He is asleep when I find him. A tiny man in a giant bed, pillows tossed around the room. His face, normally full of life and color, is pale white, the skin of a dead man. It takes nothing to wake him, and when I do, his face flushes with momentary anger, and then he recognizes me.
“You look as if you’ve seen a ghost,” I say to him.
“I’ve prayed I would,” he says, “but none have come.”
He is not the first patient of mine to feel this way, and he will certainly not be the last, but the sound of desperation in his voice is strong, and I feel a moment’s pity. I stay for an hour and listen to his story, knowing it already before he begins, wishing that like a joke heard before, I can merely say the punchline and avoid the repetition.
“I’m so unhappy with myself,” he cries, “and there is nothing I can do. I awake every day to the same life, the same problems, the same failures, the same vices. I am the unchanged man, and I long for change! I wish for a night like Ebenezer’s. I wish for a three ghost night and the transformation it would bring.” It is hard to pay attention to everything he says. I have heard it all from him before.
Finally, he finishes speaking and I give him my advice. This too is nothing new, but he nods and pretends to listen. “You’ve been such a help,” he says, a tiny smile appearing on his tiny face. Afterwards, I gather my things and prepare to leave. I watch him as he turns upon the bed, preparing for sleep and then I leave without a word. There is nothing else for me to see here; I know his routine well: beside the bed sits a tumbler of water and a Bible; without thinking, he will drink the water in one gulp, and then read the Holy Scriptures in much the same way. Perhaps five minutes, perhaps less. Then he will close his eyes and sleep, dreaming desperate dreams and hoping for a touch of magic.