Sunday, August 19, 2007

Loto* - 1990

He lies on the far bed, all scrunched up, a lone soul in a large bland ward. The bed sheets are crumpled around his small body. I lean against the doorframe and take a deep breath.

Outside the clouds are grey – a flat grey that dulls the colours of the trees and create a dirty cream on the surrounding buildings. There is nothing to look at out there. I have looked out that window a thousand times. I have seen through that view. I wonder what is holding this small boys attention – fixated on the smudges on the glass. Does he see his demons as I had so many years ago? I have never met a person like him before, but I have been in that bed before. I know it holds onto you, creates a shape for you as if you will be there for the rest of your life.

My childhood is over but I have not yet resolved those demons. All I have are idealistic ideas of how to bring happiness to those in strife. And yet with the reality before me, I feel completely inadequate.

I step into the ward and close the door.

He does not move. His back forms a solid barrier between us – a barrier he erected the second he climbed into that bed. For me, despite the warnings from medical professionals, it still comes as a blow. Apparently he responds to no-one – but I thought he would have responded to me. My idealistic notions are beginning to feel dog-eared. I move to the end of the bed and gently sit in the chair assigned for guests visiting his bed.

The chair is hollowed from a history of numerous anxious visitors, waiting for their beloved children to wake and heal. I don’t belong in that chair. I have never been in a chair like this before.

I begin to chat trying desperately not to sound desperate. I briefly introduce myself and then - I talk about the weather – staring out the window at the small figures walking around the grey hill. I tell Loto my intentions. I’m here to have some fun. It is the holidays (not that it makes much of a difference to him), and if he was bored he might like to have some fun too. I have some ideas of what we can do – but he might like to tell me the kind of things he enjoys doing.


It is polite to wait at least 7 seconds before continuing. I wait 30.

I hear he likes cooking – what about making pancakes sometimes.

“I’m not allowed out of this room”. A response.

It throws me – but it is a response.

Mmmm… Then we will have to bring the frying pan in here.


I continue. I can bring some games in – monopoly, drafts, pictionary. If he wants any books I can bring some. Actually I have been given some money – so something like cars, or balls, whatever – I can buy them.

The people on the hill have disappeared over the horizon – there are more out there but we can’t see them – and it didn’t matter anyway. I know this world – flat, single dimensional, out of reach. They aren’t really people – just shapes.

The silence is beginning to get to me. What else? Where can I go to from here? I have no training, just idealistic ideas. We have been able to see each other out of the corner of our eyes – but neither of us have looked. I lean forward in the chair. I have no way of seeing him now, however he is free to look if he wanted - if he is at all curious about me. I don’t know if he looking.

Well I will be around. I will come back later – if he wants to think about it.

Later in hospital can seem like forever. I stand up. Tug on my jeans – I feel like I’ve been sitting in this chair for days. I look directly at Loto.

I will catch him later then.

I go to the window, tug at my sleeve and wipe the smudge I had been staring at – it doesn’t budge, it is obviously on the outside – 9 floors up.

See ya. I head for the door.

His words make me pause “So you’ll bring the frying pan tomorrow then?” - I smile.

No worries – catch you then.

*Loto (not his real name) thoroughly enjoyed baking in the ward. We tried to make the fire alarms go off – luckily we never managed that. We bought a race car along with tracks and once isolation was lifted we decorated the school room – turning into a jungle. A pass was granted and we invited another patient to come to the movies with us. I don’t know whatever happened to Loto – his condition was quite serious. I hope that he was given opportunities and that he gave himself a chance.

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