“Oh, what is that?”
I was warned by the warden about this patient’s infantile curiosity. He had warned me that this patient asks too many questions. I had rubbished his warning, for I always found children’s idiosyncrasies delightful. However, even I was put off by a balding fifty-year old’s tittering through tobacco strewn teeth.
I gestured to the pen to which he nodded. “That’s a pen.”
“Oh. What colour is the ink?”
“It writes in blue.”
“I see. What are you writing?”
It was here that I first felt some discomfort. I believed it was because of the way he asked the questions, but in reality, it was because I wasn’t sure how to answer.
“About the patients here.”
“Oh, you’ve met the others then! Can I see what you’ve written about them?”
I moved my notebook away just before he got close. His nimbleness matched his curiosity in its likeness to little kids. His impish smile disconcerted me. I motioned him to take his seat.
“What have you written today?”
I cleared my throat like a teenager asking a girl out for the first time. “Oh, you know, a bit about you, your condition.”
Few things can sink your heart like the sudden dampening of a child’s spirits. I’d always found it difficult to break bad news to a child. Innocence and disappointment are a bad fit, while innocence and horror cannot coexist. This patient’s childlike demeanour prompted me to treat him as one, so I lied.
“The fact that you’ve put on some weight on account of eating too much junk, how you don’t help out here enough, how you don’t obey the wardens!”
His countenance changed. Despite the cool breeze floating in through the window, his caustic stare drenched me in sweat.
“Oh, you think I’m a simpleton?”
“Why are you treating me like one?”
His bitter gaze had caused me to stand. His advancing figure caused me to back away.
“I’m not. It’s…the warden, he said.”
“What did he say?”
“Nothing, just that you like asking questions.”
“Oh, do I?”
“I don’t know!”
I backed into the gate and fumbled with the knob. As his pace quickened, so did the movement of my fingers. I bolted out the next instant.
“Where are you going?”
I ran. I didn’t look back at him. I was petrified by his sinister visage. I was confused by his uncanny habit of moulding every statement in the clay of questions. I didn’t know which were rhetoric and which were genuine, but I sure as hell wasn’t curious!
Did you read it? Did you like it? Do you have anything to say? Do you know someone like him? Do you want to meet more such people? Do you…