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Monday, July 12, 2004

A Story About Ed

Ed was my first intake during my homeless shelter internship. It was quickly clear that Ed was psychotic. When I inquired about "physical ailments", his clear voice lamented that he had laryngitis. I asked whether he had laryngitis right now or chronic laryngitis, and Ed replied by pointing to a puffy doll of a black-clad witch with orange yarn hair: "She writes down what I'm thinking because I can't say it."

Ed couldn't tell me whether he was a veteran because the Vietcong might hunt him down. After a moment's thought, I assured him that our records were confidential and even if the Vietcong found the shelter, we'd never reveal his whereabouts. More comfortable, Ed revealed that he was, in fact, a veteran. I checked the "yes" box and made a note that he was too young to have served in Vietnam.

Towards the end of his intake, Ed said that he suffered from diabetes and hadn't had insulin in weeks. We called an ambulance, which rushed him to the hospital. Upon Ed's return that evening, the EMT told us that Ed did not have diabetes; severe schizophrenia was his only disease.

Ed's words remained with me these years, their bizarreness etching them deep into my brain. But he said one thing, one little thing that, although technically false, was the truest thing he could have revealed about himself. When I first asked whether he needed insulin, he sorrowfully replied, "There's not enough insulin in the whole world."

Surveying my desk at work today, my heavy heart murmured, "There aren't enough paperclips in the whole world."


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