Brownlow went on with his packing but kept stopping to look at Shahid - who was turning the aubergine in his hand - like he wanted to say something. "The thing is, this religion - the superstitions, cults, forms of worship, prayers - some are beautiful, some interesting, all have their purposes. But who'd have imagined they'd survive rationalism? Yet just when you thought God was dead and buried, you realize he was merely awaiting resurrection! Every fucker's discovering some God inside them now. And who am I to challenge this?"
"Exactly. I'd say you're just a weak bastard, Dr. Brownlow."
"Thank you. Are they the fools or am I the fool? Where does that leave me?"
Where could it leave you?"
"Because, because, you i-idiot, everything I believed has turned into shit. There we were, right up to the end of the seventies, arguing about society after the r-revolution, the nature of the dialectic, the meaning of history. And all the while, as we debated in our journals, it was being taken from us. The British people didn't want e-education, housing, the a-arts, justice, equality . . . "
Because they're a bunch of fucking greedy, myopic c-cunts."
"The working class?"
"A bunch of cunts?"
"Yes!" Brownlow struggled to contain himself. "No, no, it's more complicated. Very complicated." He was sobbing. "I can't say they've betrayed us - though I think it, I do! It's not true, not true! They've b-b-betrayed themselves!"
He untucked his shirt and wiped it across his drenched face. He threw down his hands, put his head back and, with his lips quivering, angled his thinker's forehead at the ceiling.
"C-c-cut my throat. Please. Lost in more than my fortieth year - no direction home! End me before things get w-w-w-worse!"
Shahid leapt up and rushed to the window. Thinking he'd heard Chad coughing, he concealed himself behind the dusty curtain and peered outside.
"You don't have to plead, Brownlow, the throat-cutters are checking the address right now. They'll be coming up the front path. If you stay in that position, redemption will be on the way!"
Shahid could see no one. But it was dark, and if his enemies did reach him, he'd be trapped here; and Brownlow gibbering like Gogol's madman awaiting the straitjacket, would hardly provide cover.