We need to talk.
Before I start, I need you to know that you still mean so much to me, and you look more beautiful than you ever have before. But now, when I look into your soulless, abnormally blue eyes (are you wearing contacts?) I can see that you've changed; the man I see before me isn't the man I fell in love with.
How did it come to this? How did we get here, 47? We used to be so happy. So perfectly happy. I remember the day we met: I visited a friend who introduced me to you. Sure, you weren't perfect, but I didn't care; you were different, and I loved you for that. We spent what seemed like hours infiltrating that mafioso's house but we got there in the end, didn't we? I still remember how incredible it felt when we worked it out. And then we did it again, only this time much more quickly, thanks to our newly-acquired sniper rifle. How I delighted when you deftly popped our target's Italian-American noggin whilst he stood on the balcony, practicing his golf swing.
From that moment, I knew you were special. I'd never met a man like you before in my entire life. I never have since. Over the years, the more time we spent together, the more and more I fell in love with you. Things got really dark at one point ,what with that rave we went to in a (literal) meat factory, but I loved that side of you.
Just when I thought things couldn't get any better, we had the golden years. It was truly a privilege to see you grow and change before my eyes. No matter how much time I spent with you, I never grew bored. We would visit the same half a dozen places but, every time, you would find something new for us to do. Admittedly, it always involved killing someone but, like I always say, if you can't have fun pushing joggers down open manholes then there's something wrong with you.
You were sophisticated and subtle. You even had a newfound, dark sense of humour: remember when you put on that clown outfit and injected that bloke's neck with lethal poison? We laughed and laughed and laughed. What about when you dressed up as Santa and threw a kitchen knife from the second floor at a pool party and it landed in that playboy's dick? I'll never forget those moments.
Then you left. Six and a half years I waited. When you came back, you were a different man.
I know I should have written this letter earlier but the truth is I've been putting off seeing you. I'd heard from others that you'd changed. There were murmurs at first about you being crude and misogynistic, charmless, aggressive, loud, unsubtle, overly murderous.
A lot of people seemed upset with you, but not everyone. Had you really changed that much? I knew I had to find out for myself. I admit that, in spite of myself, I felt a small frisson of excitement when we started dating again. I started to think – and hope – that people had got you wrong. However, as the dates you took me on got worse and worse, I started to feel like I was spending time with a stranger.
That first walk we had around Chinatown was lovely. We took our time, soaked in the atmosphere, the fireworks were beautiful and the busy crowds full of life were spectacular. It made me think of our time at the Mardis Gras all those years ago. It was just like the old days. I felt cautiously happy – these idiots didn't know you, not like I did. I could see that, underneath, you were the same person you always were. The way you nicked a fugu fish and poisoned that triad lad with it. Perfection. You always did love killing the Chinese. I started to think I might fall back in love with you, I started to think I had my Silent Assassin back.
The hotel we went to afterwards changed all that. You were like a different person, just like that. It was as if you had a split personality. I shrugged it off and dutifully followed you through corridor after corridor, presuming you would come to your senses soon enough. But it wasn't to be. You dragged me through that godawful library and told me it would be fun to run across the rooftops where that helicopter was. It wasn't.
You used to have such impeccable taste; the sort of man who would carefully select and patiently sip at a well-aged red wine from an exclusive Bordeaux vineyard, then choke the life out of the vineyard owner and his son. Now, it seemed like you'd be more at home downing a bottle of Lambrini found in the bins around the back of a budget supermarket, before staggering into the street with no pants on and glassing a vicar.
You exhibited further classiness when you took me to a strip club, as if I hadn't seen one of those before. It wasn't even a club with an interesting gimmick or theme, just the same old shit that you see everywhere else; your typical titty bar with a thumping house soundtrack. It's probably quite telling that this was still the best place you'd taken me to since Chinatown, although the back alleys you insisted we trudge through to get there were excruciating.
A thought crossed my mind that made my heart sink: were you doing this on purpose? Were you trying to push me away? You must have known prior to taking me to these places that I would hate them, but you dragged me through them anyway. It's almost as if you were trying to put me off and attract someone new.
What were you thinking, taking me to an orphanage full of dead nuns, by the way? I suppose you were trying to shock me, trying to hark back to those days when you were dark and mysterious? It pained me to think you had become so obvious and cliché.
We went to that bar, there was a big fight and somehow we ended up in a gun shop. You must have noticed the strain I was under at this point, how hard I was trying to like you again, how I was still waiting and hoping that we would suddenly click, in spite of the miserable time I was having.
You finally broke my spirit by taking me out back to the shooting gallery. I scraped together what remained of my resolve to have a go at it for you, put on a brave face and thought to myself " it's okay, just get though this bit, it'll be fine". But no, you weren't satisfied; you asked me to do it a second time because I hadn't done well enough.
That's when I walked away; well, more specifically, that's when I walked away, picked up a lead pipe and shattered the shopkeeper's cheekbone with it. It was the most fun I'd had in hours, if I'm honest.
You pushed me to this, 47. I tried to love you again, you gave me nothing back. Nothing. And yet you have the gall to send me this letter, telling me you'll change, that you'll go back to the way you were. I just don't believe you. I can't believe you. I can't have my heart broken again, I need to move on. I can't waste any more hours of my life on you.
You used to have to sneak your way into a suburban street, inject a low-paid children's entertainer in the neck with a sedative solution when nobody was looking, conceal the body and take his clothes to disguise yourself as a clown. Nowadays, I can't tell the difference anyway.
Gareth Dutton is a beautiful beast who captures rays of light, such as those seen above, in a mysterious handheld device. Sometimes, he writes words.