My door is wide open. All I have to do is sit back and wait. You understand how this works, don’t you, dear reader? Do I need to spell it out? They’re just like you. We all want the same thing, really. “What do you mean, Mr Deo?” Attention – that’s what we want. And I can give it to them. Just like God. He’s always there, isn’t He? Always listening? That’s why people love to pray. Not because they think God will forgive them or save their lives or protect their loved ones. Most people know He can’t. Some choose to ignore the evidence, but the majority know that their Almighty is incapable of doing anything for them. But they keep hoping and believing because He does always listen. And that’s enough for them: that attention, that omnipresent listening ear.
The main difference between you, dear reader, and the men in here is that you got all the attention you ever needed. Or maybe not, or to a lesser extent. Whatever the case may be: if you didn’t get enough, you never lose your manic desire for attention. It’s a lot like hunger, really. A hunger that can last a lifetime. You become insatiable. Especially if you got too little in your youth. Then you come up with all sorts of schemes to get the attention you need. You kill people or you rob them. (Have I got your attention now?) You’re arrested and interrogated. (Finally, I’m getting the attention I deserve.) A lawyer is appointed. (They’re paying someone to listen to me!) You have to stand trial. (Everyone is talking about me!) And then you’re charged and locked up. Suddenly you’re sharing space with the most dangerous attention-seekers in the world.
Have you ever wondered why so many criminals return to their delinquent ways, dear reader? Why some never learn their lesson? It’s a terrible addiction, the desire for attention. You could say I’m their dealer in here. Handing out free fixes. At least, that’s what they think. Watch how this works. The Card Club is on a toilet break. Shark’s not around, and Numb seizes the opportunity to come over. He leans on my table. The words love and hate are tattooed on his knuckles. Does it get more predictable? Yes, it does. “What did that fuckin’ perve want?” The skin around his nose shrivels in disgust, pulling his thin eyebrows down, baring his rotten teeth. His breath smells like banana. Not unpleasant.
“Are you left- or right-handed?” I ask.
“Right. Why?” He makes a fist with his love hand.
“So, you’re more about love?”
“What do you mean?”
“Your right hand is stronger, and it has love tattooed on it.”
He looks at his fist. “That’s true.”
“But it’s also your weapon hand.”
“Bang-bang!” He shoots the finger pistol at me.
“That’s not very loving.”
“No,” he agrees. “What are you writing?”
“I’m writing about you.”
“Seriously?” He pushes the chair that Gramps used aside and sits down on another. “Can I read it?”
“Rather not. There are things in here about other people too.”
“About that fuckin’ pervert?”
“Yes, about him, too.”
“Come on, man…”
“Nope, sorry. Oath of confidentiality.”
“Confidentiality? Are you a priest or something?”
“I’m a journalist. Either I tell everyone or I tell no one.”
“Yeah, right…” he says.
“Yo, Numbnuts!” Shark calls from the Card Club.
“There’s no need for that, Shark,” says Henk.
Numb gets up immediately. “See you around,” he says and saunters back to the Card Club.
Read our interview with de Nooy here.
Photograph: Chris van Houts