27.3.07

Drip-feed




… Yes, that Ovid. The Art of Love. The Metamorphoses. I’ve been reading up on him, too.

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Yep, I guess I am enabling his fantasy by researching it for him. He doesn’t need much help, though. He’s got the whole thing pat right down to his fingertips.

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No, I know Ovid wasn’t blind. Homer was, though. He’s got a whole theory about that which he’s been explaining to me …

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Well, if you won’t listen to it, what good are you to me?

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Yes, I understand all that. I understand the theory of it, but what good does that do me if that’s what’s on my mind?

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Thank you. Well, anyway, I think it must have begun in the hospital. He was under for quite some time, an induced coma …

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Yes, I’ll be very careful. For God’s sake! He had a neck drip, that’s the thing. It was open permanently so that they could draw blood on a regular basis. There must have been some discomfort from it … so, voilà! Vampires …

[ ... ]

He wouldn’t talk to me at first. I had to visit every day to start with, but now it’s down to two or three times a week.

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About the second or third visit. He started rambling on about the place he was living – some frontier settlement it sounded like. I thought it was memories from his past. He was still a bit groggy at that stage. But after a while I realised there was a certain form to it. I realise now that he was quoting poetry …

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No, not in Latin. In English. I guess they’re translations, or something like that.

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Oh, fairly conversational. That’s why it took me a while to realise what he was doing. Why? Is it significant.

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Okay, anything that I remember must be significant to me. Nice turnaround you’ve got going there. Fuck, I must be insane doing this! I wouldn’t waste my time if I didn’t absolutely have to, you know.

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Fair enough. It’s true. It is quite helpful to talk about him. And I do want to improve my clinical practice. You’re right there. Sleeping with patients really isn’t the best way to make them better. I know that now. I’ve had to hear quite a few people telling me that already …

[ ... ]

Whatever. Anyway, getting back to the matter in hand, I didn’t realise what he thought was going on for quite some time. I’ve been visiting him for six weeks or so, you’ve got to realise! I wasn’t taking notes. I’m not even sure in what order he said the various things, or when it all started to click and make sense to me.

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No, it’s not much use from the point of view of understanding the onset of his delusions – if they are delusions, that is …

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No, of course I don’t mean that I think he actually is the Roman poet Ovid, magically transported into modern times in order to bring us news from Pontus …

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Pontus. It’s where he was exiled. The Black Sea. Come on, call up your memory banks or whatever it is you do – or maybe you don’t have access to more general datafiles?

A small town called Tomi (or Tomis – they seem to use both spellings in the reference books), in what is now Romania, situated in the border province of Pontus. It’s where he was sent by the Emperor Augustus for some unspecified offence, probably to do with the morals of certain members of the Imperial family. Got it?

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Fine.

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No, actually it hadn’t struck me. You’re saying that I’m interested in this man’s fantasies because they concern offences against morality, and that that equates with my own misconduct against nursing professional ethics …

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I’m not quite sure why, but that theory really irritates me for some reason.

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No, I’m not saying it’s wrong. It’s actually pretty smart and insightful. It just irritates me.

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That’s what I’m trying to work out. I guess, to start with, because it makes me into such a specimen – an example of how everything that interests us is really linked with some petty set of personal concerns. That there’s absolutely no objectivity, no outside reality to attach yourself to.

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Yes, and I guess it is because it’s a bit of an accusation, too.

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I think the main thing about it, though, is that it’s just another example of you refusing to fucking listen to what I’m trying to tell you, but instead trying to get me stuck in some snakes-and-ladders game of random associations and pat bullshit explanations from you …

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Fucking right it’s aggressive! Try telling yourself a story sometime and see how calm you feel at the end of it.

[ ... ]

Okay. I’m calm.

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Anyway, can I go back to the blindness? From what I can tell, he has this idea that he was offered a choice. Either he could get on a ship and be sent off to this frozen hellhole up north, a place that practically no-one ever comes back from, or else he could stay right where he was in Rome, in his own house, in his own study – but blind.

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Oh, I think staring at a redhot poker, or something like that. There’s some really nasty details of how they used to blind people in Ancient times if you want to look them up.

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Yes, of course, that’s my point. That’s how he’s accommodated what happened to him with what happened to this poet in the past.

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That’s what I don’t know. Maybe he was obsessed with the guy already. Maybe he wrote a book about him, translated his poems – it makes sense. It’s a pretty bookish apartment he lives in.

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Oh, talking books. Detective stories mostly. Thrillers. Nothing too intellectual. But he must have been keen on that sort of thing. You can tell by the way he talks – the mere fact that he has these poems memorised, knows all these details about Imperial Rome.

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And about vampires. That’s a whole other subject.

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Yes, well, that’s the problem really. He thinks he’s this poet – he’s been blinded and is still in his study in Rome, unable to read or write with any facility, completely dependent on his nurses but unable to communicate with anyone he knows.

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Those were the conditions. He has to live here, blind, as if he were there – send letters, give descriptions, the whole nine yards. If it ever gets out that he wasn't exiled up there he’ll be executed straight away. This way the emperor saves the price of a ship passage and salves his own conscience a little bit, too.

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Because he didn't execute him right away, I guess.

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I suppose he’s dictating to me. Some of the time, anyway. He feels this need to keep up the dispatches from exile. They’re his lifeline, because if they stop coming then everyone will assume he’s dead, and of course he thinks that that means he actually will be dead.

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Oh, that the moment he stops writing someone’ll drop by and smother him with a pillow and there’ll be one less uppity poet in town. It’s got to happen sometime. Either he dies of natural causes right where he is, or someone gets the bright idea of helping the process along.

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Yes, I guess it is a kind of hell. But it’s what he chose. He didn’t want to leave home, didn’t want to see all that stuff with his own eyes. He prefers just lying there imagining it and writing long descriptions of the local customs and scenery in his letters.

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I don’t think he would have told me about it if he thought I was just another nurse. It’s the vampire thing, the fact that he thinks I’m some sort of ghost who’s haunting him that makes him confide in me. He’s shit-scared of me, to be perfectly honest.

[ ... ]

Not because I draw his blood. Because he thinks I’m feeding him mine.

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