You can read the backstory on The Book of the Wounded Healers in The Book of The Wounded Healers/(a study in perception)/Frame and Chapter 1 – The First Communication, and it may help understanding the story’s universe a bit.
Read previous chapters:
- Frame and Chapter 1 – The First Communication
- Chapter 2 – First Meeting
- Chapter 3 – How Do We Choose? How Are We Chosen?
- Chapter 4 – Hello?
- Chapter 5 – The Russians Have Landed
(a study in perception)
Chapter 6 – Places You’ve Never Been
During my time in the hospital, I met a man who had never been to The ‘Nam but whose life had been so traumatic that the only way he could rationalize his experiences was to believe he had been there. He manifested all the patterns of acute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; persistent re-experiencing of the trauma, persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma or numbing of general responsiveness, increased arousal.
This wasn’t surprising. Talking with him, I came to realize that emotionally and spiritually he had more in common with Vets – loss, pain, remorse, fear, psychological failure – than any others group he could associate with. After a few days, when he knew more about me, I, too, became his enemy. My knowledge and experiences were a threat to those he fabricated and eventually he had to leave. I don’t remember his name but I’ll call him Jack. Whenever Jack walked under a doorjamb he would kick the top of the jamb to show everyone how high he could kick.
There was another man, Bill I think his name was, who was of the right age to have been to Woodstock but had no memories of the best known feature of it – “Hey, man! They shut down the highway!”
Bill was average height and build, with the coloring and coarseness of someone whose life involved little intelligence and lots of labor. His voice bore the mark of thirty years of chain smoking although he hadn’t developed a hack, something I attributed to his several years on the sea. Balding and cropping what little hair he had, Bill always smiled a terse little smile and watched everyone around him to see if they were watching him.
Bill was the kind of guy who would talk to himself if no one was there. He would announce his entry into a room and his exit. He would announce the onslaught of his bodily functions and describe the strains, groans, farts, and moans associated with them. Instead of simply getting a cup of coffee he would engage himself in monologue, “I guess I’ll just get a cup of coffee here. Now where’s the cups. No, don’t tell me, I know. Yep, here they are. A little cream? No, today I think I’ll have milk. Sugar. Now where’s the sugar,” and on it would go through the cup of coffee and onto the next. If everyone in the ward were watching retro TV mysteries and Columbo was about to nudge the felon into submission or Jessica was ready to reveal the culprit, Bill would enter, his voice the same volume as the TV, and begin his monologue of which chair? which lamp? was there a paper to read? what’s on? and who did it? “Oh yeah? I don’t know. I think it’s somebody else. Maybe that guy there,” and he would point at the announcer on the commercial for underwear.
It had to be planned. Either planned or practiced for so many years it passed into habit.
Bill, by the way, wasn’t one of the orderlies. That was the other guy, Jack. Bill was one of the counselors. That was how he introduced himself to me.
I found out later he was a habitual patient.
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