sabato 6 agosto 2011
A Place To Rest
Look at that building. What do you feel, in the pit of your stomach, while watching?
Now picture that being the place you enter with your hopes wrapped in a package, where you might actually meet your demise or fight up to your last resource of energy until you actually come out completely ttansformed.
That building is placed in the center of North Eastern country, which means its a surrealistic visual. A landfscape of green, empty fields, vaguely smelling of fertilizer and post industrial dreams. Long, twisty asphalted roads that go on for miles, filled with cars that seem to be focused on getting to their destination as quick as possible, because getting stuck there would be too depressing.
I remember working in a similar landscape, not far from there, and driving through to do errands or to go back home and visit my family. I remember howe i easily got lost in the desolate cosiness of that part of the country. The way i seemed to always loose myself into the endless series of directionless roads, anonymous small towns with improbable names and identical sets of gigantic stores where you could go and buy everything.
This time, in the middle of that, this giant square box of bricks, surrounded by pastel coloured signs and by an aura of grotesque silence, only interrupted by slowly moving cars and crickets, was where people went to fight or cease to fight. It's an institute for the cure of high level tumors. A private one, quite espensive, supported by the national association for the research against cancer. A friend of mine, a very close one, diagnosed with a malignant tumor of the type that breaks weaker man, is there fighting his own war, in order to see his newlyborn daughter grow up.
I parked the car. The heat of the August sun made the air heavy and saturated with humid weirdness. While reaching the entrance, i noticed the group of patients and relatives sat outside on wooden becnhs, smoking their lungs out. The smoke smell was intense, even more than a lot of smoker filled places. And i cant judge that. Later my friend would point out how many people in that building actually started tripling their smoking habits while there. How often youd see patients with no hair, on wheelchairs, with envelopes and bottles of meds, courting out and smoking.
Recently, a person doing a healthcare discussion with me, loved to stress one sentence out of two, how "Smokers should not be granted healthcare or any cure, if they ever got cancer". And my reaction, as it is witha lot of nonsense now is: get ill, then we'll speak.
The building recpetion looked like a giant, aspetic hotel. The type of hotel where traveling salesmen end up. Elegant, depersonalized and cold. And that''s what all the inside of this place seemed to me. It was a personal feeling but all i could think was how the clinic was a good visualization of the idea of death. Not the bloody, screaming death of hospital. The death of slow diseases that eat you away one hour at a time. The muffled death where you are surrounded by glass eyed nurses, with no smell, not even pharamaceutical ones, corridors that all look the same, and silent room where even your faimily feels embarassed to cry too loudly. Where you go out with your eyes closed and a machine goes beep.
It was still a place where most people would probably come out cured and stronger, but that's how it felt to me in the deep. My friend commented how the architecture of the bu8ildingsa looked like Auschwitz. I wanted to joke how, possibly, the skinny bald people helped the feeling. I didnt, cause i was thinkin he was right.
I saw him trying to walk again, with his father by his side. He was doing good. Strong, as he always is, even at this moment. As bad as it may sound, ive never loved the man as much as i loved him at that moment. Not out of pity or compassion but because he looked like he could take anything and kick it in the balls.
In his room there was another young man in much worse conditions. Yet, he had a great sense of humour. We joked a lot, on morbid topics, like having sex on chemo and penis dimensions. He joked even more with his family around. While watching the family's faces squirm for those jokes, i still could pick who was who, even if i did not kno them. The mother, older and weathered, but the most resilient of the bunch. Because no matter what, mothers are always the top warriors. The grandmother, philosophical and accepting. The sister, detached and teensy but visibly deeply affected.
After chatting, my friend wanted to rest, so i left. I gave him two books for his girlfriend. Her birthday on that day. A mother of a newlyborn child with an ill lover, i think she needs a couple of books.
The quietness of the families still is in my head now. And how every one of them talked about how unbearable the interactions with the "outsiders" are. How the tons of fakely sympathetic calls are torture, or worse the complete silence and absence of help.
Recently, another person i love, who is also fighting against illness and the cruelty of life, hgas been hurt by the selfishness of people in her life. The silences from the supposed friends and the backstabbings. And all i would want to0 do is take her away and take care of her. To be able to make my friend healed again. To solve things. But i cannot, so i can only try and not to be silent, or absent.
And in the meantime, think how i am safe that there is no god but theres a lot of people who can do well without him. As i said, if you dont believe me, wait till you get ill. Then we'll talk.