'There's something screaming in me,' he whispered. He was looking down low, staring at the wall as if he was about to cry. But no, I was wrong. I realized as the seconds passed, that he would never cry. Not in front of me, not in front of anyone. I think he was beyond crying at that point, to tell you the truth. And for one brief second, I wished I could help him.
I wished I could reach out and take his hand, soothe him in some way. I was young then and I thought myself very brave, I thought I could do anything. Even quieten the screaming in his head. You're thinking how arrogant of me, I know. But there you have it. I was, I suppose.
I don't think you were arrogant, James, I think your reaction was to be expected.
Anyway. He was rocking back and forth on my bed, twitching like there were a thousand invisible bugs crawling up his chest and he was trying to shake them off. But he never could shake them off, I think that was his problem. Not that, you know, I think he had a problem.
I told him I could help him. I said, 'Let me try, let me...'
I don't know what I wanted him to let me because I don't really know what I could've done.
'You can't help me. Nobody can help me,' he told me, shaking his head.
He asked me to leave, but I couldn't leave. How could I do that? Come out of the...facility an utter fool? Go back to his father and tell him I'd tried to cure him and failed miserably, just like all the others? Not when I was...
The best. Go on, you can say it. Everyone says you were. The youngest man to reach such heights in your field.
Yes, I suppose I was. And I didn't want to not seem the best, not even for a second. He was the first man I failed to cure and I hated it. I felt a burning in my chest as I looked at him, rocking on the bed. You know, they always said – in all the speeches and all the commendations and all the books – they always said I did it because I had this need to see people cured. A goodness in me that wanted to help others.
And I stood there and I smiled and I would accept their praise. But it was a lie. I never cared about helping people. Not in that way, not that much. I didn't even see them, just like I didn't see the desperate man rocking on the bed that day. I just saw in terms of advancement and regression. Success and failure.
And if I walked out of that room and left him like that, he would be my first failure.
The worst one.
No, that's another lie. They say the first one breaks your heart the worst, but that's not true. They all do, and every time it tears at you the same, 'cause you thought it would be different this time.
'I need to get away from here,' he told me. He was crying, but I didn't see that. I couldn't see how far off he was gone, I couldn't understand the situation he was in. All I saw...
- and he pauses here, wishing for the other man to complete his sentence, but he does not. This is a journey the doctor must go alone. -
...was a second chance. For me.
So, I took it. I told him that the only way he was leaving the facility was to act as if I'd cured him. I assured him no one would question me, no one would dare stop us. My career would be saved and he would be free to go anywhere he wished.
And do anything he saw fit with himself. Although I think that's nothing but a euphemism. I don't think he saw a whole lot by that point, certainly not what was good for him.
And he walked.
And he walked. We both did. In those moments, some strange sanity broke through him and he acted completely normal. Like – I suppose – the man he was before he became ill. We walked out of the room, him leaning on my arm, but otherwise composed. And I signed his check-out papers, I signed it all and the next thing I knew, we were both getting into my car, in the facility's parking lot.
And then I let him out. About 100 miles from the facility. I couldn't risk anyone seeing him, understanding what I'd done. He said he didn't mind. As soon as we got into my car, he went very quiet, collapsed back into himself. He just nodded and walked off.
I know you want me to tell you where. I know you want me to tell you what happened to that young, troubled man. But I can't.
You want to know what I think? I think there's something inside of us. Something like a sort of clock. A terrible device that ticks away. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. And then one day, it stops ticking and you don't quite know how to fix it. And you try, as you might, to do something. Anything. But you can't fix it, and it only get s louder and louder.
See, that's what I think the screaming was. The one he was talking about. I think it was his clock going bust.
So what do you do when the clock busts?
Nothing. There's nothing you can do. When the clock is done, so are you. And so was he. I don't know what happened to him. The man I helped bust out of the facility. But I'm sure it wasn't good.
Today's prompt was 'describe a clock' and this is what came to mind. Do check out @mariannewest's blog to join our freewriting community!
Thank you for reading,