For ‘Hazel’. Because you alone said I would be the girl who did.
As a teenager, Albert Camus was, shall we say, significant. to me. I wrote this significance into being in Killing Hapless Annie. There is more than of a shred of truth in the ‘Hazel’ story. I am working on this bit this afternoon. I hated being a teenager mostly, so I’m doing it now, fuck-off unencumbered and healthy. Can’t tell you who JK is, or reveal what happened with Albert. You’ll have to buy the book! But this is hardly a revelation: you need someone – just someone – to believe in you as a kid.
Albert’s cadences were delicious: he was declaiming phrases of profound, shattering erotic power to Annie’s ear. And by God he had enough style to be vulgar, if he wanted. Albert had a history of manly pursuits, too: goalie for Algiers; a fine swimmer and athlete. She had a sense of his being a consummate man. Funny; brave; a demon in the bedroom – if you ever got that far, because what are walls, floors and furniture for? And unlike JK, he could have built a wall or changed a tyre with those strong hands. On the occasions when Annie went to other girls’ bedrooms, she saw they had pictures of The Cure, or Bono, when he was ragged, young and angry. She, meanwhile, had a picture of Albert Camus next to her desk. People said, ‘Who’s that?’ and she said, ‘My godfather. The notion seemed entirely, naughtily fitting, for the Camus books, en Français, that Annie possessed, had been bequeathed to her, as you learned earlier, by her godmother Hazel, studying Camus at The Sorbonne. Perhaps Hazel had been similarly intoxicated, which made the life of Friday pie and Monday spotted dick even more depressing. So the honorific seemed fitting. Plus it felt like Albert watched over Hapless Annie in a proprietary and manly style.
L’Étranger was inscribed with the words “Hazel Griffiths, Paris, le 19 Janviér 1962” and Annie had always hoped that, in leaving France for Terry, his mother’s pie and a new life in Tyneside, Hazel was able to say, like Camus’s protagonist “J’ai senti que j’avais êté heureux.” She hoped it was like this for Hazel especially when the morphine gave her respite from pain and the unexamined life downstairs, punctuated by the sickening puffs of air freshener from the Cyclamen Terrace plug-ins.
Now, all those years it never mattered to Annie that Camus had been dead ten years before she was born: he was there on her wall now.
Godfather. Most louche, brilliant, gorgeous godfather.