The silent patient by alex michaelides

“I’m sure you know the drill,” Yuri said. “No sharp objects —nothing that could be used as a weapon.”

“No lighters,” added the security guard as he frisked me, fishing my lighter from my pocket with an accusing look. 

“Sorry. I forgot I had it.” 

Yuri beckoned me to follow him. “I’ll show you to your office. Everyone’s in the Community meeting, so it’s pretty quiet.” 

“Can I join them?” 

“In Community?” Yuri looked surprised. “You don’t want to settle in first?” 

“I can settle in later. If it’s all the same to you?” He shrugged. “Whatever you want. This way.” 

He led me down interconnecting corridors punctuated by locked doors—a rhythm of slams and bolts and keys turning in locks. We made slow progress. 

It was obvious not much had been spent on the upkeep of the building in several years: paint was crawling away from the walls, and a faint musty smell of mildew and decay permeated the corridors. 

Yuri stopped outside a closed door and nodded. “They’re in there. Go ahead.” 

“Okay, thanks.” 

I hesitated, preparing myself. Then I opened the door and went inside.


COMMUNITY WAS HELD IN A LONG ROOM with tall barred windows that overlooked a redbrick wall. The smell of coffee was in the air, mingled with traces of Yuri’s aftershave. About thirty people were sitting in a circle. Most were clutching paper cups of tea or coffee, yawning and doing their best to wake up. Some, having drunk their coffees, were fidgeting with the empty cups, crumpling, flattening them, or tearing them to shreds. 

Community met once or twice daily; it was something between an administrative meeting and a group therapy session. Items relating to the running of the unit or the patients’ care were put on the agenda to be discussed. It was, Professor Diomedes was fond of saying, an attempt to involve the patients in their own treatment and encourage them to take responsibility for their well-being, although this attempt didn’t always work. Diomedes’s background in group therapy meant he had a fondness for meetings of all kinds, and he encouraged as much group work as possible. You might say he was happiest with an audience. He had the faint air of a theatrical impresario, I thought, as he rose to his feet to greet me, hands outstretched in welcome, and beckoned me over. 

“Theo. There you are. Join us, join us.” 

He spoke with a slight Greek accent, barely detectable— he’d mostly lost it, having lived in England for over thirty years. He was handsome, and although in his sixties, he looked much younger—he had a youthful, mischievous manner, more like an irreverent uncle than a psychiatrist. This isn’t to say he wasn’t devoted to the patients in his care—he arrived before the cleaners did in the morning and stayed long after the night team had taken over from the day staff, sometimes spending the night on the couch in his office. Twice divorced, Diomedes was fond of saying his third and most successful marriage was to the Grove.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *