Excerpts

From Notes on an Epidemic

The nurse repeated what the doctor had said, and pulled a key out of an envelope. “We’ve arranged new housing for you. In addition to basic furnishings, the unit is equipped with a father, a mother-in-law, a husband and a younger brother.” She wrote down the address and told me for the third time: “Go and concentrate on getting better. Nothing is more important than your health.”

Wearing a sweater that was permeated with the smell of the hospital and holding my plain white envelope, I walked down the long, narrow corridor. At the very end was a point of light coming from an outdoor parking lot next to a road filled with an endless stream of cars. This was the world outside the hospital.

I stood on the pedestrian island in the center of the road and looked back to see that the nurse who had brought my medications, the discharge nurse, the attending physician, and the custodian were all standing at the end of the corridor waving goodbye. Their arms formed similar arcs, their eyes flashed with the same slyness, and I suspected that they were somehow related to each other.

If I’d given the doctor a false history that day, he wouldn’t have written so much on my medical chart, the nurse who brought medications wouldn’t have brought me that bottle of pink liquid, and I wouldn’t have found myself feeling increasingly drowsy.

“There are people who look like me, too.” Speaking these words in the frigid room, I suddenly felt like a stranger. The urge to leave welled up inside, and I discovered the door was locked without having moved a muscle. “We lived in a run-down apartment building in S.” Once I’d opened my mouth, I couldn’t take any of it back. I’d spent so long in the hospital, I’d developed the habit of sticking my arm out and waiting for someone to inject fluid into my veins.

“But that was a long time ago. It was another time and place,” I told them.

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From Spoiled Brains

Blanc had expected to feel afraid of the throng of dark oppressive brains on the other side of the glass; but instead, the people reminded him of the doctors and nurses in the hospital, who were always wandering in to examine him, often catching him unawares. The only difference was that the people on the other side of the glass were far more numerous, and their numbers kept multiplying. The manager brought Blanc his lunch, and said: “This job is a dream job for a lot of folks. You should be happy.”