wanted to be dead
. He had wanted to be dead for years. He did not want to kill himself
. He did not want to die. He simply wanted to be alive no longer
. It was a difficult concept
for him to deal with: wanting to be dead, but not wanting to die. Every time he started his car he waited for an explosion.
He pulled out of his driveway, willing the Somerville Lumber truck from up the street to spontaneously shift out of park and start rolling down the hill in his direction. He let the car sit in street for a few minutes and closed his eyes, hoping the Healys’ contractor forgot to pull the emergency brake on his tractor-trailer. He sat in the sticky leather seat, listening to Bobby Darin or Mel Tormé or Wayne Newton, and pretended he had forgotten his keys and was trying to remember where he had left them.
Phillip’s neighbor, John Briscoe, encountered Phillip in the street while he was still in his pose of feigned contemplation. John slammed his palm against his horn a few times. Then he stuck his head out the window of his car and yelled.
“Phil! Hey, Phil! Hey, whaddaya doin’? Get out of the damn road! Phil?” Inside Phillip’s car, The Velvet Fog blocked out all noise. When John flashed his high beams, Phillip sighed and put his car back into drive.
He pulled into the parking lot of the Food Mart downtown and suddenly forgot what he had driven six miles to buy. His concentration the entire drive there had been on the many dangers of the road that ignored all his pleas. He turned off the car and stepped out onto the asphalt slowly. He saw a man walk by with a cigarette in his hand.
Smoking was another of Phillip’s feeble attempts at death. He had been smoking for ten years now, yet he was somehow still in perfect health. Every year, millions of people were dying from lung cancer and emphysema, but not he. He tried increasing his dosage, but it didn’t seem to help.
The only person in the store besides he and the clerk was a woman who was at the counter, buying cigarettes. He walked over and stood patiently behind her. She had a basket in her hand that was full of groceries. She turned to Phillip.
“Oh, are you just buying smokes? You can go ahead of me,” she said. Phillip looked at her strangely. She smiled. He told the clerk his brand. He paid. He looked quickly at the woman and left the store.
Once outside, he lit up a cigarette and smoked it. He breathed peacfully. A minute later, the woman exited the store with a plastic bag in her left hand. In her right, she had a carton of cigarettes, the same brand Phillip was smoking.
“You look like more than a pack-a-day smoker,” she said as she handed him the carton. He was dumbfounded. The corners of his mouth twitched, trying to remember how to smile.
“Thanks,” he said. He put out his cigarette with his shoe and began walking back to his car. The woman followed him closely. Once they were away from the store, she pulled out a handgun and shot him in the back of his head. Then she took the keys from his pocket and drove off in his car, “Mel Tormé’s Greatest Hits” bouncing down the street behind her.