Frank throws himself down in the chair.
‘How are you mate?’
‘Good. I’m good, thanks.’
But he’s not. He hinges his glasses up onto his forehead, then massages his face with the vigour of someone washing something away.
‘Did you go to that one off the cliff?’
He finishes, takes his glasses off his head and starts cleaning them on his shirt. ‘It’s weird, you know. Apparently she sat in the car half an hour before she drove over. Not much for us to do when we got there.’ He mimes someone peering through a hole: ‘Yep. She’s dead.’
The TV in the rec room is constantly on. Now it’s showing a nature programme, life in the rain forest. Some kind of monkey, hurling itself from branch to branch, falling, gliding, hundreds of feet in the air. David Attenborough explains in sonorous tones exactly what the monkey hopes to achieve.
‘Easy money,’ says Frank, holding his glasses up to the light, then putting them back on his nose.
Rae gets up to make tea.
I think about all the suicides I’ve either been to myself or heard discussed back on base. In just three years, enough to make up a small army, a legion of the damned. I imagine them rising up and coming together from their scattered scenes of death, linking arms, marching forwards out of the chaos. Such a lot of people – and every one of them so desperate they would hang themselves in a cupboard, in a hospital toilet with the light pull, set themselves alight in an orchard, tie a bag around their head, or lie down on a railway track. A lost and bloody host, arm in arm in solidarity, new additions straggling after, a scattering of notes carried off behind them on the wind.
The red phone rings.
‘Frank, mate. You’re on break.’
‘Ah. Yep. Thanks.’
With one practised motion he flicks out the padded footrest of his easy chair, crosses his legs, puts his hands behind his head, and closes his eyes.