It was dark now. The sun had gone to bed nearly an hour before, yet there she was, seething. I could almost hear the words she spoke to herself. “How dare they abandon me like that? What is the matter with these people?” She could not understand why they of all people would turn down the chance to spend a lovely September evening in her company. They, of course, was only a bunch of lonely old folks. But this woman thought the world of herself and was convinced anyone ought to be thrilled to spend time in her august company. I didn’t normally enjoy killing people. It was just a job, it paid the bills, and in most cases I believed I was doing something good. But when it came to Amanda Toussignant, I was happy to make an exception. Ending her life brought me joy.
The other residents that evening did not want to stay outside with her. “We don’t want to go out on the patio outside,” they said. “It’s too chilly, we’ll catch our death!”
People can be so cute. Catching their death would have been a relief to most of them. Why were they so weirdly scared of it? Old folks will remain a mystery to me… and I mean that literally. I’ll never be an old person. I’ll be dead soon and I guess I should apologize for not being able to finish this story for you. Not in my usual corporeal form, at any rate. But that’s for later.
“I don’t know how people get to be such wimps,” Amanda said to no one in particular, a few hours before she, too, passed into the next world.
“Well, it is a touch chilly,” replied no one in particular, also known as her husband, Marcel. As always, he had stayed by her side during and after dinner to keep her company. And as usual he did try his best to be pleasant and entertaining. He was a patient and kind man, Marcel. But he might as well not have bothered; she never counted him since he followed her everywhere anyway.
Poor guy. I was as sorry to kill him as I wasn’t to squeeze the life out of his wife. He hadn’t had it easy, living with this thing, being good to her, always trying to make her happy.
He didn’t realize it, of course, but that was exactly what was wrong with him, as far as she was concerned. He was so predictable, comfortable… and boring. They’d been married 45 years now and he’d stopped making her heart race about 44.76 years ago. He was a decent man and a good provider, but while he looked pretty good on their wedding night she, well, it’s not like she didn’t like him anymore. She did. But he didn’t give her any thrills ever.
“Don’t be silly,” she snapped. “Of course it’s chilly. It’s September. But it’s nice out here, with the patio heater on. Why won’t they stay?”
“Would you like me to ask them to come out with us?” offered Marcel.
“Oh good grief no! Have you no dignity? I am certainly not going to go begging people for their cruddy company!”
Poor Marcel never knew when to shut up. “But I thought you wanted company…” His wife threw her hands up and sighed loud enough to be heard inside. “You never understand anything!”
Truth be told, she was starting to feel a touch cold. “It is chilly,” she thought. But there was no way she’d let her husband see her shiver. “Anyway,” she informed him, “I like being outside, even if nobody else likes it. I don’t want to go sit in the common room inside. It smells of piss. I’d rather stay here and play cards with you.”
He hadn’t thought of bringing the cards out, and now he felt stupid again. He’d been having that problem for approximately 44.76 years now.
“You know what the problem is with you, Marcel Toussignant?” she asked before proceeding to give him the answer. “It’s that you don’t know how to make people crave your company.” Crave your company. That was a good way to put it, she thought.
He didn’t react. He just sat there and took it. Experience had taught him this was the least awful among plenty of unpleasant options. He wasn’t as smart as she was, but he wasn’t stupid. He knew perfectly well she wasn’t happy with him. He just didn’t think there was anything he could do except try to make her feel better.
He was having mixed results at best.
She’d always wanted an exciting life. She wanted to travel, and go to museums, and have a yacht, and collect art, and have interesting artist friends, and go play blackjack at the casino in Monte Carlo, all that with a husband who swept her off her feet on a regular basis. She didn’t need James Bond. Well, you know – not quite. But why couldn’t her husband be more like Sean Connery? Such a man… But no. She never really quite got her wish. To put it gently.
Instead what she got was two children who made travelling an unbearable chore, a split level house in the suburbs that she spent years renovating so it would look like they do in the magazines, and nothing more exciting, vacation-wise, than a trip to Disney which caused her so much work planning and organizing that she barely had time to enjoy it. I guess she should have known this would be the life she’d have by marrying a man who had an MA in public administration and worked for the provincial government’s public health department updating databases and computer programs so the scientists could keep track of disease outbreaks and how many kids had meningitis and suchlike. In short, a man who earned an insufficient salary working in a field that didn’t interest her no matter how hard she tried.
Not that she did. Try, I mean. Bugs and illnesses, yeesh. She didn’t imagine herself discussing that with her fancy artist friends in their favourite Paris bistro. Even if she never did set foot in Paris.
In fact, when you stop to think about it, the only constant in Amanda Toussignant’s life was that she had always needed fresh new things in her life. And here she was, stuck at La Résidence des Érables in Chomedey where just about the most exciting thing was when they piled into the little minibus for their weekly trip to the Carrefour Laval shopping mall. They went every Tuesday so they could take advantage of the senior discounts at The Bay. Not that they bought much. She still loved shopping for shoes, mind you, even though she was only really comfortable in SoftMocs. She also liked perfume. Unfortunately, the residence did not let her wear perfume anymore. Too many people were allergic, they said.
They would be.
That was another thing wrong with spending her last years in an assisted-living facility. The other residents were so fragile. You couldn’t do anything anymore. No movie nights, only matinees, no drinking except for a glass of watered-down wine at dinner, no live shows, no theatre, no museums, nothing. Amanda fancied herself an accomplished, intelligent conversationalist. Cultivated, too. She read a lot. At least, she used to, before her cataracts became an issue. And to think the doctors couldn't get that fixed faster. She was stuck on an eight-month waiting list for surgery, how perfectly aggravating. She missed reading. Marcel had offered to read her favourite novels out loud to her, but she found the sound of his voice too grating. It was getting raspy, and he kept having to clear his throat every third second. It made it impossible to pay attention to the story.
She sighed. It wasn’t easy living in this place where she was pretty much the only one who could converse on her level. Her husband always agreed with her points of view, which didn’t make for brilliant dialogues, and the other residents could only talk about their kids or their enemas. She wasn’t sure which was worse. And then there was Mrs. Latulippe, who had come out for a bit tonight, but she was so far gone the poor thing.
So there she was, Amanda Toussignant, age 72, of sound mind and diminished capacities, sitting in her single room, quietly seething. Husbands and wives were not permitted to share rooms in Quebec's publicly-funded nursing homes; Marcel was three doors down the hall. The TV was on but she didn't really care for it anymore. Those new reality shows were awful. Not like the old ones she used to follow. Now that was quality programming. But this stuff, it was too boorish, too loud, too shrill for her.
For his part Marcel was about as happy as one could be in a nursing home sick with diabetes and what he suspected might be mild emphysema even though the doctors had ruled it out. He was comfortably ensconced in bed clutching the little iPod his daughter had given him last Christmas. She'd taught him how to download old radio shows from the 1950s and he spent most nights falling asleep to the same voices he fell asleep to as a teenager. It made him happy. This night was no different than all the others at the residence. They'd had a decent meal of beef and mashed (he'd manage to sneak in some extra gravy despite his doctor’s orders that he be kept on a low-fat diet), and a pleasant enough time on the patio afterwards, like they always did when it wasn't raining. It was 9:55 pm on a Thursday night and Marcel was smiling as he drifted off to sleep, unaware that his beloved was, thanks to me, being silently murdered down the hall.