Bror and the Ring
His name was Bror and they told me that he had a mental age of a six-year old. That was probably not too far off the mark, but he was also one of the most perceptive and kind persons I’ve ever met.
A few weeks after saving his life (see “Bror Provoked”), I handed in my notice. By that time, the writing was pretty much on the wall: Suspicion was approaching certainty that I had been helping patients escape. No evidence, mind you, but recent time coincidences spelled things out a little too clearly.
No, they could not sack me based on suspicion, but they could make my life very uncomfortable indeed and I could feel the resentment thicken the air as I entered the staff room these days. The head nurse on the ward almost said “We know,” in fact drew breath once to say just that (I am pretty sure) but fell just short of it. Still, they knew, and I knew that they knew, and they knew that I knew that they knew: not the recipe for harmonious relations.
So I decided to call it quits; made an appointment with the personnel officer and gave her (the same rather nice woman who had hired me) a two weeks’ notice.
To be honest, she did not look devastated to lose me; word had obviously percolated up the organization and reached her ears as well: the letter-out of locked-up/in patients.
Still, professional, she thanked me for my time and shook my hand and wished me the best of luck in whatever future endeavors.
Once on my way out, one thing I wanted to make sure I did was to tell Bror that I was leaving, and I wanted to give him something to remember me by.
Pondering this for a while I decided to give him my gold puzzle ring, you know those that consist of six or eight interlocking strands of gold that you must put together just so, or they will remain six or eight separate strands for pretty much ever.
Yes, that felt right. He would love that ring (I had caught him eyeing it now and then, admiring it). Yes, definitely. Then I realized, almost to my horror, that were I to give him my ring, I would first have to teach him how to put it together should it ever fall apart. I knew for one that if Bror were to have more electric shock treatment, they’d remove the ring and perhaps, if they were not careful, that’d fall it apart so to speak. As a patient, perhaps he could not ever wear it, I wasn’t sure; still, I wanted him to have it, to remember his prince from India by. But I would have to teach him how to put it together. Should it come apart with him unable to put it together again, well, I was afraid that that would break his heart.
So, I sat him down in the day room and told him I was leaving.
Right away? No, not today, but Friday after next, in about two weeks.
Where was I going? I wasn’t one hundred percent sure, but most likely back up north, to my hometown.
Did I have parents there? Yes, my dad lived there. He had a factory there where I could work, I was pretty sure.
Did I have wife? No, not a wife. But I was (still, actually) engaged to a girl named Marie who had come back from England now where she had spent the summer.
England? Did they have elephants there? No, not really. In zoos, sure, but not in the streets or anything. Not like India.
“I am afraid of elephants,” he confided in me.
“I know,” I said.
“Not you though,” he informed me.
“True,” I said.
Then I told him that I wanted to give him something to remember me by when I was gone: my gold ring.
At first, I don’t think he believed is ears. Then he said, pointing at the puzzle ring on my finger, “That one?”
“Yes, this one,” I said, holding it up.
“Oh boy,” he said, light spreading across his face, like a glow from heat. “Oh, boy.”
“Let me show you something, though,” I said, and explained how the ring could come apart and how I needed to teach him how to put it back together should that happen.
And then I took the ring apart and put it together again many times. And then he tried equally many times, and failed equally many times.
I showed him many more times. He tried and failed many more times. I showed him again. He tried again. Failed again.
After twenty or so minutes, perhaps half an hour, he looks right at me and says, “You should keep the ring. I can never learn how to put it together. I’m too stupid. And if I drop it, and it breaks, my heart would break along with it.”
For his sake, and mine (for not causing an eventual broken heart), I kept the ring.