Chapter no 34

The Silent Patient

“I THINK IT’S A GREAT IDEA,” said Rowena.

“You do?” I tried not to look surprised. “Really?” “Oh, yes. Only problem is, Alicia won’t go for it.” “What makes you so sure?”

Rowena gave a derisive snort. “Because Alicia’s the least responsive, most uncommunicative bitch I’ve ever worked with.”


I followed Rowena into the art room. The floor was splashed with paint like an abstract mosaic, and the walls were covered with artwork—some of it good, most just weird. Rowena had short blond hair, a deep-etched frown, and a weary put-upon manner, doubtless due to her endless sea of uncooperative patients. Alicia was clearly one such disappointment.

“She doesn’t participate in art therapy?” I said.

“She does not.” Rowena continued stacking artwork on a shelf as she spoke. “I had high hopes when she joined the group—I did everything I could to make her feel welcome—but she just sits there, staring at the blank page. Nothing will induce her to paint or even pick up a pencil and draw. Terrible example to the others.”

I nodded sympathetically. The purpose of art therapy is to get the patients drawing and painting and, more important, talking about their artwork, linking it to their emotional state. It’s a great way to literally get their unconscious onto the page, where it can be thought about and talked about. As always, it comes down to the individual skill of the therapist. Ruth used to say that too few therapists were skilled or intuitive—most were just plumbers. Rowena was, in my opinion, very much a plumber. She

obviously felt snubbed by Alicia. I tried to be as placating as possible. “Perhaps it’s painful for her,” I suggested gently.


“Well, it can’t be easy for an artist of her ability to sit and paint with the other patients.”

“Why not? Because she’s above it? I’ve seen her work. I don’t rate her highly at all.” Rowena sucked in her mouth as if she had tasted something unpleasant.

So that was why Rowena disliked Alicia—jealousy.

“Anyone can paint like that,” Rowena said. “It’s not difficult to represent something photo-realistically—what’s harder is to have point of view about it.”

I didn’t want to get into a debate about Alicia’s art. “So what you’re saying is you’ll be relieved if I take her off your hands?”

Rowena shot me a sharp look. “You’re welcome to her.” “Thank you. I’m grateful.”

Rowena sniffed contemptuously. “You’ll need to supply the art materials. My budget doesn’t stretch to oils.”

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