Hungering, Christmas Island

Something is wrong, something is upside down. The hunger striker and I stare at each other from opposite sides of a scaffold that neither of us constructed.

I follow the protocols, which are wise and worthy. But it is all wrong, everything is upside down.

My job is to work to improve or protect health. I have to find a way, to create a language that the patient and I will share; to locate and level the place where we will meet.

This contract is not spelled out nor ever inked; elsewhere there is no need. The patient is here, I am here, we can get down to work.

But when I attend the hunger striker all of this is inverted and twisted out of shape. The person whom I attend is not a patient: the person gives no sign, has no wish for my attention.

The non-patient never called me; I am a part of the system that he imposed upon first; now the system imposes me upon him.

The non-patient and I have opposite wishes: mine is to protect life and vital organs, his to destroy them.

The generality of patients whom I see here in the Detention Centre come to see me on my own territory; I mean the clinic. But the starver is weakened, usually lying in his room in the Compound which is located behind high, stout electrified fencing. The nurse and I walk along long corridors without natural light. Serial serious doors unlock to admit us and lock again behind us. We emerge into sunlight in an expansive open area, surrounded by discrete bedrooms for two persons.

Continue reading