Salmon told me that he thought more people should commit suicide.
Especially religious people, he said. I asked him if he meant suicide
bombers, like that Pakistani guy they arrested in the toyshop on Regent
Street. No, he told me, that Pakistani guy didn't commit suicide. He
said I shouldn't call them Pakistani guys. I asked what I was supposed
to call them instead. Salmon said I should call them guys from
Pakistan. He said I shouldn't label people according to circumstance.
We were walking from his house to my house. Every day we made the same
journey. I walked alone to his house, smoking a joint, we walked
together to my house, sharing a joint, and then he walked back alone to
his house. Probably smoking one last joint.
My mom killed herself, I told him. He said that he was sorry, for me,
personally, but at the same time he thought my mom had done a good
thing. The world was overpopulated. Somebody had to take a lead on
this, or we'd all be in deep shiatsu. He was sorry for me personally,
he said again, but definitely, on an abstract level, what my mom had
done was making a difference in a grander scheme of, you know, what
Normally I provided the weed we smoked and Salmon rolled, but today
Salmon had, rarity of rarities, got hold of some squidgy black, all by
himself. He'd already rolled it into little joints, mixed with tobacco.
The joints smoked a lot faster than our joints normally did, and I
think Salmon must've been stoned even before I'd got to his house.
He sounded like he was getting lost in the ideas behind his idea, so I
set him free. My mom didn't really kill herself, I said. I just made
that up to test you. We both knew then that in one sense, Salmon had
passed the test. He'd said more people should kill themselves, and he'd
stuck by it, even when that person was my mom. But also he'd failed the
test, because it was a test of friendship. Most tests will judge you on
many levels. It's how math exams can be racist. We didn't say much more
until we reached the bakery place.
Halfway between our houses was a bakery place that sold the best banana
bread in all the world. It's entirely possible that this bakery
survived purely to service the needs of Salmon and me, although they
appeared unaware of their true raison d'etre. We went inside and bought
two banana loaves, the same thing we bought every day. One time Salmon
had gone in and said to the girl behind the counter 'The usual, please'
and she didn't know what he was talking about. 'The usual what?' she
said. Ever since then, we'd been perfectly specific ordering.
So tell me properly, I said, why people should commit suicide. He said
that if I wanted him to tell me properly then it would help if I lost
the attitude, for one thing. I said hold on a minute. I patted my
pockets, even the pocket on my shirt that covered my left nipple, I
lifted up my hat, looked underneath it. I said Oh, crap. He said what?
I said My attitude. I've lost it. Salmon didn't laugh, though I think
he knew it was pretty funny.
The girl in the bakery didn't laugh either. She was still waiting for
one of us to pay her for the banana bread. Probably Salmon had thought
my pocket patting routine was me pretending I'd forgotten my wallet.
Is it to do with overpopulation? I asked. Forget it, he said. You're
just going to poke fun at me. No, I promised him, I wouldn't do that.
He said that was exactly what I would do. You don't get it, he said to
me. That's fine. Most people don't .
We started eating the bread even before we left the bakery. The best
thing in the world, bar none, is to leave this bakery eating banana
bread and blaze up another joint as soon as you're fresh out the door.
I started making a list of people I thought should commit suicide. Kim
Khardashian, I said, though I've nothing really against her. I've never
seen her show. I just know she fits that slot at the moment, the one
that used to be Paris Hilton's. The Pope, said Salmon. The Pope should
be the first one to kill himself. It didn't feel so much like a game
when Salmon played it.
What did the Pope ever do? I asked. Salmon smiled, and I felt like he
knew something I didn't know. We finished the bread and we arrived at
my place. I said goodbye, went in, and Salmon went back home. Back
upstream, as he put it.
"Hey dad," I said, safely locked inside. He'd been to the hospital
again. "How's mum?"
"The same," he said. Neither good news nor bad. "Did you tell Salmon?"
"No," I said. I was going to say something else, but thought better of
Dad's eyes were pink again, and it was hard to focus on them. I looked
at the wrapper from the banana bread instead, found a crumb I hadn't
eaten, then another, then one more, and so on, until Dad wasn't there