You’ve been doing it now for thirty-four years, three months, a week and three days. You can be certain that you’ll go on doing it for another five minutes.
Beyond that…well, that’s up to you, isn’t it?
Because someone else isn’t inhaling and exhaling anymore. Someone who matters.
You? You’re just using up oxygen.
He was using oxygen. Not using up oxygen. One word of difference, and a short word at that. Two letters. The difference between him and you. We don’t need a long word to explain something that important, do we? We’d better not because if you haven’t worked it out by now, the next five minutes are going to be a waste of time as well as oxygen.
Well, four and a quarter now.
No, don’t say anything. Don’t say a single word until you’re certain of what you want to say, otherwise you might waste my time. My time is valuable. I should have years of it ahead of me. Decades. Minutes by the million. And every one of them more valuable than your paltry…three and three quarters.
So don’t waste my minutes by telling me you don’t know anything about the premature cessation of his inhalation and exhalation. I know that’s what you want to say. You may even add that you don’t know who I’m talking about. You’re predictable, which is one of many reasons why your inhalations and exhalations are worth so much less than mine. Or his.
Or anyone’s that I can think of.
I was telling you his breathing mattered. I won’t tell you why because it mattered so much more than I have time to explain in three minutes.
All you need to know is that he mattered to people who matter even more than I do.
Are you beginning to see where you stand in the hierarchy of oxygen use? Did I say stand? I should have said cringe. Or cower. Or cling on to the bottom of by your fingernails.
I’m talking about people whose oxygen use mattered more than his did. That was the decision those people took and when the people I speak of take a decision, that decision is swiftly enacted.
But even their decisions are not free of consequences.
When a healthy man ceases to use oxygen, explanations are required. Only if he uses it, you understand, no one would care if he was merely using it up. But he was using oxygen so repercussions are anticipated. Repercussions are directed down the hierarchy of oxygen use.
From the likes of them to the likes of me, and further down until they land on the inconsequential head of the likes of you.
So don’t tell me what you don’t know anything about. If I doubted the full extent of your ignorance, I wouldn’t be wasting your minute and fifty seconds by talking to you. I’d be asking you questions so you could, for once in your life, use oxygen by providing useful answers. But I do know it, so I have only one question to put to you which you will answer in with a single word.
You will utter that word in the full knowledge that any word but one will leave you with a minute of inhalation and exhalation. Closer to thirty seconds by the time we get to it. That’s – what? – two of each. Maybe three. You might push it to five or maybe even six at the rate you’re using up oxygen at the moment. It’s very wasteful of you.
The word I seek will guarantee you more than six inhalations and exhalations. That much I promise you, if nothing more.
I credit you with the intelligence to know the word of which I speak.
So when you think about your choice of words, think carefully. But more importantly, think briefly.
Here is the question:
Did you murder him?