An overweight mid-fifties white woman with an unkempt gunmetal bob sat lazily in her chair. Wearing an oversized gray running jacket over a shapeless green
sweatsuit, she had a foolish grin and drooled thickly.
Kari smiled at the woman, whose name, she told us, was Sara.
"Sara's just started speaking these past few weeks," she said with pride.
"She now can form full sentences," she said, her pride even more pronounced.
I learned after the meeting that Sara had been living with brain injury ever since the early nineties, when she was involved in a three-car accident on
the Long Island Expressway. She was the only driver substantially injured. Kari gave me the background.
"That's terrible," I said, "but even though she's in bad shape, it's great that she's speaking again."
"I know," Kari said, "I'm so happy for her progress. Just last year, she didn't even understand the meaning of the word 'the.' "
"That's fantastic," I said, attempting a forced cheerfulness that unsuccessfully masked my sadness. "What was she doing before her injury?"
"She was a corporate lawyer."
Our group also included a former model. A brain bleed had left half of her face paralyzed. She looked like she was wearing a mask.
One distinguished-looking middle-aged black man dressed in a suit stood up. His companion, who could have been his twin, or lover, or friend, said the
dapper fellow was named Matt, and had been a heart surgeon.
Matt shushed him. "I can speak for myself, Tim," he barked. "I just want to tell everyone how proud I am of myself!"
We waited for Matt to continue, but he didn't say anything more. He simply sat down again, closed his eyes, and began rubbing his face. He looked
Tim broke the silence.
"I'm proud of him, too," he said, without revealing the nature of Matt's injury. "Time for show-and-tell," he said and turned to his friend.
Matt revealed to us the reason for the delight: he stood up, opened his right hand, and showed us a small metallic object.
Then, like a five-year-old thrilled to finally understand the difference between a nickel and a quarter, Matt exclaimed, "For a while I've been thinking
this is only some stupid pointy thingy. But now I totally understand what this is! I know what this is! It goes in your skin!"
He was holding a syringe.
A tall, attractive thirty-something white man with longish black hair stood up. His companion, an elderly white woman, immediately told us the gentleman
had been an established soap opera actor.
The man seemed to have come straight from a fashion shoot, decked out in sleek black slacks and a fitted blue sweater that hugged his well-built body. I
wondered why a guy so sharp was in a place like this.
When he started talking, I understood.
"My-y-y-y-y-n-n-n-nayy-y -- "
It took him more than a minute to utter "my name."