This is the fifteenth part of my short story, Friends. Please, would you correct my mistakes.
In the morning, while Omer was eating his fried eggs, Merima asked if everything was all right. “Of course, everything is all right” he answered. “Why shouldn’t be?” he said staring at her. “No nightmares, no tormentors?” she asked. “Absolutely nothing,” he said, “I sleep like a baby.” Merima, who was afraid of conflict and the possibility of divorce, did not dare to mention what she had heard a few hours before. As soon as her husband went outside, she called her mother and told her that Omer was going mad. Her mother was not surprised. “Everything can happen,” she said. “Mental hospitals here are overcrowded with men and women who have lost their minds. Now when the war is over, former soldiers are killing themselves, their family members, or their neighbours. They are throwing hand grenades on the streets and shooting at passers-by for the reasons only known by them. Even our politicians have become insane. They’re building enormous churches and mosques, now when ordinary people have hardly enough food on their tables. If Omer is getting mad, at least they’ll take care of him in Sweden in a civilised way.”
In the hospital, Omer had soon become an object of ridicule. Whenever someone of the staff overheard him talking behind the door of his consulting room, they would call their colleagues and then they would gather at his door. They would carefully open the door a bit, peer through the crack and laugh their heads off. There was no doubt that Dr Osmanovic had a natural gift for acting. Of course, the Swedes were unable to understand what he was talking about, but they appreciated the command of his voice and his ability to raise and drop it quickly. In one moment, he was shouting in an authoritative voice, and in another, he was pleading like a beggar. His face was like a living mask, changing smoothly from one role to another and never remaining the same. Sometimes he became silent, and then his hands and fingers drew all attention to themselves. The staff had different theories about what was happening with Dr Osmanovuc, but people could never agree on them. The only thing that was clear was that the man was terribly angry, and the source of it must have been in his homeland.
Outwardly, the staff treated him as usual, with respect and politeness, but behind his back, they made fun of him. On coffee breaks, people talked about all possible topics, from sports results to weather, but Omer’s performances had become an obligatory subject. For the majority of them Omer, as a foreigner, was an outsider. They did not like his ambitiousness, his compassion and his enthusiasm. Now that he was getting mad, they felt a malicious pleasure in his plight.
Soon the news of Omer’s strange behaviour reached the head of the orthopaedic unit, Dr Ericson, who was afraid that Dr Osmanovic was going completely to lose his mind and harm the patients. He was just a year from his retirement, and would not risk a scandal on his unit, which would tarnish his reputation. He called Omer to his office to tell him that he should take a few weeks off to relax and see a good psychiatrist, who could help him with his problem. He did not dare to be straightforward, and instead talked evasively, hoping that Omer was going to understand what was demanded from him. (Generally speaking, the Swedes are afraid of conflict and try to avoid it at any price). Dr Ericson told him that he was so glad to have him on this unit, that patients were full of praise for Dr Osmanovic and that other members of the staff liked to work with him, but there were certain changes in his behaviour that could affect negatively his work.
“What kind of changes?” Omer asked, visibly upset.
Dr Ericson’s face went crimson. He was unable to find courage to put into words what he really felt. He behaved like a plane that circled above the airport, but would never land. He told Omer that there were rumours that sometimes Omer fell into a trance, which could be dangerous if that happened during an operation. Apparently, there were some loud voices overheard from the Omer’s room, which could make other people nervous. (To tell this, Dr Ericson had to find and outstanding courage, and he was blushing and burning all over his body).
Omer gave him a sharp look. “I’ll tell you what is the problem, Dr Ericson. You Swedes are obsessively jealous. You can’t stand the people who succeed in life, especially if they are foreigners and immigrants. You don’t like us because our presence remind you that you are not superior to others as they taught you. In reality, you are cowards, except when you are drunk...”
“It’s true we are jealous and it’s also true that some of us don’t like immigrants, but I promise you that I’m neither jealous of you, nor do I hate you. On the contrary, I wish you only the best. I’m just concerned with your health. So, please take my advice and you’ll see that everything will be all right again.”
Omer was on the point of jumping up, running out and never returning to the hospital, but the softly spoken words by Dr Ericson had a soothing effect on him. His anger mellowed and he apologized for insulting the Swedes, who had given him shelter and a chance for a new life. He promised he would take some weeks off and come back, more determined and effective than before.
They shook hands and Dr Ericson gave him a reassuring pat on his shoulder.
“Don’t worry, my friend. You’ll be back sooner then you believe. We’re going to eat many lunches together,” he said and gave Omer a broad smile. Omer had hardly left and closed the door behind him when Dr Ericson said aloud, “Bloody refugees! They only bring problems. Why do we have to take care of everyone in the world?” He slumped down with resignation in his chair.
TO BE CONTINUED
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