The Last Night

Joe Lanzon

Evans was his name. Peter John Evans. He woke up one fresh and healthy morning and decided to end his life. It is true that sentimentalism and emotion were part of his character but today they had no room in his decision. In fact Peter was today calm and reserved. Those who saw him that Monday morning would not have guessed that this was his last living day and that he was indeed busily preparing for his demise.   

It was a very hot day in June as the scorching sun laid its canopy over the city. Through the open window of his nice apartment room he could scent the sweet perfume of dahlias. He got up and looked over the window. Children were playing and laughing on their way to school; they were like little creatures living in an earthly paradise; they had parents to look after them and give them the wonderful gift of love; they were therefore justified in being happy and carefree.

The clock on the wall ticked the hour. The day was already in full swing in Ransville; the children were now at school; the workers at the factories; the housewives on their chores and the busy birds that regularly greeted the morning, had stopped their chatter. 

It does not really matter what time of day it was; what other people were doing with themselves; it was his last day and he felt gay about it. No more bored sittings behind a desk studying endless papers in the office of the ‘Merchant Marine Co. Ltd.’; no more waiting for the slow-moving minute hand to pass away the time; no more loneliness.  

Peter Evans had no friends to rely upon. His parents were long dead and his remaining relatives were settled away from his city. In any case, they hardly ever contacted him. Through all his life, Peter thought, he had seen little of man’s kindness and of human brotherhood. 

Nobody ever made friends with him; nobody ever treated him like a man; nobody ever noticed him. He was completely lost in this world. Other human beings were not interested in his friendship or his love. His life was a colourless episode of a man striving for his decent happy place in this tireless and selfish world. There was a time when he was temporarily happy but that was some twelve years ago when he was still a student at Christ’s College in nearby Portland. But even then, he wasn’t completely happy either; he missed the comforting love and affection of his parents and he often envied his other classmates. 

Why had they to die in his childhood and leave him an infant to be cared by a stranger? If only it was not so, he wouldn’t be thinking such thoughts today; his life might have been worthwhile then and his actions appreciated by somebody. There was not even a girl. Girls did not particularly fall for sullen men with blue eyes hidden shyly behind thick glasses. And also, they don’t usually go for men with a salary of one hundred pounds a month. Yes, he had to agree with them, he did not particularly like himself either. 

Suddenly he felt happy and free from life’s insistent demands on him, free from the everyday commitments and pressures. He stretched himself up and yawned, then he continued planning his last day very carefully. 

Peter Evans had two hundred pounds in the bank which he would withdraw early this morning. He would buy himself a nice elegant suit and dress himself up as he had never done before. Then, in the evening, he would go to the best restaurant in town and have a good tasty meal. He would order roasted turkey decorated with savours and sauce, then go round the menu again and order some delicious dessert. He would close the celebration with red vintage wine and then a tot of fine French cognac. No more ham sandwiches at cheap second rate snack bars; no more stale teas and coffees as he broods his life’s misfortunes; no more work with the stress that deadlines bring with them; no more waiting for the weekends that held no meaning and were as monotonous and as dull as the days behind the desk. 

What was he waiting for? He could go out now and demand a room at the Impressive Ritz hotel. He dressed himself up and walked his way out. The first thing to be done was to draw the money from the Bank. He hailed a taxi and went there, collected the money and directed the driver to the hotel. There he demanded one of the best rooms on the top floor. The most comfortable commodities were now at his disposal and he intended to use them as best he could. He took a nice warm bath and then aired himself in front of the open window looking over Ransville’s main park. 

He walked around the magnificent room and laughed out loudly and heartily. Peter Evans had everything he had ever dreamed about, soft covered chairs, comfortable well-laid bed, a push button which would bring servants running to his needs, snacks and drinks were his at any time from the frigo bar. He had never had it so good nor dreamed that it would be so.  Should he sleep for a couple of hours? Should he rest and prepare himself for his end? Of course not! He wouldn’t waste two glorious hours in bed when he could make good time of them. He went over the window once again and looked downwards. Fifteen stories down, traffic was forming up around the park. It was the evening schedule and cars and buses were busy with their trade.  People thronged the surrounding streets, some in a hurry, some walking casually looking at the gay shop windows. The fresh evening air brushed his face and he felt in high spirits. In all his life he had never lived like today. But now he had to die. In about two hours time he would come again to this window, feel the fresh air again and then drop. But that is two hours more and until then he would enjoy himself with all the delight and sweetness of life’s extravaganza. 

Then he went down to the lobby and sat cozily on a chair. He was smoking an expensive cigar and looked interestingly at people passing by. He felt important. This was life indeed, without worries, without problems but a life of comfort and luxury. He wanted to get up and talk to anybody, mingle with the prominent businessmen that patronize the hotel, discuss with them in a friendly manner about life and its implications.  These were strange out-of-place thoughts coming from Peter who was a shy reserved little man who bitterly hated any sort of contact with other human beings let alone discussing with them personal matters. He wondered about the many people he had seen these last few minutes; he wondered if they were all as happy as he felt at the moment. Some few yards to his side, the girl in the foyer kiosk was selling the evening papers and magazines. He would get one, read about people and places and see how the world is getting on. The sales girl looked filled to the brim with life and shone with happiness. She was a sweet girl, particularly polite. He looked at her, a deep unshaken look, not without interest. But she did not even notice him! 

The Chronicle, please”, he asked her, expecting a smile or some form of conversation. She handed him the paper and continued serving other customers. It was as if he was not there; as if he did not exist. The paper was full of sad news – wars, disasters, crime, and deaths. What was there to look forward to? What was there to live for? He looked at his watch. It was five minutes past eight. The decisive hour was closing near. No more time to lose. He took the lift back to his room. He’ll savour for some more time the luxury and comfort of the Ritz.  This is a celebration after all. He would soon be free of problems, fear, illness, work, loneliness, boredom ………… He relaxed on the sofa of room 910, cigar in his mouth and a glass of champagne in his hand. His mind started to wander on the little episodes of his short life, like different photo slides changing from one episode to another.

Then it struck him! He had Myra! She had been his sincere friend these last six months. She was lovely – green eyes, soft skin and very cuddly. She had a marvelous character. She never angered him or nagged him or made excessive demands. In her white fur coat she looked like a real princess. He thought about her. He loved her so much and she loved him in return. How could he leave her? How did he not realize that she was special to him? He was not alone in this world after all!

He looked again at his watch. It was past nine o’clock now. He was supposed to have ended his life fifteen minutes ago. Myra had distracted him. She had filled his thoughts. Why did he forget her? He was sure that she would be waiting for him and would be so happy to see him back. 

No”, he exclaimed. “I’ll start again; there is so much to live for after all!” He will return to Myra, take her in his arms and kiss her. He’ll spend the evening with her at home, put on some romantic music or maybe watch television while she sits beside him.

John left the hotel room, went down the lift, settled his bill at the reception, took a taxi, arrived home, opened the door and called her, “Myra! Myra!, I’m home.” She came to him as if she was expecting him; he took her in his arms; kissed her gently; then put her down again. She purred, tail in the air and exclaimed “Miaow! Miaow!