The Death (Story by Risa Peris)

A date for death is spooky. Unreal. My doctor said I had inoperable cancer. It was malignant. I would die soon.

“How long?” I asked.

“Maybe two months. It’s at an advanced stage.” He told me that in a dry voice like a police officer telling a rapist how long he had to face in prison time.

“I see. I don’t want pain. I don’t want to die in a hospital.” I ruffled my blonde hair and wiped away the black mascara running from my teary eyes.

“I can write you a prescription. For death. There are pills…suicide is legal in this state for your kind of cancer.”

“Give it to me.”

The doctor wrote the prescription and handed it to me. “I’m sorry,” he said. What else could he say?

I called my sister, the one in New Jersey, who hadn’t spoken to me in three years. I had no friends. I lived in an apartment and worked at a bank. My last boyfriend was two years ago.

“I need your help,” I said. Esther sighed.

“What problem have you gotten yourself into?”

“I have cancer. I’m going to die. I don’t want to die alone. Can you help me? I have money saved. I could pay for a plane ticket. Please.”

Esther was quiet. I explained about the pills. She relented and said she could be out in two weeks.

I picked her up from the LAX. She had a sour face.

“Where will this happen?” she asked.

“In my bed. Just be with me.”

Around eight in the evening I swallowed the death pills. I laid in bed.

“Will you hold my hand, Esther?”

She was crying. “Yes. Yes.” She grabbed hold of my sweaty hand.

“I didn’t mean for us to drift apart. I didn’t. You were my little sister. I used to take care of you. I used to love you. Our damn parents…I didn’t mean for us to drift apart. I hope you find peace. I really do.” Esther was rambling.

I was drifting off. The drugs were crawling into my brain. Seizing my heart. But I could still feel my heart ache.

“Why did I drift from the family?” Then I remembered. “Uncle Mike. He abused me. I had no one to tell. I blamed all of you. But it’s over. All over. It’s done, Esther.”

And then I closed my eyes, felt the heat of her hand, a tenuous connection to another human being, and then it ended. I knew Esther wanted to be in her home and not holding her dead sister’s hand. You convince yourself you don’t need family and then you do.


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