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 on his back. The men talked for hours on end. They began by telling each other about their illnesses but eventually, their talks became more intimate as they spoke of their wives, families, jobs and other personal matters.
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 lived for those one-hour periods where his world would open up and be enlivened by all the colour and activity of the outside world.
“This window overlooks a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans play on the water while children sail their model boats,” said the man by the window. “Young lovers walk arm in arm amidst flowers of every colour and a fine view of the city skyline can be seen in the distance.” His roommate closed his eyes and imagined the picturesque scene. His smile growing with every new piece of detail told to him. One afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man couldn’t hear anything outside, he could see it in his mind’s eye. As the days, weeks and months went by this daily routine, was enjoyed by both men.
One morning, the day nurse entered the room to bring water for both men only to discover that the man by the window had died peacefully in his sleep.
As soon as it seemed appropriate the other man asked if he could move his bed next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch. The man slowly and painfully propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the world outside that he had heard so much about. He strained to look out of the window. All that was there was a blank wall.