The Considerate Killer(8)

By: Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis



“So you want to be a doctor? Why?”

Vincent looked up at Carpe Diem and felt momentarily confused. This was not the same as being asked by the board about his “motivation” and coming up with some appropriate phrases. The man seemed genuinely to question why Vincent wanted this. He had never been asked that before, not in that way. It was the kind of thing that didn’t need an explanation because it was so obvious. It was a good job, you earned a lot of money, and you were . . . respected. His parents had saved for his education since he was a little boy.

“I . . .” Vincent cleared his throat. “That’s always been my plan.”

The guy nodded as if he had said something really wise.

“I think I know what you mean,” he said. “It’s that thing about helping others, right? To make a difference? That’s what I want to do too. There are way too many people here in the Philippines who only think about money. I have a . . . girlfriend, who is studying here. We want to work for Doctors Without Borders, and so on.”

The guy rotated the unlit cigarette again between his fingers and sighed deeply.

“Aw, fuck it,” he then said. Dug out a lighter, lit the cigarette and took a couple of intense, deep drags.

“I don’t think you’re allowed to smoke here,” said Vincent and pointed to the sign above them. The guy sent him a searching gaze. Kindly.

“It’s nice of you to worry about me,” he said. “Do you smoke?”

He dug around in his pants pocket, pulled out a package of cigarettes and gave Vincent an encouraging nod. He had a tattoo on the back of his hand. Something written in exquisitely drawn Arabic letters.

“You can just take one for later if you don’t want to smoke here.”

Vincent shook his head.

“I don’t smoke.”

The guy jumped up from his chair and strode with light steps across the floor, his cigarette still hanging from the corner of his mouth. The blue smoke drifted up toward the badly functioning air conditioner and disappeared.

“Very sensible,” he said. “I should stop too. I dive, you know. Free diving without oxygen. It’s the coolest thing in the world. Better than sex and drugs. Have you tried it?”

Vincent shook his head while he followed Carpe Diem’s restless wandering with his eyes.

“What a waste of time,” the guy sighed, kicked lightly at a couple of chair legs. “I’ll buy you a beer afterward, okay? For every minute we spend in here, we need to spend at least three on cigarettes, whiskey, and naked ladies. That’s the only way to bring the universe back into cosmic balance. I’ve studied astrology for several years to reach this conclusion. I’m not kidding. This is precious knowledge I’m sharing with you.”

Vincent couldn’t help laughing, which made the guy jump up on a chair and spread his arms. Ash from his cigarette sprinkled the floor.

“I’ll wait for you after my interview, okay? At the Cabana Bar on the other side of the street. We’ve got to celebrate this, damn it.”

The big guy, Victor, had followed the exchange without saying a word. Now he got up and stretched to his full height. It was only at this point that Vincent fully understood how enormous he was. The man was at least 190 centimeters tall, but his height was less impressive than his bulk. Everything about him was wide and looked as if had been built with three levels of reinforcement. His forehead was wide, his chest was wide, his wrists were wide and his calves so powerfully muscular that they were the size of Vincent’s thighs. His hair was cut close to the dark skin.

“I’m in,” he said and crumpled his snack bag. “I’ll need a beer after this.”

“A beer?” The carpe-diem guy whistled, clearly impressed and with eyes slightly narrowed against the smoke. “You look like it’ll take something a lot stronger than beer to get you drunk. You’re built like an ox, damn it. But . . . perfect. What’s your name?”

“Victor.”

“And you, my rule-following friend?”

Carpe Diem looked questioningly at Vincent, and he had time to think that he didn’t know what they were celebrating, but that this was completely beside the point. The guy’s energy was infectious here in the middle of the boring yellow-and-beige front hall, and why shouldn’t he have a beer? His exams were over and he wasn’t going back to San Marcelino for a few days. With complete disregard for the fact that he had not yet actually been accepted into the medical school, his mother’s cousin Maria had promised to help him find a room while he was in Manila, but the house hunting wouldn’t start until tomorrow. For once he could actually permit himself a break from textbooks and expectations.

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