I was visiting a friend in Salt Lake’s Intermountain LDS Hospital yesterday. Despite his chemotherapy and despite the tubes attached to him, we had a good conversation about poetry and clouds and food and other things. Leaving the hospital, I stepped into 100-degree heat and into a complex situation.

A skinny man wearing only a hospital gown and hospital booties and trailing an oxygen tube was surrounded by three hospital security officers with hand-held radios, a policeman, and four hospital attendants wearing scrubs. They kept their distance from the escapee, who held an unlit cigarette in one hand. He approached an officer and asked if she had a light. No, sir, I don’t have a light, she said. He waved the cigarette in the air, turned and started down the sidewalk, followed, at a respectful distance, by his attendants. The sun beat down on him and his boney knees and his wild white hair and his scantily covered flesh. He turned into a tiny park with three benches. He approached a man sitting on one of them, gestured with his cigarette, and the man offered him a light. He sat down on a bench and satisfied his desire.

I drove away thinking about freedom and desire.


About Scott Abbott

Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University, 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I'm Director of the Program in Integrated Studies and former Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade), and translations of a book by Austrian author Peter Handke and of a catalogue of an exhibit called "The German Army and Genocide." More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as a watershed scientist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a corrections officer, as university students, and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett and our yellow dog Blue. Some publications at
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