The silent patient by alex michaelides

“Thank you.” I nodded. “I don’t really have anything to add. Just that I’m very happy to be here. Excited, nervous, hopeful. And I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone —particularly the patients. I—” 

I was interrupted by a sudden bang as the door was thrown open. At first I thought I was seeing things. A giant charged into the room, holding two jagged wooden spikes, which she raised high above her head and then threw at us like spears. One of the patients covered her eyes and screamed. 

I half expected the spears to impale us, but they landed with some force on the floor in the middle of the circle. Then I saw they weren’t spears at all. It was a pool cue, snapped in two.

The massive patient, a dark-haired Turkish woman in her forties, shouted, “Pisses me off. Pool cue’s been broke a week and you still ain’t fucking replaced it.” 

“Watch your language, Elif,” said Diomedes. “I’m not prepared to discuss the matter of the pool cue until we decide whether it’s appropriate to allow you to join Community at such a late juncture.” He turned his head slyly and threw the question at me. “What do you think, Theo?” 

I blinked and took a second to find my voice. “I think it’s important to respect time boundaries and arrive on time for Community—” 

“Like you did, you mean?” said a man across the circle. 

I turned and saw it was Christian who had spoken. He laughed, amused by his own joke. 

I forced a smile and turned back to Elif. “He’s quite right, I was also late this morning. So maybe it’s a lesson we can learn together.” 

“What you on about?” Elif said. “Who the fuck are you anyway?” 

“Elif. Mind your language,” said Diomedes. “Don’t make me put you on time-out. Sit down.” 

Elif remained standing. “And what about the pool cue?” 

The question was addressed to Diomedes—and he looked at me, waiting for me to answer it. 

“Elif, I can see you’re angry about the pool cue,” I said. “I suspect whoever broke it was also angry. It raises the question of what we do with anger in an institution like this. How about we stick with that and talk about anger for a moment? Won’t you sit down?” 

Elif rolled her eyes. But she sat down. 

Indira nodded, looking pleased. We started talking about anger, Indira and I, trying to draw the patients into a

discussion about their angry feelings. We worked well together, I thought. I could sense Diomedes watching, evaluating my performance. He seemed satisfied. 

I glanced at Alicia. And to my surprise, she was looking at me—or at least in my direction. There was a dim fogginess in her expression—as if it was a struggle to focus her eyes and see. 

If you told me this broken shell had once been the brilliant Alicia Berenson, described by those who knew her as dazzling, fascinating, full of life—I simply wouldn’t have believed you. I knew then and there I’d made the right decision in coming to the Grove. All my doubts vanished. I became resolved to stop at nothing until Alicia became my patient. 

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