles, sophisticated electronics involved with central heating system.
  • Two blonde women gone home with, separate occasions. One work colleague; one woman from bar, unknown.
  • Woman kissed at camp-fire of festival, unknown.
  • Woman kissed at your birthday party, accidental.
  • Unrecorded number of bikes taken from yards, cafes; cars from airport long-stay parking terminals; trolleys from supermarkets.
  • Unrecorded bad dreams dreamt; unrecorded lies told.
  • Man cut outside betting club at four in morning. Man seen celebrating with friends, lured outside, cut.
  • Man hurt in fight inside sports-bar. Man’s team lost or won. Not involved with fight with man, but went and hit man with beer glass. Left bar, came home, lay next to you, talking in your sleep. Dreamt nothing.
  • ¬†Work colleagues, old man and young man, recruited into scheme to rob medical warehouse. Offered lower cut than would really be given. During robbery, siren tripped, young man hit old man (moment of panic), old man fell immediately. Caught beautifully in headlights, under flashing light of siren. Young man looked like he was reaching out, monkey reaching from one branch to other branch. Sound of hit, in mind, in memory, exactly same as match being struck next to ear. Quick roar, flash of light.
  • Police fruitlessly evaded; police lied to. Spent night in lock-up where for some reason, fell asleep easy, dreamed about you. Dreamed old dream about running bath in your parents lake house before it was sold, flooding bathroom, flooding lake house. Dreamed about house filling up and creaking, coming apart. Dreamed about floating in debris of house in now flooded lake, holding on to each other under water, feeling guilty, keeping air in lungs. Dream about waiting for rescue. Woke up before rescue.