The silent patient by alex michaelides

“Hmm. Perhaps I’m imagining it. But I’m sensing something.… Keep an eye on it. Any aggression or competitiveness interferes with the work. You two need to work with each other, not against each other.” 

“I’m aware of that.” 

“Well, Christian needs to be included in this discussion. You want Alicia to feel, yes. But remember, with greater feeling comes greater danger.” 

“Danger for whom?” 

“For Alicia, of course.” Diomedes wagged his finger at me. “Don’t forget she was highly suicidal when we first brought her here. She made numerous attempts to end her life. And the medication keeps her stable. It keeps her alive. If we lower the dose, there’s every chance she will be overwhelmed by her feelings and be unable to cope. Are you prepared to take that risk?” 

I took what Diomedes said seriously. But I nodded. “It’s a risk I believe we need to take, Professor. Otherwise we’ll never reach her.” 

Diomedes shrugged. “Then I shall talk to Christian on your behalf.” 

“Thank you.” 

“We’ll see how he reacts. Psychiatrists don’t often respond well to being told how to medicate their patients. Of course, I

can overrule him, but I don’t tend to do that—let me broach the subject with him subtly. I’ll tell you what he says.” 

“It might be better not to mention me when you talk to him.” 

“I see.” Diomedes smiled strangely. “Very well, I won’t.” 

He pulled out a little box from his desk, sliding off the cover to reveal a row of cigars. He offered me one. I shook my head. 

“You don’t smoke?” He seemed surprised. “You look like a smoker to me.” 

“No, no. Only the occasional cigarette—just now and then … I’m trying to quit.” 

“Good, good for you.” He opened the window. “You know that joke, about why you can’t be a therapist and smoke? Because it means you’re still fucked-up.” He laughed and popped one of the cigars into his mouth. “I think we’re all a bit crazy in this place. You know that sign they used to have in offices? ‘You don’t need to be mad to work here, but it helps’?” 

Diomedes laughed again. He lit the cigar and puffed on it, blowing the smoke outside. I watched him enviously.


AFTER LUNCH I PROWLED THE CORRIDORS, looking for an exit. I was intending to sneak outside and have a cigarette, but I was discovered by Indira by the fire escape. She assumed I was lost. 

“Don’t worry, Theo,” she said, taking my arm. “It took me months to get my bearings around here. Like a maze with no way out. I still get lost sometimes and I’ve been here ten years.” She laughed. Before I could object, she was guiding me upstairs for a cup of tea in the “goldfish bowl.” 

“I’ll put the kettle on. Bloody miserable weather, isn’t it? I wish it would just snow and get it over with.… Snow is a very powerful imaginative symbol, don’t you think? Wipes everything clean. Have you noticed how the patients keep talking about it? Look out for it. It’s interesting.” 

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