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QUINTESSENCE

Walls


WALLS (1897)
by C.P. Cavafy

Without pity, without shame, without consideration
they've built around me enormous, towering walls.

And I sit here now in growing desperation.
This fate consumes my mind, I think of nothing else:

because I had so many things to do out there.
O while they built the walls, why did I not look out?

But no noise, no sound from the builders did I hear.
Imperceptibly they shut me off from the world without.


I want to tell you the story of a girl, in her mid-twenties, who died this weekend. She was brought into a trauma center Emergency Department in the afternoon, by her friends, who hadn't noticed soon enough she was no longer breathing. Her heart had stopped. Perhaps for too long. Heroin, and valium. They abandoned her then; without leaving even her name. They never came back.

The hospital staff brought her back three times: holding her pulse, holding her to life. My daughter, working emergency CPR, said she was too thin. You felt her ribs cracking beneath your hands. The girl did not make it. My daughter came home from the hospital that night and cried. She's just a medical student, after all. Her own age...the feeling of the ribs...the futile effort. No one wanted to give up.

I said to my daughter, Let's call her April. I think she loved the spring.

It was just a feeling I had. Imagining the probable story of addiction, aloneness, moments of yearning for the walls to come down, to do and see and be all that might be waiting in life. This girl, I felt, believed in spring. Believed in a spring of her own some day. I listened to my girl pour her heart out, knowing she would never forget this young woman.

No one should die unknown or unnamed. Let's call her April, I said. I think she loved the spring.

April is not an unknown. Not to me, especially not to my daughter. I do not know if anyone mourns April. I don't know if her soul is headed into the earth or to a desired rebirth - a chance to try again, better. Perhaps she has simply run her race; ended the life that somehow was built around her, without ever looking over that wall. But I do know she will not be forgotten. Not by us. And I hope if you're reading this, not by you. Say a little prayer for April, will you? Put a flower in a vase perhaps. Light a candle, read a poem.

And if you encounter a wall, or someone trapped behind one - step around it, look over it, lend a hand. For April.



*In keeping with applicable medical privacy regulations, any identifying information has been removed or changed - GB

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