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.