of English Patient:
… He was a burned man and I was a nurse
and I could have nursed him. Do you understand the sadness
of geography? I could have saved him or at least been with
him till the end. I know a lot about burning. How long was
he alone with doves and rats? With the last stages of blood
and life in him? Doves over him. The flutter when they
thrashed around him. Unable to sleep in the darkness. He
always hated darkness. And he was alone, without lover or
The villa drifts in darkness. In the hallway by the
English patient’s bedroom the last candle burns, still alive in the
Whenever he opens his eyes out of sleep, he sees the
old wavering yellow light.
For him now the world is without sound, and even
light seems an
unneeded thing. He will tell the girl in the morning he wants no
candle flame to accompany him while he sleeps.
Around three a.m. he feels a presence in the room.
He sees, for a pulse of a moment, a figure at the foot of his bed,
against the wall or painted onto it perhaps, not quite discernible
in the darkness of foliage beyond the candlelight. He mutters
something, something he wanted to say, but there is silence and the
slight brown figure, which could be just a night shadow, does not
move. A poplar. A man with plumes. A swimming figure. And he would
not be so lucky, he thinks, to speak to the young sapper again.
He stays awake in any case this night, to see if the
figure moves towards him. Ignoring the tablet that brings
painlessness, he will remain awake till the light dies out and the
smell of candle smoke drifts into his room and into the girl’s room
farther down the hall. If the figure turns around there will be
paint on his back, where he slammed in grief against the mural of
trees. When the candle dies out he will be able to see this.
His hand reaches out slowly and touches his book and returns to
his dark chest. Nothing else moves in the room.