With respect to Socrates, my unexamined life is not worth living. The front room is the face we show everyone but we hide our true self in the back room.
Imagine a world that only exists while you are present.
One of my patients, living with dementia, started our conversation today the way it had been left a week ago. There was much repetition in his story but he spoke without missing a beat. He said he had prayed for my return, and then suddenly, here I was. I had told him I would return next week but he is used to people not keeping their promises.
I sat and listened to him come alive as always. Minutes earlier I had approached his room, at the end of a long hallway, isolated from other patients and the nurses’ station. He sat in a chair, slumped over, his army-navy canvas jacket draped over his head, not watching the TV facing him, blasting Let’s Make a Deal.
It was as if he rested the whole week and only when I called his name, tapped him on the shoulder and said my name did he rouse.
Without family or friend support, he declared me his only friend.
What a present existence. To look forward to a conversation so much, to anticipate the next time spiritual hope, resting his Energizer Bunny activity for another week.
On the trail of his tangential thought, from present day anger to a mule-driving childhood and back again, many stories surface. One story he told started out innocuous enough talking about his corn liquor drinking brother and the subsequent “sober thoughts” and though I was dutifully, empathically there with him, when he started to talk about two knives he had owned and the entrance of the hog slicing butcher knife into the narrative I could tell the story was going off in a dark direction. And sure enough, before I had the chance to speculate the twist came, freezing my body a few seconds.
There had been no warning. No build-up. Just the same words given the same tempo in a stream of consciousness.
I tried not to be a spectator but I was amazed how he told the story without doing anything fancy. Just letting the horrible reality speak for itself was enough.
Especially since after the twist came he kept on going with another thread to another story as if he hadn’t just said something undeniably shocking.
And worse than spectating, but thinking about my writing and how ingenious it is to deliver such truths without fanfare. Writing a story that would make the reader suddenly stop and re-read the last sentence. And then read it again. And then stop, letting its meaning sink in, while very aware of your heart beating.
Truth is stranger than fiction, Bianca.
And the other thing.
At work, feeling a compelling need to immediately rush home to write. Imagining myself hunkered down on the love seat, laptop open, words flying through me onto the screen. Eagerly anticipating when I can write again.
My world at rest, non-existent until I return and commence the burst, the incessant tap tap tap tap tap…