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2006 At Last

By Marc Rugani


At Last
I wasn’t surprised.
How could I have been?
About time too!
I’m even quite surprised that they waited so long.
Twenty-eight years for one, twenty six for the other, give or take a few months; or another way of looking at it – ten years and eight years respectively since they came of age. That’s quite a while.
Why so long?
I’m quite sure that in their minds and their hearts it must have been as clear as the water that flows down mountain streams: limpidly clear, luminous! A cast-iron certainty that strengthened over the years. We’d talked about it often enough before they’d left home and again later on, and we’d agreed on every point, with no bone of contention.
So what then ?
Any remorse ? Any last minute doubts before they acted? No final blurry sentiment of filial love?
The bailiff’s letter arrived yesterday.
It was lunch-time and I was eating when the official knocked on my door.
I signed for the letter and he trundled away.
As I opened the envelope, I was seized by a premonition: isn’t this what I’d been hoping for? Was my long wait finally at an end?
Yes, that was exactly it.
What a sudden rush of joy! What a feeling of relief, what a load off my mind.
At last!
And then feelings of gratitude towards my children flooded through me. I thanked them from the bottom of my heart for this intense happiness, for this beautiful day and all the beautiful, light-filled days that would follow.
I could finally cast off the weight of this wrong that weighed so heavily on me, as it must have weighed on Cain after he had murdered his brother.
To pay my dues.
And be free.
Because I am guilty!
Totally guilty.
And of the most heinous of crimes, without a doubt; that’s what I think and feel deep in my heart and that’s what my children think and feel, too.
I thank you, dearest children!
I know how difficult such an act of love must have been for you: such an unusual thing to do, which marks the great affection you must have for your father!
I will plead guilty in court, with no extenuating circumstances.
I won’t need a lawyer: what would be the point? There’s no one to defend or save – I don’t want to be defended, let alone saved.
-“Mr..., do you acknowledge the facts, to have produced Miss... and Mr..., your two children?”
-“Yes, Your Honour.”
-“Mr..., do you acknowledge your children’s accusation, that to produce a child is a criminal act?”
-“Yes, Your Honour.”
-“A crime?”
-“Yes, Your Honour.”
-“Mr…, would you like to plead any extenuating circumstances?”
-“No, none at all,Your Honour.”
-“Mr…, even if you do not wish to defend yourself, would you like to address some words to the Court that might explain your behavior?”
-“Yes, Your Honour: Yes, I would like to explain myself.
But what I am going to say to the Court is quite unexceptional and will surprise no one.
Here we go: like every one, I have produced children.
Yes, just like everyone.
For we are constantly surrounded by pregnant women, mothers pushing prams, fathers carrying children, children playing at the school gates, youth everywhere, in every street: given that animals, birds, insects, even flowers all do exactly the same thing, they breed, they reproduce, they create offspring, it seems perfectly normal, healthy and commendable to follow their example – as you might say, it’s “natural” – and it’s abnormal, unhealthy and frowned upon to do otherwise.
We don’t ask questions, it’s obvious, it’s the norm.
So, Your Honour, I got on with it like all the rest and had children.
Like everyone else.
But beyond that fairly basic motivation, I should say that I also had children out of pride and vanity, to prove to my family, my neighbours and those around us that both myself and my wife were capable of it, thus also bolstering my confidence: “Look, I, too, can produce children.”
And why would we hide from or avoid these possibilities: perhaps out of weakness, by being unable to say no; or perhaps it’s quite the opposite and I’m actually trying to impress her, to assert myself, to show her who wears the trousers, to subjugate her in some way. Ah, all that dark stuff that we carry around with us and which dictates our behaviour.
It was also, I’m sure, a way of filling the empty space which was gradually opening up in our relationship: we still love each other, but we both know something has changed.
And then I’m able to project my dreams onto my children, hoping that they live more successful lives than mine.
Of course, like most of us, I also produced two children for posterity, out of a sub-conscious desire to ensure that my death is not a finality. With children and grandchildren around, it means that when I come to die, there will still be some continuity in this world, some future: what is more terrifying than the void?
Finally, it’s to give some greater meaning to my life: to understand why, for whom we work, perform, earn money, struggle.
So there you are, Your Honour, a few of my reasons – everybody’s reasons – for producing children.
But there is one final reason, the best, and it’s the one with which I shall finish: I also had children out of love.
Yes, just like everyone else, out of love.
I loved my wife so much! And she had such a need to be a mother!
So I gave her two children.
Out of love.
My wife would have been desperately unhappy if she had not been a mother.
And I too needed to give love to my children and receive love back from them.
Despite this, Your Honour, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, none of these reasons are good enough or sufficient, either singly or taken all together – not even the last one, and not even positive arguments such as the pleasure that my children have gained and will continue to gain from their lives. No, none of this is any excuse for having put on this earth two beings who will inevitably experience – as you well know – physical, mental and emotional suffering, and then death.
Two lives that will have no more meaning than my own.
What right have I to bring children into this world?
Once they were old enough, my children asked me “Daddy, why did you give life to us?” They were quite right to ask this most legitimate of questions.   I had no good answer to give them; and today I still don’t have.
Yes, Your Honour, I am guilty of the crime of which I stand accused by my children: that of paternity.
Entirely guilty.
I can find nothing that might absolve me of the blame, to make me less responsible.
And for this unforgivable crime I demand the ultimate punishment: the guillotine.
This is what I shall say in Court.
With no fear. Instead with happiness and relief. And a sense of release.
At last!
I hope to goodness I can persuade the Court to sentence me to death.
I can already feel the joy of putting my neck down on the block, seeing the great blade above my head and the basket that awaits it below me.
Thank you, my children, I am proud of you.
I made you and I should not have done so: I had no right; you asked nothing of me and here you are. I’m ashamed of this deed: so lightly undertaken, so casual, so conceited, so selfish, so guilty.
I know that you love your father and that this legal action has been filed out of love, because you father begged for this from the depths of his very being. You overwhelm me with your kindness and have given me the most treasured of presents.
Your father loves you. Goodbye.
I shall wait.
The court order will soon arrive. I’ll take nothing with me, no suitcase, nothing.
It is high time to pay the price and die.