“So you still think you can do it?

So tell me, what did he eat today?

And how much does he weigh?

And how long will he remain a minor?

And you actually believe him?

Stop the talk about his future. We’re talking life or death here. I’ll give you a day to think about it. But that’s it. I can’t give you anymore time than that.

It hardly matters. In New Mexico kids are given most of their rights at fourteen.

Okay. Please stop crying. I know. I’m sorry. Of course you see it. I’m sorry. That was insensitive of me. For me it’s just so clear. I’ve seen it too many times before. I’ve seen so many kids die. I have to be blunt with you because he looks worse than almost any kid I have ever seen. I take into account all he’s been through. I realize his skin hasn’t grown back yet. I understand all that, how horrifying the whole process has been, that he is being fed through a tube, that his body is still an open wound. But beneath that wounded flesh is a more terrifying reality. He is nothing but bones. What I see is death. I am being honest because I must be honest. That is part of my code of ethics. Your son is my patient. Anorexics die suddenly, unexpectedly. Electrolyte imbalance. Heart attack.

Here. Take the Kleenex. Cry all you like. But not for more than today. I need a solid answer by tomorrow.

Stop saying that. Choose. I happen to think you are a good mother. Who even cares what happened? Let’s try to stay sane here. This is his obsession, yours seems to be this need to make him happy. Well, your son is killing himself so get over it. Your job is over. Whatever is making him happy now is just filling up some weird need in him. You can only help to make him live by walking away. Once he’s eighteen, there’s nothing you can do but watch him die. Choose. He’s doing the same crap he did at home, isn’t he? He’s doing it right in front of our eyes. I see it and you don’t see it. Let go. You can no longer see. Let go. This terrible tragedy. I don’t want to say it happened for a reason but I have no plans on releasing him from the hospital. So for now I’m taking over. We are talking a year, maybe more. So stop your fantasies. He’ll have to go to Texas next or California. I don’t know a thing except that there’s nothing here … We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it… But once he’s grown back those two layers of skin, life will not be pleasant for him.

I know. I know. I’ve seen the whole process. I know what he’s been through. There is no choice.

Nothing is fair.

Okay, I agree. Hardly anyone has had to face what he has had to face.

I can’t answer that. I just can’t.

I’m just a guy. I’m practical. I believe in facing things head on. So please. Face it. Face reality. He’s almost old enough to tell you to get the hell out of his life. So get the hell out of it now because it isn’t for you to make him happy.

It is for you to step away. You tried your best. Admit you can’t. Accept my help. Have him hate you. This is the only way you can save him. He may hate you for the rest of his life. He may never want to see you again after this. But he’s your son. And he’s still alive.

Here. May I hug you? I am so sorry. First the horrible drug reaction from something I’ve only seen three times in my career, but never as bad as this, and now knowing that he must face this. I am so sorry. I really do know that he has suffered a lot. Please don’t think I don’t know it. Please know I don’t want him to suffer. I want him to live. In a better world. The hospital would be horrible. I have to admit that. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

No. I’m sorry you can’t see the unit until he’s on it. It’s against the rules. Nobody would go.

Only from six o’clock to eight every evening.

No. Of course you can’t sleep over.

You’ll get used to it.

That’s a question I can’t answer.

No. I don’t believe in God. But I think we’re getting off the subject now. I think you’re too upset.

Ya know what? One thing I’m good at. I learned it in the air force. I’m good at getting people to hate me. I even like it. So I don’t care if your son hates me. I’m happy for him to hate me if it saves his life.

No, it isn’t. You are just like your son. That’s the biggest cop out I’ve heard all day. Just let him hate you as much as he hates me. Really. Please let him hate you too.”


Bobbi Lurie is the author of “The Book I Never Read,””Letter from the Lawn,””Grief Suite,” and “the morphine poems.” @BobbiLurie

Banner image: Oneirograph by James Knight