A man cannot realize that above such shattered bodies there are still human faces in which life goes its daily round. And this is only one hospital, a single station; there are hundreds of thousands in Germany, hundreds of thousands in France, hundreds of thousands in Russia. How senseless is everything that can ever be written, done, or thought, when such things are possible. It must be all lies and of no account when the culture of a thousand years could not prevent this stream of blood being poured out, these torture chambers in their hundreds of thousands. A hospital alone shows what war is.
We are Craiglockhart's success stories. Look at us. We don't remember, we don't feel, we don't think - at least beyond the confines of what's needed to do the job. By any proper civilized standard (but what does that mean now?) we are objects of horror. But our nerves are completely steady. And we are still alive.
The merciful precepts of Christ will at last suffuse the Code and it will glow with their radiance. Crime will be considered an illness with its own doctors to replace your judges and its hospitals to replace your prisons. Liberty shall be equated with health. Ointments and oil shall be applied to limbs that were once shackled and branded. Infirmities that once were scourged with anger shall now be bathed with love. The cross in place of the gallows: sublime and yet so simple.
If there is one thing I'd learned about hospitals, it's that they aren't interested in healing you. They are interested in stabilizing you, and then everyone is supposed to move on. They go to stabilize some more people, and you go off to do whatever you do. Healing, if it happens at all, is done on your own, long after the hospital has submitted your final insurance paperwork.
Is there anywhere else to sleep tonight... Anywhere?' I pleaded.There's Mei's office, but you'll have to sleep on the floor I'm afraid.' Mei was one of the Ward 9D dietitians.'I'll sleep on the floor any day. I'm used to it back in the Islands,' I laughed tiredly.I settled down on the floor. The three rugs I had brought to cushion my back worked surprisingly well. It was almost more comfortable than the thin mats on the cold concrete floors of the fales in Samoa. The idea of sleeping in someone's office was the best idea I had had all year. I decided that I would keep this secret to myself.
Doctors tend to enter the arenas of their profession's practice with a brisk good cheer that they have to then stop and try to mute a bit when the arena they're entering is a hospital's fifth floor, a psych ward, where brisk good cheer would amount to a kind of gloating. This is why doctors on psych wards so often wear a vaguely fake frown of puzzled concentration, if and when you see them in fifth-floor halls. And this is why a hospital M.D.--who's usually hale and pink-cheeked and poreless, and who almost always smells unusually clean and good--approaches any psych patient under this care with a professional manner somewhere between bland and deep, a distant but sincere concern that's divided evenly between the patient's subjective discomfort and the hard facts of the case.
It was a dead hole, smelling of synthetic leather and disinfectant, both of which odors seemed to emanate from the torn scratched material of the seats that lined the three walls. It smelled of the tobacco ashes which had flooded the two standing metal ashtrays. On the chromium lip of one, a cigar butt gleamed wetly like a chewed piece of beef. There was the smell of peanut shells and of the waxy candy wrappers that littered the floor, the smell of old newspapers, dry, inky, smothering and faintly like a urinal, the smell of sweat from armpits and groins and backs and faces, pouring out and drying up in the lifeless air, the smell of clothes cleaning fluids imbedded in fabric and blooming horribly in the warm sweetish air, picking at the nostrils like thorns all the exudations of the human flesh, a bouquet of animal being, flowing out, drying up, but leaving a peculiar and ineradicable odor of despair in the room as though chemistry was transformed into spirit, an ascension of a kind,Light issuing from spotlights in the ceiling was sour and blinding like a sick breath.There was in that room an underlying confusion in the function of the senses. Smell became color, color became smell. Mute started at mute so intently they might have been listening with their eyes, and hearing grew preternaturally acute, yet waited only for the familiar syllables of surnames. Taste died, mouth opened in the negative drowsiness of waiting.