This is Canadian lawyer David L. Hebert’s first published story, but we think there will be a lot more from him in the future. We also think he’s honed his art by spinning fantasies to Canadian judges.
“Are you going to Alex’s suicide party?”
We were on our morning break. I leaned back in my chair, took a sip of my coffee, and looked over at Monica. “Alex is having a suicide party?”
She was nodding. “The night before his exit date. We’re all going.”
I didn’t even know that he was contemplating an exit, let alone planning it. I shrugged. “I’ll probably go.” I went back to scrolling through the newsfeed on my tablet.
“The party is on Thursday. Personally I think I’d exit on a Sunday, so we could have the party on Saturday night, but it’s not my exit.”
I arched an eyebrow at her. “Are you planning one?”
She gave me a weird look that succeeded in making me question my sanity, and then she laughed. “Hardly. But Alex is a nice guy, and I’m going to miss him. So of course I’m going.”
She was right. Alex was a nice guy. “I’ll probably miss him, too.”
She gave me a different weird look that succeeded in making me question my morals.
“Well, I won’t miss the mealworms in the lunchroom refrigerator.”
This look wasn’t weird, just disgusted. Not because of the mealworms but rather at my apparent indifference to a colleague’s being nearly departed. Up until that moment, I had apparently been successful in hiding my failings as a human being.
“They’re gluten free and high in protein,” she said offhandedly, turning back to her own tablet. After a moment, she looked back up at me. “So why do you figure he decided to do it?”
I shrugged again. “Maybe he’s sick of eating gluten free.” Realizing that in her eyes I was probably still failing as a human being, I added, “Besides, what the hell—it’s his funeral.”
It was out of my mouth before I realized that what I’d said probably wouldn’t help. “I mean—it’s his choice, Monica. That’s been decided by the courts. There’s no requirement for a person to be here if he really doesn’t want to be here, and obviously Alex doesn’t want to be here. More power to him.” I sipped my coffee, which was slightly less than tepid.
Monica was back to ignoring her tablet and sipping on her tea, staring off into the air in front of her. “How could he decide he has nothing left to live for? He’s only in his thirties. He’s still got a whole life in front of him.”
I corrected her. “You’re wrong. He’s got until Friday.”
Another weird look from her, but it lasted only for a moment. She went back to sipping her tea, which must surely have been as tepid as my coffee. She was lost in introspection.
Feeling that I had to do something to bring the conversation back, I said, “You obviously have a different outlook, but you can’t know what he’s feeling. You can’t know what it’s like to live his life, even if he tells you—you can’t know. If he’s decided that ending it now is what he wants to do, then I fully support him in his position.”
“But what about the options? What about mental health treatment? Maybe if he just got the right prescription—”
I interrupted her. “You think he hasn’t been through that, Monica? You think he hasn’t already spent a lifetime of doctors and prescriptions and trying to change his basic thought patterns? That was the whole point of the court case! Up until last year, the only people who were permitted to undergo humane suicide were the ones with terminal illnesses. Hell, living every day like you wish it were your last may as well be a terminal illness, and since the Supremes weighed in last year, not wanting to live is perfectly legitimate grounds for not living. End of story.”
She was looking at me now. “It seems like you’ve given this some thought.”
“I’ve given it enough thought to realize that being forced to live when you don’t want to is a form of cruel and unusual punishment.”
That shut her up for a couple of minutes. The silence was getting to me, and I began to think that maybe I had spoken a little too harshly to her. “Up until the laws changed, there were still suicides, Monica. On average, one every twenty seconds. All those people had to risk doing it alone, in silence, and in secret. And yes, I say risk, because there was always the chance that those people could end up as vegetables, trapped in their bodies for decades to come. Knowing Alex’s decision, is that the fate you’d like to bestow upon him?”
“Well, of course not. But he’s such a nice guy—”
“Well, with the new laws, anybody can do it as long as they’ve paid their taxes. So Alex can do it as a celebration, and family and friends can be around, and he can have a great party the night before as a nice send-off. Would you take away his dignity for your selfishness?”
Our tablets went off simultaneously. Break time was over.
Monica went to the sink and emptied her cup. “So I’ll see you at the party on Thursday?”
“Probably,” I said.
Copyright © 2017 by David L. Hebert