By Marlon Bute

Ramnarine opened the stainless steel door that led to the washroom. Once there, he stood in front of the mirror, an uncomprehending look on his oval face. He was wondering how it was that he could hardly recognize the person on the other side. His beard and moustache were beginning to show signs of grey and the bags under his eyes were getting larger. He turned on the cold water tap, refusing to mix it with the hot; cusped his hands and, brought them under the running tap, before bathing his face with cold water. He briefly flirted with the idea of filling the sink with water and submerging his face and head, but immediately dropped the idea when it occurred to him that its proximity to the mortuary meant it was where the morticians wash their hands.

The water felt like it had been taken out of a freezer as it was about to turn to ice, but Ramnarine preferred it that way, hoping that the coldness of the water would sober his mind and cause him to better consider things. And, somehow cope with the wretched part of his life.

He undid the first two buttons of the blue and white plaid shirt that he was wearing and gingerly sapped behind his neck. He kept washing his face and neck. The cold water trickled down his back and chest and made his shirt cling to his slender frame. He had hardly put on any weight since he moved to Toronto.

He might have put on a few pounds. But, with poor eating habit and working long hours, he didn’t have to worry about weight gain like some of his co-workers, who after years of factory work and fast food, had put on more weight each year.

“Ramnarine are you okay in there?”

Before he could answer, the stainless steel door to the washroom opened enough, so that the taller of the police officers was able to put his head and chest through the half opened door, while the rest of his lanky body stayed outside the washroom.

Ramnarine thought that the officer must be unaware of what was going on or hadn’t engaged his brains before he let the words left his mouth. But, Ramnarine didn’t tell the officer what he was thinking. Since he knew himself, he always found great discomfort in saying something to someone that he felt that they might find hurtful or offensive. He had a way of keeping everything inside, although he knew that it couldn’t be helpful to him or anyone else.

Ramnarine didn’t answer the officer. He sure as hell wasn’t okay, so he couldn’t tell the officer he was okay when he wasn’t okay. In fact, he was far from okay and, telling the officer he wasn’t okay – a thing which the officer would have known, had he just put himself in Ramnarine’s shoe for a minute – to Ramnarine, seemed pointless. He looked at the officer and wondered if he had a wife and family and if his family was happy. He probably does have a wife and a family, Ramnarine thought. Maybe he has a dog, too.

“Let’s go son, I am sorry.”

It was the shorter officer who was talking. The door was now fully opened that Ramnarine could see him standing in the corridor just outside the washroom. Ramnarine remembered that the shorter officer had patted him earlier and that he spoke as if he genuinely cared. He didn’t sound rehearsed or wasn’t asking stupid questions like his partner.

“I will walk.” Ramnarine replied.

“We can’t let you walk son. It’s late and it’s raining and with what you have been through son, I sooner prefer to see you home where you can get some rest.”

“I will walk in the rain.” Ramnarine was fighting back tears.

“As you wish then, but we have to take you out of the building, “ the taller officer chipped in.

“No we take him home,” the shorter officer said.

“And, Ramnarine,” he continued, “As awkward as it sounds, we really want to apologise for the mix-up. We thought the deceased was your wife.”

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(Next episode on Sunday)