Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.
The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation. Every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed, looked forward to those one-hour periods. Each day, for that one hour his world would be enlarge and extend to all the activity and color of the world outside.
The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene. One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing on the street below. Although the other man couldn’t hear the band, he could see it clearly as the old fellow by the window portrayed its every detail with the most descriptive words.
Days and weeks passed. The afternoon peeks into the outside world continued. Bright, sunny days, but rainy days too. Dark clouds rolling in and intense lightning bolts descending on the park. Pedestrians running for cover as the rain came in sheets, blown by a howling wind. It would soon be winter, they said, as they speculated as to whether or not the pond would freeze hard enough for skaters. Maybe there would be a Christmas tree on the frozen lake, and carolers too. They wondered how much snow they might get this year.
One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.
Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed.
It faced a completely blank brick wall.
* the author is unknown and the story is considered public domain
Window scene photo available from Shutterstock