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the hospital canteen

published: 2011-03-05

An older man started crying in the hospital canteen. He tried to stop the tears. His face swelled up, turned purple. Finally, the tears brimmed over and his face deflated as if it was a balloon, and the tears needles. He let out a deep sigh, then sobbed. Now he tried to stop the sobs and so his shoulders shook.
Here was a man of standing and grace, who’s head bowed down. He pushed the hamburger he had been eating away, admitting defeat.
The girl who was sitting at the table with him frowned in concern. She chewed her lip contemplating what to do. Should she run over to the magazine kiosk and buy a newspaper? Or should she sit it out and simply let him sob?
Her hand moved towards him and then she drew it back. But after a moment she resolutely pulled her chair over to him, her legs straddled so he was between them, but sideways. She put her arm around his shoulders. His shoulders tightened in resistance. At least he didn’t get up and walk away. Neither did he push her arm back. So she pushed forward, carefully moving her forehead towards his until their foreheads met. She whispered something, perhaps that everything would be okay. That she loved him. Most likely the very things the girl needed to hear herself. Had she ever sobbed in this way in his presence? Or had she always run away shouting and screaming and fiercely slamming doors, hoping to receive the embrace as opposed to the reprimand?
That little girl in the hospital canteen, was me.

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