This is the sixteenth part of my short story, Friend. Please, would you correct my mistakes.
The first days away from the hospital were not an easy time for Dr Osmanovic. He was a man who loved his routine, his small rituals he performed throughout the day. Now when he was alone in his flat from early morning until late afternoon he grew restless. He tried to watch some idiotic TV programmes, but they only made him nervous. The radio was by no means better, with people calling in and complaining about all kinds of trivialities. There were books all over the flat, but Omer was not in mood to read them. Books were theories, ideas, fabrications, or hard facts, while he was a practical man, used to work with his hands. Of course, he could go outside and stroll the streets, but seeing other people rushing to their jobs would make him only depressive. As if sensing Omer’s discomfort, Milan appeared to him again. Omer saw him with relief. It was better to quarrel with his former friend than sit alone and ponder over the absurdity of human existence. Before, Milan would appear for a few minutes and then disappear, after which Omer would return to his normal state, but now when Omer had so much spare time, Milan stayed longer. They argued as before and they could not agree on anything. Omer was so engrossed in the discussions that he did not feel hunger or thirst. When Milan finally disappeared, it was just a few minutes before Omer’s daughter and wife returned. When Merima asked him if he had a good time, he answered that everything was fine, although his mind went blank.
It was a few days later when an unpleasant incident occurred. Merima and her daughter had returned around five in the afternoon, and when Merima opened the door, she could hear her husband talking to his imaginary interlocutor. “Oh, no, again!” she told herself. She was so tired of his nightly performances, and now when she saw him hallucinating again, she ran out of patience. She put two bags with groceries on the kitchen table and then came up to Omer. He was standing in front of the wall, talking and gesticulating, as it was his habit.
“Please, stop, Omer,” she said. “This is so sick. Man, you need professional help.”
As Omer ignored her and went on with his soliloquy as usual, Merima placed herself between him and the wall, which was a bad mistake. Nobody would ever be able to explain what happened in Omer’s mind at that moment, but he shouted at Merima, “You, war criminal, you should have been in The Hague!” and slapped her in the face, just as Milan did to him, a few years ago. Merima screamed, telling him to stop, but her husband had completely lost control over himself. She crumpled down to the floor, but he continued to beat her and even pulled at her hair. Who knows what would have happened to Merima if little Selma had not rushed to defend her mother. Without fear, she stepped in front of him and shouted, “Daddy, daddy, please don’t beat mum!” It must have been her beautiful dark eyes, or her child’s voice that woke him up from his hallucination. Omer, seeing what he had done, put his head into his hands and cried. “My Lord! he shouted. “Why have you punished me with madness? Why didn’t you kill me in a prison camp?” He looked at his blooded wife lying on the floor and Selma hugging and kissing her, staining her small hands and cheeks with her mother’s blood, and he felt as if his heart was going to burst with sorrow.
“I’m so sorry, Merima,” he said. “I really remember nothing.”
“Of course, you remember nothing,” she managed somehow to force these words from her bleeding mouth. “You could have killed me and you’d tell the police you remembered nothing. I’ve told you so many times you need help, but you won’t listen.”
“Shall I call the ambulance?”
“I don’t need any ambulance. What I need is a healthy man who will take care of our family. If you really love your daughter and me, please go to the hospital at once.”
Omer gathered some of his clothes in a small suitcase, hugged his wife and his daughter, promised them to see them soon, and called a taxi, which took him to the psychiatric hospital outside the town.
He was from the very beginning treated as a special case, not least because he was a surgeon. They are usually very rare “guests” in psychiatric hospitals. After the first interview with Omer, Dr Karlsson, a well-known and experienced psychiatrist, was baffled. During his career, he had seen all kinds of mentally ill patients, but Omer was like none of them. At first, he believed that his patient was suffering from schizophrenia, but already after a few days, he had to dismiss that diagnosis. True, Dr Omanovic had hallucinations during the night, but in the morning he was clear and sharp in his mind as ever. On one occasion, a nurse called him in the middle of the day to come to the dining room. When Dr Karlsson arrived, he could witness the most unusual scene in his long career. Here was Omer again, talking to himself, surrounded by more than a dozen patients and a half a dozen of the staff. They all gazed at him with awe, and Dr Karlsson joined them, savouring every moment of the performance. About twenty minutes later, Omer’s body jerked and shuddered. He looked around, blushing as he usually did in those occasions, and asked, “What’s going on?”
In the following months, Dr Karlsson and his team, which included psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists, had tried everything to cure the poor Bosnian man. New antipsychotics, anti-depressants and mood-stabilising drugs had been tested, but the result was disappointing. After electroshock therapy, something went badly wrong in Omer’s mind, because he started to talk about Milan all the time. He complained to Dr Karlsson that now when they both slept in the same bed, it was uncomfortable. He demanded another single bed for Milan. Dr Karlsson dismissed his demand out of hand, but Omer threatened him with the European Court of Human Rights. He walked up and down the corridor, shouting and screaming, which made other patients nervous. Another doctor told Dr Karlsson that Omer should be restrained or thrown into isolation, but Dr Karlsson thought that he had already suffered so much and ordered that a second bed be installed in Omer’s room.
TO BE CONTINUED
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