I have a strong desire to make money, or rather a big need to. And everybody knows that ’cause I tell everybody. So when my father mentions the job I take it as a business proposal. He has two friends in the hospital, he says, one of them I know very well; Maurice has been father’s poker friend forever. The other has a familiar face, long and wrinkled with droopy eyes, just like his wife’s, who must be at his bedside holding his hand. They’re very sick and in great pain, father says, and they want to put an end to it. They’re willing to pay someone to kill them. I look straight at father and say, “I’ll do it.” It feels like the right thing to say. His heavy gaze zooms to my face and pauses. Then suddenly he continues, “OK; here’s the plan. They want you to buy a can of spray adhesive, go to their room, and spray it into their faces. They’ll die right away.” “Okay, I’ll do that,” I say.
To volunteer to kill is one thing, to kill is another. All I have is the little piece of paper on which father scribbled the name of a hospital and a room number. I look at the information and feel confident I’ve memorized it. But I don’t tear up the paper fearing that my mind might go blank in a moment of panic.
I buy the spray adhesive from a big art supply store where I don’t normally shop. I also buy a few extras with it, anything to make things seem normal. It’s hot and I sweat more than usual. I don’t want to look like a slob; I’ll be the last person these two people will see. I go home and shower. I wear a sleeveless shirt and a knee-length skirt loose enough to run if I have to, and transfer the spray adhesive from its rustling brown paper bag into a leather purse big enough to cover it.
As I go through security at the hospital, I feel lucky to have a weapon so easy to hide. I confidently recite the name of the patients and room number at the reception desk and manage to get my visitor’s pass without showing an ID or signing in; so far, so good.
The door of my clients’ room is closed. I stop in front of it, heart throbbing in my ears. I’ve unzipped my purse coming up in the elevator, and now I stick my hand into the bag and take the lid off the spray-adhesive. I realize how apprehensive I must look when I notice a beautiful African nurse in a celestial-blue uniform pushing an old lady in a wheelchair. They look at me as though they can read my mind, they know what I’m about to do, and won’t stop me. Everything that is bound to be will be—which only makes what I’m about to do seem more inevitable.
I turn the doorknob and enter the room. I’m surprised when I see a hall and a reception desk rather than a room full of beds and patients. The hall leads to rooms; I peer into the first room and recognize the arch of the woman’s back leaning over the bed; she’s the wife of my second client. Standing around the front desk in the hall are five, six people. Maurice is sitting behind the desk along with a few others; he gazes at me without blinking. I don’t know what he’s doing up there. Maybe he wants to work till his last breath, or maybe he doesn’t want to welcome death lying down. He shows no sign of pain, nor of having known me since birth; what I read in his eyes is not fear but determination.
My hand touches the can. Calm down, you can do it; calm down, you should do it I command myself. All I have to do is walk up to him and spray. I know there are surveillance cameras pointed at me from the corners of the room, but I should be able to pull it off if I’m fast. I could always hide in a room and change into a patient’s outfit.
The people in the hall begin to notice my presence. A few look at me curiously and go back to their business. I want to get moving. I want to end my father’s friend’s torment and report it proudly to father. I also want to earn money, and pay some debts. Maurice’s gaze tells me to go ahead.
Streams of sweat flow down my armpits. I take the can out, extend my arm and watch it shake. I try to keep it straight; I seek inner strength to successfully complete the assignment. Please, oh god, please, let it quickly be a few hours later when this moment will already be behind me, gone and forgotten.
But I can’t do it. I give up. I just can’t kill. I am not yet strong enough to complete a task this difficult. I take a last look at Maurice and leave.
When I return home that evening father simply says, “You could have done it.”
Lisa Sardinas is a Turkish writer/filmmaker living in Brooklyn.
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