I was once witness to the terrible consequences of loose talk, and have been very careful ever since.
This happened years ago. John and I were in the pub trying to chat up two girls who had already told us they were married.
I had seen this all before – girls who were married didn’t go out on the town by themselves. If they weren’t lying, then they were unhappily married. That was John’s theory, so we continued undeterred – and they seemed to like it (and us) – however, as the drinks flowed, talk got looser.
It turned out that Julie was indeed unhappy in her marriage, her husband was a useless unemployed drunk. She was fed up earning all the money and working long hours just so that he could lie on the couch all day drinking.
John had had a few by now. He knew he was too drunk now to make good any amorous advances, but his mind still worked, albeit without the usual constraints of caution, propriety and inhibition. This was one of those turning points. A game-changer.
He leaned forward and spoke so softly that we all had to lean in to glean what he was saying.
“I say you dump this guy and move on; you can do better for yourself and you’re not getting any younger.”
“But I can’t – he needs me, he depends on me…”
“No, no, not at all; you’re actually keeping him down. Cut him loose; it would be the best thing for him. Believe me.”
“But where would I go?”
“Go? No, you go nowhere – he goes.”
“But I can’t just throw him out without a reason.”
“Is he bad to you?”
“No, not really, he’s bad FOR me. As I said, he just does nothing. He’s always just lying there zonked out on the couch in front of the TV, a waste of space…”
“If I could tell you how to get rid of him in the quickest, easiest and most painless way possible, would you be interested to hear it?”
“I’m telling you he won’t go just like that, it won’t be easy …”
“But it could be; I know a way – and you’d be the hero too, you’d be the good guy and he’d be the bastard. Would you be interested in hearing the plan now?”
“Yes, I flippin’ would, because that’s nigh on impossible, John, seriously!”
“OK, here’s what you do: you go home, you find him zonked out on the couch as usual, dead to the world, right?”
“Right, so you carefully place the lamp on it’s side on the carpet, and do the same with ornaments, pictures, and whatever else you have. Make it look like there’s been a struggle and things have been knocked over. You can even extend the idea to another room, pour something on the carpet, whatever.”
“And all this while he’s drunk asleep on the couch?”
“Exactly. Now you need to rip your blouse, get your hair pulled this way and that, ruin your make-up. Girls can do wonderful things with make-up. All that matters is that you have to look like you’ve been beaten up in a big struggle. Then pick up the phone in the other room and cry and sob and wail down it that he’s gonna kill you and plead for help to the police.”
We all stopped and looked at John. Julie’s eyes were as big as her surprise could make them.
“But the police will arrive and wake him up – he’ll just say he didn’t do it…”
“Ah, but,” John said, “They won’t believe him – they’ll see you, they’ll see the state of the place, and they’ll drag him out of there in two seconds flat.”
I chipped in: “Just say he passed out waiting for you to come out from hiding or something.”
“But – and I’m only asking for the sake of argument – what would happen next? Wouldn’t he just get let off a warning or something” Julie asked.
“Well, the police will warn him not to visit you because you would have seen a lawyer.”
“Yes, a lawyer – to stop this violence once and for all…”
“All the months and years of suffering that he’s put you through, and that you so skillfully hid from the world. The physical and mental torture you kept behind closed doors, you poor thing!”
“Jeez. He’d deny everything…”
“Yeah, and who’s gonna believe an unemployed drunkard who beats his caring wife and then blacks out?”
And that is how the evening went. Drinks were drunk, thoughts were thought, drunks were ejected onto the street, into cabs, and home to sleep it all off. It was just chat, it was pub banter. We knew she wouldn’t have the gumption to carry out such a nefarious plan – who could?
Look, she must have loved the guy to get married in the first place. She must still love him if she’s been putting up with him as he is. And like most women, she probably thinks she can change him. And like most wives, she’ll be long-suffering. If they don’t survive, or prevail, after a fashion, they’ll eventually split up somewhere down the line – because that is what happens.
That is what is supposed to happen.
But Julie did listen, and what she heard resonated within her. She had the power now, and she liked that. She could be proactive, she could pull the plug any time that she wanted, and that was excitingly empowering.
When she got home to find her once-beloved lying on the couch pissed, and beside him was a half-finished takeaway curry and a splash of vomit drying into her good carpet, she realised that she was no longer in the mood for all this.
It was six months before I was back in that particular bar. I was early to meet up with a couple of pals I hadn’t seen since uni, and there she was in a booth. I caught her eye and nodded in polite recognition – the usual cursory acknowledgement before turning to the barman. She was suddenly beside me.
“I did it!” She pulled on my elbow.
“Eh? What? You did it?”
“Yeah – I did it. I got rid of Charlie!”
“Aw, don’t you remember? We were all here a few months back and your pal John came up with a scheme to help me get rid of Charlie…”
“Nah! No way! Are you saying you did one of John’s madcap schemes? You took all that seriously?”
“I am – and I did!” She beamed.
“Jeez. You seem happy on it…”
“I am indeed. Never been happier – I have a new man too.” She indicated a chap over in the booth. “He’s great. We’re great. Together. It’s night and day. John turned my life around – when’s he coming in?”
“Oh, he’s not – I am not meeting up with him tonight, just other pals as it happens.”
“Ah, well, I wish he was coming because I would just like to than him for being a genius!”
“Did it all go to plan then?”
“To the letter. Charlie didn’t know what hit him! You know what’s most funny about all this? Charlie believes he’s been blacking out and battering me. He believes it himself!”
“No – it’s been the best thing for him too; he’s dried out, sorted himself out, turned his life around. He’s even about to start a wee job! I just cannot thank you two enough! If Charlie knew, he’d probably thank you too!”
And that was that. From a careless, half drunken rant, a dream schemed up on a lager’d evening to pass the time – an amusing diversion… to wham! And lives have changed forever! Cause and effect. Consequences.
And before you think that it all worked out for the best – just as Julie told me – it didn’t.
Julie’s was only one side of the story.
Charlie’s version was rather different as we found out later… but that’ll keep for another time.