I’ve watched Jacob for the past half hour or so. He sits in a corner across the room from me, a bustling high-ceilinged common space where patients are carefully monitored whilst being encouraged to interact with one another within the norms of accepted social behaviour. The main ruckus of the session, a pool table dispute leading to a farcical cue-duel between a couple of the residents, temporarily disrupted all the patients from the activities they were engaged in. All that is, except Jacob. Throughout it all and since then, he has sat there next to the window and alternated between absently picking at the flecks of white paint peeling off the windowsill and staring into a distance that I suspect neither I or any other being would ever be privy to.

I wonder if everyone’s inner, unseeing gazes eventually reach and converge at just this one horizon.

Jacob’s hope and his loss play on my mind. From previous patient experience, I’m acutely aware that regardless of whatever the facts may be, the power of the psyche to make intangible nothing into concrete reality is a phenomenal one, and one that my patients may forever be locked in battle with. But like every one of us, Jacob has to grasp onto some lifeline within himself in order to gain first footing in this fight. I’ll try and provide him with the tools to hold on – if he’ll let me.

I finally manage to make direct eye contact with him and I smile. He upholds the gaze unflinchingly, just for a few seconds, and then turns back to beyond the window as the crimson sunset turns into dusk.

contributed by: Nadia Khan