“Are you sure about this?” she asks me with a trembling voice.
This is the worst part of my job: Hearing their fear seeping through the cracks of their voices. It’s like a thick, black, poisonous liquid, slowly spreading on the ground, making its way toward me. I mentally jump back to escape the poison before it reaches the soles of my shoes. If I let it touch me, it would scorch me whole like acid.
No matter how sure they seem in the end, how much in love, and how desperate, they’re always afraid when it comes to acting. Etched in the black box of our brains by hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, that default survival instinct always comes out, defying death, and love for that matter. How can another person be more important than yourself? it would ask. Why would you die for him? Die with him? Why can’t you just consider other ways to be with the man you love? Divorcing your husband, for instance, and getting married to the one you love? Or eloping with your lover, leaving everything behind and starting all over in a strange country, with a new name? Surely your love is strong enough to start over if you think yourself brave enough to die for it. Why is it always have to be death?
They don’t need to say a word. I hear everything they contemplate. It’s my cue then, to assure them that it is the only way.
“Yes, I’m sure about this,” I say. “Without you, there’s no life, yet, we can’t have a future together either. How can I take you away from your husband who can give you every comfort you need? How can I take care of you when I don’t have anything, any qualifications, or any value? How can I drag you into my misery or look at your face with the knowledge that I’m the reason you suffer in this world? I’d sooner die.”
This is where I step closer. I grab her hands first and bring them to my lips. I kiss them tenderly, let go of them, and cup her face with my hands. I lean in and kiss her forehead with a burning passion. Every move is calculated. Not one action is wasted or improvised.
“No, my darling,” I go on, after my little ritual. “Death is better than seeing you hurt. Therefore, I’m sure. There’s nothing left for me, other than dying for our love.”
Hearing my speech, they usually shed a tear or two at this point. A plump, salty, excellent-shaped tear would dangle on the very edge of their perfectly long, jet-black eyelashes. No matter how many shields I put up to protect my emotional self, I can never help but watch the beauty of this one moment, extending through time. By the time this exquisite tear drops on their pale cheeks resembling an ink blotch, they make up their mind on following me to death.
She makes up her mind too and kisses me deeply –the only way she knows to convey all her love to the man for whom she is about to die. With wet cheeks, she puts her hand out. The softest, most understanding expression swims in her beautiful eyes. It’s okay, they seem to say, I’m not letting you go alone.
This is the one part that scares me about myself. I have no idea how I do it. But I’ve done it countless times before and I do it now. I mechanically drop a pill on her open, beautiful, white palm. Another pill remains in mine. She embraces me one last time.
“On three?” Her voice reflects her courage now. A noble cause, after all, dying for love.
“On three,” I say. She nods, smiling behind her tears to show how happy she is for us. I mirror her smile. “One,” I count. “Two. Three.” We both throw the pills into our mouths and swallow.
Arsenic for her, candy for me.
They always pay me in two installments. Half the paymentbefore I start the job, and the other half, after I’m finished. As a matter of principle, I don’t wait to be paid until after the funerals of these women. That’s what I always say to the husbands who want to get rid of their wives for one reason or another and approach me for my services. Right after they turn the bodies of their wives over to the city morgue, I appear, and relieve them of the remaining payment.
They often stare at me with contempt, as if they are disgusted so much that they are about to vomit. Some even do. During those times, I lean against the wall next to the entrance door of the morgue, light a cigarette, and wait for them to finish throwing up. They can cough up all their internal organs if they want. They will never get rid of the revulsion caused by the sinking awareness of what they just have done. It’s something that overshadows you until your own death.
The husbands come out after some time, greenishly pale, wobbling, to find me waiting. The only reason those greedy, ferocious men pay me right away is their strong wish, mixed with nausea, to get rid of me forever. I’m happy to comply. The instant I’m fully paid for my services, I’m gone. I’m not in the habit of lingering. I don’t even attend their wives’ funerals. It’s not in the job description.
However, any time of the year, though it’s only once, a relative or a child of these women may come across a white, single rose, laid on their beloveds’ graves.
Ecem Yucel (she/her) is an Ottawa-based Turkish writer, poet, and PhD candidate in Translation Studies at the University of Ottawa. Her writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Evergreen Review, Salamander Magazine, Stanchion, Idle Ink, Kissing Dynamite, Autofocus, The Daily Drunk, Celestite Poetry, Selcouth Station, and more. Find her at www.ecemyucel.com or on Twitter @TheEcemYucel.