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Details Matter

I know I must be the last person you want to hear from, and an open letter would seem only further insult, but your continued silence has forced my hand.

I send this missive in the name of Righteousness, in the name of Hope. Above all, I send this in the name of Love.

The world is getting faster. The amount of information is overwhelming. Our news is reduced to sound bites, headlines and tweets, and in this brave new world of low or no attention span, something is lost. Something crucial, something beautiful. Complexity, nuance, depth; this is the colour in our world, but it’s been sacrificed.

You’ve chosen the side of the media, the public, and the so called “justice system” in making me a pariah, but you’ve never heard the truth. I understand your anger, but I hope my words can return you to a sense of calm.

Eager to begin the process of turning my research notes into something coherent after returning from two months overseas, my mind was elsewhere when I walked into the most striking lady running in the opposite direction. We both tumbled to the ground and my papers flew everywhere. Before I could gather my senses, a knife was at my throat and I could hear someone stating loudly that a reckoning was a'coming.

I’m not sure how close I came to death at that moment, but it felt very near. I repeatedly apologised for my carelessness, and eventually my pleas seemed to quell her anxiety, if not her confusion. We introduced ourselves as I helped her to her feet. Her name was Penny, but as I was to learn, she hadn’t a penny to her name.

Penny had travelled north on business earlier in the morning, when she was accosted at gunpoint by a group of masked men. They demanded all her belongings, but seemed particularly interested in the small red case she was using to transport a large amount of cash, to be used as security on a country acreage in the Lake District. Penny was convinced the men knew the contents of the case, and had been expecting her. She collapsed into tears as she reached the end of her story. Through her sobs she pondered how she would ever get home without money or possessions.

I told her she needn’t worry, as I would gladly pay for her safe passage, but Penny flatly refused. All she needed at that moment was water, so she could take her medicine. I suggested the nearby public house, and although hesitant given her station, she eventually agreed.

The medicine, three orange pills taken with cubed solid water surrounded by fermented and distilled corn, seemed to immediately lift her spirits. She demanded I take the same dosage, but as I was perfectly healthy I didn’t see the logic. Penny explained the medicine was preventative, but what it prevented she wasn’t quite sure, such was its efficacy.

As she clearly wasn’t taking no for an answer, I took the medicine, desperately hoping she would lower her voice and stop making such a scene. She did indeed lower her voice, and what followed was the most intense and engaging connection.

Though my recollection of events past this point of the evening isn’t perfect, I learnt many things about Penny and about the world. She was an independently wealthy individual, a woman of considerable means and influence. She vowed to use all her power to find the men who stole from her. I was also stunned to learn she was fifty-seven, for although as an experienced ethnobotanist I had seen beauty in countless forms, none could compare to Penny.

I’ll admit we got lost in each other that night. I don’t care how that sounds. I’d never shared so much of myself without even an inkling of hesitation. By a man’s watch it would have appeared the briefest of encounters, but to us it felt eternal. It still amazes me to think that a fleeting encounter can alter a man so radically.

Penny changed me forever.

I repeated my offer to pay her passage home, and she repeated her refusal. Penny would take no charity. Consider it a loan, I said, but she refused to be indebted to me. I couldn’t understand, after everything we had shared, but Penny said without our principles we were nothing.

I asked her how on Earth she expected to make her way home. She asked if my boots needed polishing, or any of my clothes mending, but they did not. Penny insisted she would only accept the money in exchange for trade.

I told her there was nothing I needed, but Penny told me that she could see in my eyes a growing need I could not hide, and she was right.

Our choice of location lacked privacy and on reflection that was a mistake, but in my medicated state the fact it wasn’t secluded may have added to the thrill. It’s interesting how quickly the thrill evaporates when you get caught by a group of geologists returning from a conference. I still curse the terrible timing, for five minutes either way and no one would have been hurt. I also curse the camera phone.

I know how this dalliance must look to the world at large, because the story they know lacks complexity, nuance and depth. The colour has been stripped to fit a well worn narrative of goodies and baddies, heroes and villains.

Details matter. Facts matter. The truth matters. I needed to write this, to set the record straight, to try to return some semblance of justice to this broken world. The damn tragedy of it all is that after everything I’ve written, you’ll probably still only focus on the fact your mother jacked me off at a bus terminal for twelve bucks.

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