03 November 2009

What is more interesting than child abuse? Herein lies the answer, maybe.

Ha ha. It only occurred to me today that I can’t even rest on my laurels of yesterday’s post, as I’m meant to be doing this every day. When did I last have enough time or gumption to write a post about myself every single day? Somewhere in the vicinity of 2004, I suspect. My navel seams to have closed up over the past few years, and I find myself - or even the way my brain works – less and less interesting as time goes on. I don’t even look at daily events as potential story fodder anymore, as I find most things can be adequately summarised in a 140 character tweet, or my Facebook status.

I thought I was going to have to elaborate on how my good feeling about this little play group I attend nearby went rapidly downhill after I watched the leader snatch a toy piano away from a baby not much older than Hartley while she was trying to make an announcement, even though she’d just finished handing out instruments to the children in preparation for our sing-along, and then didn’t even give it back to him once the music had begun (though some kindhearted mother pointed out to her that the reason he was screaming through snot and tears was probably due to this fact). The good feelings dissipated further after I watched her absentmindedly push what I am hoping was her own child into a pretend sleeping position for "Hop Little Bunnies," which resulted in said child hitting her head on the hard vinyl floor.

But then something much more interesting took place after class, on our walk home. It was Morag who noticed that someone had left their laptop case leaning against a tree. I’d registered the laptop but immediately dismissed it as unimportant, I guess because I envisioned someone emerging from one of the nearby houses to collect it. But then I remembered that we live in London, and you can’t drop a wallet with any hope of ever seeing it again if you don’t notice straight away. We deliberated about what to do, and had to concede that its owner wasn’t coming back and so began searching it for contact details.

I found a plastic folder of personal effects, which I felt uncomfortable about going through because at that point I thought there was still a chance the owner would return and find me snooping through their official documents. The documents contained an address, but it wasn’t a UK address. I opened a note that had been handwritten in blue ink on a piece of graph paper, which was tucked away in a pocket. The letter was folded in three, its face addressed to “Mum and Dad” in a childlike script. Inside was an apologetic, self-deprecating missive with a tone of finality so pointed it became immediately apparent that it was a suicide note.

“Um, this is a suicide note!” I said to Morag, who was in the midst of outlining a plan of attack. Her eyes widened as I handed her the piece of paper, and she scanned the letter quickly before noting, with some relief, that it was dated from two years ago. We finally decided to take the laptop to the police station, because whether or not there was any significance in it being left behind, we couldn’t just let some random kid come along and pinch it. We scrawled a quick note to this effect on the blank inside of a prescription packet and tacked it to the tree where we’d found the laptop, reasoning that if they returned to that spot, they’d probably see the note.

The police station isn’t far from where I live, though it’s small and keeps to erratic hours, so it was closed by the time we got there. We stood outside in the dark debating on whether or not one of us should take it home and bring it back in the morning. There really didn’t seem to be any other option, so I hooked the laptop case around the handle of Hartley’s pushchair and we headed off back in the direction of home, and the shops.

Along the way, we ran into two female police officers, who agreed to take the laptop from us with our details. They asked us what was in the bag and we itemised everything whilst they went through it all. Morag mentioned the suicide note, which seemed to baffle them, though they glossed over this bit of information in their report. The officer I spoke to said they would contact me if the bag was retrieved by its owner. Bruce says this is because the owner might want to give me a small reward. I think that’s an odd thing to volunteer, but we’ll see I guess.

Mostly I wonder about the note, and about the person who wrote it. Our search revealed that the owner of the laptop is in his or her seventies, which would put the writer of the note in his or her thirties, at best. If a child writes a suicide note to their parents and that child is very young, there is a chance the note is a cry for help. If the child is more of an adult, on the other hand, there is a very good chance that such a note indicates intent.

It’s difficult to know for certain, and so the question I’m left with is this: would a parent keep their child’s suicide note from two years ago if the note writer hadn't succeeded? Would they keep the note if the note writer had succeeded? I don’t want to put myself in the shoes of whoever lost that laptop, even if it means clearing up a mystery. And who am I to reduce the tragedy - large or small - of a complete stranger to a mere curiosity?

It is rather curious, though.

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