Bella Morte

"I dream of a grave, deep and narrow, where we could clasp each other in our arms as with clamps, and I would hide my face in you and you would hide your face in me, and nobody would ever see us any more." —Franz Kafka



2. tueur en vous

I’m sitting outside of the hospital leaning against a filthy brick wall when Mortimer seemingly appears out of nowhere like he used to. My fingers are trembling as I try to put the menthol cigarette back to my chapped lips and my hair is so knotted that I think I might have to cut it because it’s slowly turning into dreadlocks in the back. I cough loudly, wheezing because it’s hard to breathe.

I don’t realize Mortimer is there at first because I’m used to the heavy feeling that he caused with his presence. It felt like it was in every room of the hospital, somewhere deep under the ugly mint green tiles or maybe it was the doctors because they were practically grim reapers themselves. The aura—the dreadful and deadly feeling—that rolled off of Mortimer as he stood there was nothing new to me, so I’m not aware it’s him until I look up.

Then my cigarette is falling from between my lips into the dirty snow—tire tracks everywhere—and I’m not completely sure what to say to him because his gray eyes are narrowed in on me. Then I scowl at him, picking my cigarette up off the ground and pulling my overly bulky jacket around my body tighter.

Mortimer doesn’t stop looking at me as I smoke, so it comes out in a bitter spat, “What? Have you come back to rush my demise? I apologize if it’s not quick enough for you.” I hold my cigarette in the air, closer to his face. “Clearly I’m trying so give me some credit.”

He doesn’t blink. He kind of tilts his head to the side, his brows furrowing like maybe he can’t quite figure something out. It’s the first sign of emotion I’ve ever seen on his face since I’ve met him because he’s always so blank. I end up staring at him in awe (I think) because his face looks odd when he’s expressing any sort of emotion. For two years—since I was sixteen all the way to eighteen—I had grown accustomed to his blank and emotionless face and eyes. Now he just looks plain confused and I don’t like it because it’s not what I expect.

For two years, I had also grown familiar with his silence—I even figured that maybe he was mute; maybe he really just didn’t have a voice. I always would have loved to hear it because I imagined a sultry voice to him, but it didn’t bother me that nothing ever came out of his mouth. The silence shared was also so peaceful.

But then he opens his mouth, tinted-blue lips with cold breath and all, and says with a raspy voice, “Bones.”

‘Bones’ as if he’s saying my name; ‘Bones’ as if he’s sorry for what he’s done.

He sounds broken and dry. I am in awe and staring.

His eyes stay on me, his stare never breaking, as if he doesn’t comprehend why I’m frozen in place, staring at him like a deer in the headlights. Truthfully, I don’t think he grasps much of human emotions and mindsets. So I sit there, my last cigarette burning into the winter air, and I can see my breath as I exhale slowly.

I feel like I’m waiting for him to say something else, but when I look at him, he’s simply standing there. Then he inclines his head towards the hospital building I’m lazily leaning against. I take it as either two things—he’s suggesting I go back inside before I die of frostbite or he’s asking me what it is that I got diagnosed with.

I don’t really know how to tell the two apart, so I answer both for him (wishing he would just open his mouth again and talk) as I grind my cigarette into the ground. “I’ll go back inside in a minute. I got diagnosed with lung cancer.”

Mortimer locks his hands behind his back—he’s still wearing those stupid leather gloves—and he tilts his head to the side again, studying me carefully. I don’t like the way he makes me feel like I’m being stripped of everything I’m wearing. I pull my jacket around my shaking body tighter, biting back the coughs in my throat. The silence keeps hanging above it, but just as I turn around to go back inside, he asks, “You don’t want to live?”

“It’s your fault I have cancer,” I spat immediately without thinking. I know it’s his fault but I still feel guilty for saying what I did the moment it finishes leaving my mouth. Mortimer doesn’t flinch; he doesn’t even blink. He keeps looking at me as if he expected to hear something he didn’t already know. He probably already knew I had lung cancer. He gave it to me. Can grim reapers choose how they want their victims to die?

“Cigarettes are lung cancer, Bones,” he says. His tone is just as dead as the rest of him. He sounds hollow inside. He sounds empty. Then Mortimer is placing another pack of cigarettes in my upturned palm because I’ve stopped short. “But if you wish to rush your death, then that’s fine by me. It makes my job easier.”

I look at him—almost disbelievingly but at the same time, I’m not that surprised he would say such a thing to me—and tensely shove the cigarettes into my jacket pocket. “If I wanted to rush my death ten times faster, I would grab your wrist and take your glove off to rub your hand all over my damn face.”

The words that leave me mouth don’t come out as well as I thought they would, and when Mortimer raises a brow that kind of looks like in amusement, I realize how childish I sound saying that I would rub his hand all over my face. So I flush an intense red color and quickly scamper back into the hospital where my mother is waiting.

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