There are 86,400 seconds in a day.
This is a true story.
I guess you never really know when your own will start but in hindsight I know his began on Friday February the 11th at 10.23pm.
Ronnie was 19 and clever. He had worked hard to get to college and study a subject he loved - chemistry. Now I know what some of you may be thinking but that was what set Ronnie’s pulse racing. It was the movement of electrons and the swish of the molecules that set his heart on fire; none of us are the same, we just do what we do.
The university was one of the old Scottish traditional types situated on a hill and established five hundred long years before. Going here had made his family proud. Not only was their son going to a good university, but he was going to be a chemist.
Ronnie was one of those lucky ones, always in the top percentile of a class, happy, smiling and always popular. It’s a gift that not many of us taste.
It was called Higher Ordinary, the class. It was second year for those that had survived the trench warfare of the year before. In their first year lectures were mobbed and seats were filled, five hundred in the morning and another five hundred in the afternoon. This was a long time ago when science was popular and before everyone wanted to be on television. Now in the second year things were quieter and although there were still several hundred students, everyone knew everyone else.
The week always finished with a Friday afternoon of laboratory work which some found exciting and just as many thought of as a chore. Ronnie loved this class, it meant he was either going home to the South West to see his family, or he was staying at college to enjoy a weekend of work and socialising.
Although Saint Valentine’s day was on the following Monday, the college were holding a dance in the Men’s union on the night of Saturday the 12th. Ronnie was determined he was going to go to that, it was a party and half the chemistry class would be there.
The Chemistry mob had their own social club called the Alchemists. It was fun in the later years, but for the new starts with their wide eyes and innocence it was a club to be looked down upon and derided. A behaviour that was perpetuated by those who been spurned in their initial year. They took their revenge from the dizzy heights of second and third years.
Many of the Alchemist Society were going to the dance and so it seemed stupid for young Ronnie not to go. He wore the only real suit he had, one he would hope to use for interviews when his course was over. He really should have been studying that weekend but he was very clever and fast in the take up and he would get by.He always did.
Although he was popular, he was always a boy that liked his own independence, so he never arranged to meet anyone there – the chances are, he always did. He would travel to the dances on his own and depending on his luck, he would either walk home alone or with a friend.
He got ready for the dance early that Saturday night as he’d stayed in the evening before to save money, meaning he could enjoy himself without the usual guilt. It was still light when he headed over by the Cross and into University Avenue and as was always the way of things, he met a couple of the guys from class, me included.
Eight pm and we entered the bar at the Men’s union. In those days the University had a ‘men only’ bar and a ‘men only’ union. The girls had their own union but apart from certain rooms, theirs tended to be mixed.
Nine pm and we all headed upstairs to the dance hall (that’s what we called it back then) and the place was beginning to get busy with the St. Valentine’s crowd.
Ten pm and Ronnie decided he wanted to get back and do some work, we had a large exam coming up the following Tuesday. We said goodbye and Ronnie walked up over University Avenue.
As he was crossing the road, he was bumped by a man coming the other way.
The man had broken into a butcher’s shop a little way up the street and stolen a knife.
He stabbed the first person he met, this happened to be Ronnie.
No one noticed Ronnie lying on the street at first. He just looked like another drunk, in a city of drunks.
When the passerby saw the amount of blood coming from under Ronnie’s arm, he ran to the nearest telephone and called an ambulance.
A woman came over and held his head. She noted that all he did was moan.
Ronnie’s breathing became more erratic.
The ambulance arrived and the paramedics checked for life signs. Ronnie’s pulse was weakening.
Ronnie stopped breathing.