There were once two men, both seriously ill, in the same
small room of a great hospital.
Quite a small room, it had one window looking out on the world.
One of the men, as part of his treatment, was allowed to sit up in bed for an hour in the afternoon (something to do with draining the fluid from his lungs). His bed was next to the window. But the other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. Every afternoon when the man next to the window was propped up for his hour, he would pass the time by describing what he could see outside.
The window apparently overlooked a park where there was a lake. There were ducks and swans in the lake, and children came to throw them bread and sail model boats. Young lovers walked hand in hand beneath the trees, and there were flowers and stretches of grass, games of softball. And at the back, behind the fringe of trees, was a fine view of the city skyline. The man on his back would listen to the other man describe all of this, enjoying every minute. He heard how a child nearly fell into the lake, and how beautiful the girls were in their summer dresses.
His friend's descriptions eventually made him feel he could almost see what was happening outside.
Then one fine afternoon, the thought struck him: Why should the man next to the window have all the pleasure of seeing what was going on? Why shouldn't he get the chance? He felt ashamed, but the more he tried not to think like that, the worse he wanted a change. He'd do anything!
One night as he stared at the ceiling, the other man suddenly woke up, coughing and choking, and his hands groping for the button that would bring the nurse running. But the man watched without moving - even when the sound of breathing stopped. In the morning, the nurse found the other man dead, and quietly took his body away.
As soon as it seemed decent, the man asked if he could be switched to the bed next to the window. So they moved him, tucked him in, and made him quite comfortable. The minute they left, he propped himself up on one elbow, painfully and laboriously, and looked out the window.
It faced a blank wall.
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