The Executioner. : On the Executioners of John Ramirez
Tonight, John Ramirez is scheduled be executed in Texas. Close your eyes. Imagine for a second that you are one of the ones tasked with killing him.
Evenings aren’t what they used to be. The kids run around laughing. Your spouse keeps talking. All you can do is stare off into space. The questions haunt your every thought. Grace? Mercy? Judgment? Eternity? You’d heard these words your entire life…but they seem to have no meaning now. When the kids come to kiss you good night, you wonder if they know what kind of person they’re kissing. Gently, your spouse tries to offer reassurance. Words fall short. The nights are the worst. Face after face run circles in your mind. Sweat flows from our brow. Your chest tightens. Are you having a heart attack? No, it’s just the souls tearing at your insides. You desperately want out…but there is nowhere to go. The baby cries all the time. Who’s going to pay for the formula? The late notice came yesterday. What about the mortgage? Mom is dying. How are we going to get her in the nursing home? Getting up, you start pacing the halls. The voices follow. Is someone there? Whispers echo against the walls. What’s real? The pain is all that you know. Your hand finds a doorknob. Slowly you crack it open, will they still love you when they find out? You begin to cry. Would it be better for them if you ended it all? Would their lives be more moral? Would life be easier? Would they have an easier time finding God beyond all of this evil? Who will care for them? Their clothes. Their food. Their healthcare. Their education. Where did all the oxygen go? You decide that tonight is not the night. Closing the door, you walk to the living room. Collapsing into the chair, you doze off. The alarm jolts you awake. It’s only been thirty minutes. Every night is the same. It all runs together. The only date you can remember is the one you remember…the one you dread…the one that torments you…the one whose voices never stop speaking in your head…the one whose voice is still on the horizon. No matter what you fill your day with, let there be no doubt…the horror of the coming night is ever present.
Day breaks. You’ve just experienced the longest night yet. Your uniform is right where you left it. It cracks as you put it on. You went too heavy on the starch. You seem to go too heavy on everything these days. Going downstairs, you sit down at the table. As your spouse and kids are about to leave, you manage to mutter something. Leaning down, your spouse whispers prayers. They mean nothing. You know you’re damned. Your body moves. It doesn’t feel like you are moving it. It feels like something sinister is out there is pulling you to your moral demise. Before you know it, you’re driving down the highway. Every concrete barrier is a temptation. Maybe if you just push the pedal all the way down…you can smash all of your problems away in one fiery crash. Unsure why, you decide against it. Maybe you just don’t have the courage? Maybe you care too much about yourself? Maybe you care about your family too much? Maybe? Then, you arrive. Doom sets in.
Pulling in, the guard asks for your identification. You don’t recognize the man in the picture on the card. Are you ok? You don’t know. You just are. Driving forward, you pull into your spot. Your chest grows tighter. You can’t breathe. You begin to cry. Is your heart about to explode? You’d never had anxiety like this before this job. Last chance to run. You think of all that is at stake. Leaning out the door, you throw up. Stepping over the chunks, you proceed to the door. All that could be lost fills your brain. There is nowhere to go. It’s a trap. You’re trapped. The officer greets you cheerfully. Then, quickly realizes that you are in no mood to talk. After patting you down, he waves you forward. The door shuts loudly behind you. You’re back in prison.
The day passes far quicker than you expected. It’s probably because you can’t think. The seconds just won’t register. Before you can resist, you’re in the room. The hour of your constant dread is here. Repeatedly, you here doors open and shut. You begin to shake. Loudly, the condemned is brought in. Pull yourself together. All of the thinking is over. All of the feeling is over. Now, you just do. Grabbing the arm, you strap it down on the gurney. You try not to look, but you can’t help but notice the condemned staring right at you. There is nowhere to go. There is only those eyes. Those human eyes. You can’t move. You’re stuck in those eyes…those living eyes. One of your colleagues pulls you away. You can’t stop staring back. Words fill the chamber. You don’t hear any of them. You are stuck on those eyes. Then, the poison starts to flow. You know that this is the end. Your eyes connect more deeply than you have ever connected with any set of eyes. The condemned opens his mouth and declares, “I forgive you.” You know better. Deep inside. You know you’ll never be able to forgive yourself. Then, it’s all over. Your entire life flashes before your eyes…or maybe that was somebody else’s life. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Death comes quickly.