3rd July 2013 — Tales from the Clinic

Tales from the Clinic — 16

Monsieur Angoisse is a natural worrier. He worries about the French economy. There are too many unemployed, too many people working for the state, too many regulations, not to mention the penalties for asking employees to work longer than the statutory 35 hour week.

“How can anyone start a business?” he says.

He draws me a picture of a ball rolling down a slope. “That’s the French economy. In 15 years there won’t be clinics like this. The country won’t be able to afford them. France is going downhill fast.“

He worries about his heart. He has two stents. One of them has had to be replaced. While he was recovering from the procedure, he overheard a doctor say “the next time this happens, we’ll have to cut him open.” This worries him. “I am an engineer. I know about pipes and how they can get blocked. And what happens then.” He draws me a diagram of an arterial stent. He blocks in thick black lines to show narrowing.

If he has to have open-heart surgery, he’d rather have it in Bordeaux. His children and grandchildren live in Bordeaux. But he lives in a town 130 kilometres away.

I say, “So you’re thinking of moving to Bordeaux?”

He nods. But there’s a problem. A different kind of heart problem.

“I have a lady friend,” he says. “I see her on Wednesdays and we spend the weekends together.”

I remember that Madame Coquette has the same kind of arrangement with Monsieur B, and how she wraps her arms around herself when she says, “we are lovers.”

Monsieur Angoisse draws me a map showing Bordeaux and the town where he and his lady friend live, the road and railway line between them, the distance and travel times.

“If I move to Bordeaux I could take a train to see her on Saturday and return to Bordeaux on Sunday evening. But I can’t do that during the week.”

“Why not?”

“There isn’t time to take a train there and back to see her in one day. It’s too tiring to drive there and back in one day. I don’t stay with her in the week. Only at weekends. She’s like a bird. She likes to be free.” He pauses. “She says I’m too serious. She doesn’t like the films I like. She doesn’t read the kind of books I like. She doesn’t like the kind of music I like.”

“So why are you together?”

“She makes me laugh.” It’s the first time I’ve seen Monsieur Angoisse smile.

“She might move to Bordeaux,” I say.

He shakes his head. He frowns. “She likes her life where she is. She says if I move to Bordeaux she won’t see me during the week.”

“She won’t come to Bordeaux to see you?”

He shakes his head again. “You know, if she was in a hospital I would go every day to see her. But I don’t know if she would do that for me. She would come maybe two or three days, and then maybe one, and then?” He sighs. “What should I do? What do you think I should do?”

“What will make you happy?” I ask. I am not sure if anything will make Monsieur Angoisse happy. I change the question.

“What will make you less anxious?”

He says he will be less anxious about his heart if he is in Bordeaux, in the care of a good cardiologist. But he will be more anxious about his relationship. “You know, we have been together for 16 years.“ He falls silent.

“Maybe you could meet half-way?” I say. “If you move to Bordeaux, you could take the train to X and she could drive there and you could see each other on Wednesdays as usual.”

“Yes, maybe. Perhaps I will ask her.”

I wonder what she will say.

I wonder what he will do.

Later that day, I read an article which says laughing is good for the heart.