The Queen of Rock and Roll Applies for Assisted Suicide

Maybe there had been some foresight on her part in moving to Switzerland. Home of all things “progressive” (in other words, what should be normalized everywhere else). This included the option for assisted suicide should one reach a point in their life when things had gotten just as physically untenable as they were emotionally. Less than a month after her seventy-seventh birthday, Rina Lermer became a member of Switzerland’s Exit. That’s right, you can be a member of one big “kill yourself” club. As Rina put it, “That’s one of the benefits of living in Switzerland. Assisted suicide is legal.” The only “icky” part was that she would have to inject the drug herself. Her younger husband, Mervin, was much too squeamish to be trusted to get the job done. In fact, lately, Rina had found herself realizing that most younger people were annoyingly lily-livered regarding just about everything. Even someone as presently old as Mervin. Still, he pulled through for her when it mattered, offering one of his own kidneys when the whole assisted suicide thing came up. Even though she knew he wasn’t really doing it out of bravery so much as cowardice. He didn’t want to live without her. Because, despite the fact that he would inherit most of her riches, Mervin knew she was his only meaning. The only thing that gave him meaning in this world.

That never would have occurred to him before 1986. Yes, she had always been a presence in his life, as she had been for many. That was what it was to be the “Queen of Rock and Roll” (though, to be honest, her bid for assisted suicide perhaps revealed that she had lost some of her more “rock n’ roll” predilections). And obviously, he had always been aware of her legendarily seductive legs, even for someone as “aged” as her. They never seemed to sag or show any traces of varicose veins. How did she do it? he wondered. Especially when he saw her for the first time in person. Given the errand boy task of picking her up at the Düsseldorf Airport. He didn’t mind though. When else would he be given such an opportunity to meet a living legend? The phrase that Rina hated. Something Mervin found out the hard way when he referred to her as that to her face in the car on the way to her hotel. It was, incidentally, the car the record label had decided to gift her with, just for being an icon. But a Mercedes Jeep wasn’t exactly Rina’s speed, and she asked Mervin to drive. His errand boy status amplifying with every moment spent with her, Mervin could still tell something magical was happening between them. The stuff of The Bodyguard. Except that said movie hadn’t come out yet and, truth be told, Rina didn’t like Whitney Houston all that much. But you get the point. A major star falls for someone lowly on the payroll.

The rest was romantic history as they went public with their relationship the same year. Mervin was aware of the risks. The naysaying and the tabloid journalism as a result of his younger age and “lesser” status. But the one thing he didn’t give enough thought to was that Rina’s age meant that she would leave him sooner. A reality he refused to face until the year she informed him she signed up to be part of Exit. Being a member meant the institution would help with everything needed to carry out those “difficult end-of-life decisions.”

Rina, in agonizing pain, wanted more than ever to have help with those decisions. Mervin couldn’t seem to understand how much she was suffering. And how embarrassed she was to even receive company at their palatial palace located in the outer reaches of Zurich. Indeed, many a celebrity cohort had asked to be invited over, but, every time, she came up with some excuse, only allowing entry to one trusted friend and fellow diva who went by the mononym of Mare. That had been so long ago now. In the years since Mare visited, Rina’s health deteriorated all the more, especially because she would only rely on homeopathic remedies that actually worsened her condition. So much for the benefits of being “natural.” This was no life, she kept thinking, as she roamed the estate overlooking Lake Zurich. Even with its gilded appeal, she couldn’t be distracted by the trappings of her success anymore.

All she could focus on was her physical torment. How cruel it was that the body which had once served her so well and gotten her ahead in life was now turning against her so viciously. And she was tired—so fucking tired—of continuously being harassed by members of the press. What was so interesting about her to them? She hadn’t done shit in so long, and all mostly as a bid to keep them away. But their fascination remained. Rina supposed she ought to be flattered. Maybe she would be if she wasn’t so irritated instead. To the point where she had a plaque installed on the pillar next to her gate that read, “Do not even think about bothering Rina Lermer before noon.” Nonetheless, they did. Especially after the news broke about her decision to become a member of Exit (“Why not Dignitas?” a reporter shouted from behind the gate—likely a plant from Dignitas itself).

Watching them from her window, Rina didn’t want to believe it was Mervin who might have betrayed her to the media. Maybe he got it in his head that leaking it to the press would shame her into not doing it. But she had made up her mind. This wasn’t living. It was just “existing.” And yes, it saddened her that all the riches and all the accolades meant nothing without a body that functioned properly. Worse still, she felt duped. Once believing in the idea that if you had money, maybe you could buy immortality. She now felt endlessly foolish for ever believing in such a thing. Her number was up. Until Mervin decided it wasn’t. Couldn’t be. Sadly, this wasn’t the first time one of Rina’s husbands “decided her life” for her. Enter Mervin’s kidney donation. He gave it to her at the hospital mere months after her Exit “threat.”

She supposed she was grateful. It would end up putting six more years on the clock for her. Plus, she got to write a book in that time about her grand love story with Mervin. The true love of her life, not that abusive asshole of a first husband, Mike. The one who tried to take all the credit for her talent and star power, when she was the one who carried their act. Turned them into a success. It made her shudder sometimes to reflect back on how long it took her to leave him. And yet, the things we tell ourselves are “okay” when we’re “in love.” Rina liked that Mervin never brought up that part of her past. They could sit in silence for hours together, and he wouldn’t dare to bring up such unpleasant subjects in the name of a “conversation topic.”

At the end of the six years Mervin had both generously and selfishly furnished Rina with, she could no longer endure. Her body was already vexed that she had made it keep going on for so much extra time. And, in the end, it is the body, not the mind, that chooses. Unless, that is, one’s mind is actually heeded in lieu of their heart when first announcing intentions to “dip out.”


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