Choice

park_bench

Bill was a curious sort. During the rare spells where the sun glanced over England without cloud or heavy winds to obstruct the view, he would grumble and throw on his coat. His house sat aglow during the daytime but released not a flicker of light after the sun had set.

He used earphones in the privacy of his own lounge and a loudspeaker in the library.

I once saw a kindly old lady sit on park bench, just a few inches over from Bill who was frowning in his creased pyjamas. She spoke to him, asking for help with her new phone; she could never quite wrap her head around new technology.

Bill pointedly ignored each of her questions, prompting an irritated “My goodness, isn’t this boy a great help?!” from the old dear. The rhetorical outburst had scarce brushed past her lips when Bill stood, roaring incoherently about the internet and some kind of fruit store. The old lady was stricken and tears welled furiously in Bill’s eyes, but never fell.

You see, Bill had a problem. Whatever logic or decorum presented as normal, Bill’s poor brain would turn on its head. He wore bathing suits in midwinter, shouted in outrage when the hero saved the day in movies and only washed his clean clothes.

But the old lady who spoke to Bill had seen this behaviour before. She spoke to her nephew, whose neighbour was quite a brilliant young doctor. They relived what happened with Bill and set about making a change.

So it was that Bill ended up in hospital, glaringly miserable at being told his condition would soon be reversed. His reaction, it was interpreted, was a positive one.

When he woke again, the doctors were pensive and hesitant. Bill noticed a slight chill in the air, so pulled on his jumper for warmth. Someone murmured that he seemed well, and Bill smiled appreciatively at the comment.

Wanting to verify that he was indeed better, the doctor asked him a question: “What do you want to do today, more than anything else in the world?”

After a moment’s hesitation, Bill answered quietly, as befits a room full of unwell patients:

“Today, I would dearly love to die.”

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