THE MARRIED COUPLE came into my office upset. He was about fifty years old and looked like somebody had switched his head with a skeleton’s skull. She was pretty and younger, but her eyes were two black tunnels drilled into the side of a German mountain. There was probably no way out of the darkness once you drove into them.
The pair was there to complain about cuts in their project funding. Both were psychiatrists working with Bosnian rape and torture victims. They explained how large their caseloads were and about how much stress they and their patients were under and that the project could not afford to lose support staff or facilities.
The man’s voice rose in harsh judgment as he spoke and the woman shed a few tears. Professionalism fell across my face and I began to emote like a tired bureaucrat. I sympathized with them, but kept saying my hands were tied and the cuts would take effect in two months.
They stared down at the floor and then the man stated for the nightly news that they would be forced to resign. From an attaché case he pulled out two letters. I read them and saw the underlined, bold two week notice. I told them I was sorry and then they left my office. There was a very dark feeling that came over me when they shut the door. I thought I could detect the pattern of a face floating in the air. When I looked closer it was only dust captured in a breaking shaft of sunlight coming through the clouds down into the office.
After two weeks they flew home. One month later I got a call from my desk officer in New York. The married couple had committed double suicide in their little house by a lake somewhere in England. I looked out my window and watched the snow fall upon the Balkans as I said, “Jesus fucking Christ.”
The woman on the other end said “What? You’re breaking up,” and then I went ahead and hung up.
(From Living and Dying with Dogs: Refugee Turbo Edition)