I’d hate to kill you, Mr. Turner, but I’m afraid it’s not my choice. If it were, come Friday you’d be alive and standing on your roof in that elegant bathrobe, watching the cars pass on the freeway, and sipping on your Macallan Red. But I’m afraid I must kill you, it’s not up to me.
On Monday I’ll watch you wake up to the sun. A golden light covering every inch of your body, in a room full of windows, high enough above ground that nobody can see you sleep. You sold that company you’d worked so hard at, and now you don’t have an alarm clock. You’ll go into the kitchen and prepare yourself a cup of coffee roasted to such precision, you taste the roots from which it grew as it slides down your throat. On Mondays you like to read before exercising, usually some massive text. Today it’s Kant and his analysis of judgement. I’ve never seen someone digest his language with such elegance, not even the author himself. And then you’ll pull out a jump rope, head to your balcony and break a nice sweat. Your old neighbor will wave to you as she prunes her yard, and you’ll smile back. She will bring over cookies, which you’ll politely refuse, not wanting to raise your blood sugar. Still, you’ll invite her inside for some tea, knowing that she enjoys a cup in the afternoon. She’ll talk about her son, who is taking a trip overseas. You’ll imagine him on the forecastle of a boat, a thin layer of sea spray on his face.
Tuesday is the day you have a conference call with the people you sold the company to. They practically beg for your grand wisdom.
You’ll smile and say, “Fellas, take it easy, we’re helping people, aren’t we?”
And they’ll eat it up like thanksgiving dinner. It was a Tuesday that you sold the company, you called it your last step. Yet on every Tuesday you’ve returned to give one piece of advice. There’s something inside of you, Mr. Turner, that you haven’t been able to let go. The conference call is filled with faces old and new, and you wish you were back in the fold, barking out orders, throwing grand parties, and giving speeches to the young volunteers and charitable workers.
Wednesdays you get into your silver convertible and drive north to see your mother. She still lives in the house you grew up in. She has a smile that looks brand new every time she opens the door. There is kindness in you today, you’ll play cribbage. The one game you could never win. You chalk it up to a mental block, placed there by familial love. Of course, you’re right about this too. You’re always right, Mr. Turner.
You drive by headquarters on the way back where a quickly moving line of homeless people enter through the front doors to get the meals provided by your company. You press on the gas, averting your eyes. The thought of being in that building again gives you a shake of sadness, your eyes tunnel on the road ahead. You’ve helped so many, Mr. Turner.
When you get home, you prepare an excellent meal of Brussels sprouts and pasta. Your vegetables have a distinct char unmatched by even the most exquisite restaurants.
On Thursday you’ll go a small cafe on a tiny beach. Unremarkable really, just a little bit of sand against a vast ocean. The sky will be pale blue, wind scatters the napkins on the outdoor tables. You’ll be wearing a green wool sweater and sipping on iced tea with lemon. Your hair devoid of its usual gel and falling gently onto your shoulders. it’s the first time in a while I’ve seen it like that.
She’ll walk in, and you’ll pull the menu up past your face. You’ll catch a glimpse of her olive skin, the way it’s been tanning in the sun. She is an assortment of modest jewelry, the outcry being an emerald ring on her pointer finger.
Before wealth and comfort, you would come here together. You ran around on the sand, getting your feet sliced up in shells washed up on shore. You had plunged into the water and held her aloft. There was cold air that Thursday too, a wind that whipped your bodies closer together. You gave her the ring as you sipped on warm cups of hot chocolate mixed with rum.
That was the first day I was assigned to you, Mr. Turner. They always assign us on a day of love. I stood there in the entryway, an apparition whom you’ll never meet, and saw how your pupils changed when you looked into her eyes. It was also that day when she told you about her trips overseas, and you told her about the hours you’d have to spend if you were going to change the world. She would belong to mountain air, hiking boots covered in dirt, and you’d belong to glass windows and urban planning. You both sacrificed your souls to save the less fortunate, concluding one journey and embarking onto the next. That sacrifice, Mr. Turner, made me love you too.
A friend joins her in the restaurant. One you’ve never met. And they’ll find a table positioned in a way to where you can see them, but they’ll never look your way. You always sit here, and they always sit there.
The wind will whip her hair, and after a while she’ll get annoyed with it and tie it up in a hodgepodge bun that turns your muscles into liquid, trickling through the floorboards to mingle with the sand on the beach. She’ll laugh so hard and almost snort, you’ll bite ice between your teeth.
Why do you do this, Mr. Turner? Why don’t you go and reach out your arm, swivel her around and show yourself in such gleaming light? I see you as someone admirable, Mr. Turner, please get up and walk…
But alas, you won’t. You’ll have your head tilted down at your book or your food and she’ll eat her meal, discuss topics of ocean conservation and some trip she took last month. You’ll linger on every word you can make out through the half-occupied room, all the while your legs stuck to the ground.
The two women will get up from their seat, and you’ll wait for thirty minutes before getting up on your own. As you do, you’ll notice them standing in the parking lot, a flat tire. She’ll be unfazed by this, on the phone with a roadside service.
You’ll stand there in the open doorway, looking directly at her, until the waiter comes by and asks if you’re okay. Meanwhile I’ll be asking someone up top why tomorrow must be the day.
Because on Friday nights you stand on the roof of your building. You look at the cars passing by on the roads far below. You’ll be drinking a large glass of your Macallan Red, and you’ll get a call.
“Why didn’t you say hello?” she’ll ask.
“I—I didn’t know if you’d want me to.”
And I’ve seen your confidence, Mr. Turner. How you conduct your environment to bring electric hope into the souls of those in your proximity. I see the way that hope is harvested and returned with acceptance and pride. But you’ll get into a car, and you’ll go to where her voice was broadcast over those tiny wavelengths. And for some reason I’ll have to kill you, Mr. Turner.
The night is black, and the pollutants of your city obscure the stars. A few dotted headlights will occupy the freeway, among them a black sedan, tearing up concrete. You’ll groggily take an on ramp and head south, your leather steering wheel slippery in hands coated in humidity. The man in the black sedan will have is head burrowed in his phone. You’ll try to change lanes and my long hands are instructed to take ahold of both your lives and smash them together. A collision of steel and an explosion of fire, two bodies thrown from vehicles to lie dead on the asphalt.
But I won’t.
That was the plan.
But I won’t.
And that black sedan will scream past you, and you’ll be scared sober. Knowing all the while she’ll reprimand you for being so irresponsible. But you’ll collapse in her arms, nonetheless. It will feel like home, Mr. Turner, one you lost long ago; like a sailor returning from a voyage to meet their love on the shore. You’ll kiss her gently, and she’ll laugh and tell you to brush your teeth, and the night will be long and noisy. I’ll step outside.
Your company will invite you back to the office on certain occasions, and you’ll be proud of how they’ve prospered. She’ll take you on trips even when both of your bodies can’t withstand the adventure. You’ll get to see parts of the world, high mountains, and slums in need of salvation. You’ll feel the sea spray against your wrinkled face, just like your neighbor’s son. It will coat you in salty bliss.
I’ll be there on the water with you, Mr. Turner, for it reminds me of home. I’ll imagine you and your wife peering into the open sea, and its kaleidoscopic blue. You may even catch a glimpse of me, an apparition of a man, like yourself, toiling around in the ocean depths. Doing my best to escape the higher-up’s judgement, and the countless years of servitude which will follow my decision. But I once had a love like you, a job which my life was indebted to, a mother with a knack for card games. A sacrifice I could have taken but did not.
Eventually, Mr. Turner, you will have to die on a Friday. And you’ll be standing up there on the roof of your building looking at the cars passing by when a tightness takes ahold of your chest. You’ll tumble off your railing onto the roads far below.
And I’ll be there to catch you, Mr. Turner. And hopefully then you’ll recognize the apparition that has been with you for so long. I hope you like me, Mr. Turner, and understand that I really did hate killing you.
Owen Paznokas is a student at Western Washington University studying creative writing and graphic design. He works at the independent bookstore Village Books in Bellingham Washington. In his spare time, Owen enjoys taking photos, going backpacking, studying sailboats, and cooking broccoli.
© 2021, Owen Paznokas