Seeing Joana wasn’t just a breath of fresh air. She grounds me to reality and to what needs to be done. I don’t know how she does it, and I envy several features in her. One thing I noticed was that she didn’t give K much energy. Not that she didn’t like him, just that her point was in being there and see me. When she left, a phrase that we used to say echoed: “You can’t save them all.”

I opened the envelope and took out some sheets of coloured paper. Yellow, light blue, white. After folding a triangle, I ripped out a square and kept folding carefully but fast. There are three origami designs that I have memorized and can fold them at a decent speed.

An origami crane is a classic and also a personal favourite. When I was a kid, I remember watching an animation film about a Japanese girl, Sadako Sasaki. It was impossible to find that film even after searching half the web, but the story stuck with me. Sadako was exposed to one of the nuclear explosions while her mother was pregnant. Now, she was dying from radiation sickness. In her last hope she begins to fold paper cranes, because one thousand cranes would grant her a wish.

So I always fold a crane, and I give them out to people I meet even if briefly. “It’s for good luck, take it.” That’s why people think I love origami. In fact, I don’t. It’s nice, there are some great designs, but I just like to give something nice to people I care about.

And so I started. First one was for K, then for everyone else. Andreia, the head nurse who was always so comforting when she was around. Benny, with her contagious energy and good spirit. Tiago, the cafeteria ladies, and everyone else that would walk by bed 7 and share a kind word.

“It’s for good luck.”

God knows we all need it.

“Have you heard the story of the 1 thousand cranes? How many have you made?”

It doesn’t make sense to keep count of how many cranes leave my hands. They are meant to be given away, they are gestures and wishes of good fortune. Nothing else. It’s a way to try to break out from my shyness. It doesn’t work, but at least people see me as less unfriendly.

My doctor came around at some point, and so I offered her one as well. K’s doctor was there too, and I tried to pay attention to both.

They still didn’t really know what was wrong with him, “the palm of my feet”, I don’t remember if they hurt or felt numb, tingling. His eyes weren’t doing well either, but he showed signs of improving now and then.

One evening, one of the male nurses came around saying he had to give him an injection in the inside part of his thigh, he refused. Pausing my reading, I got up and asked what was up. That shot would be painful and none of the nurses had persuasion skills in a foreign language. We convinced him, and from what I saw it must have hurt like hell. Two of us had to hold him down while the third one administered the

Of course his problem was not the physical pain. K carried emotional wounds and I sometimes saw a glimpses of what they could be.

One day he had visitors, two women from a homeless watch. My memory fades, but I remember talking a bit with the younger one and hearing both give some highlights of what was going on with him. He was living under the overpass by the river, his family had kicked him out because of the drinking, and he was always peaceful towards others. The story matched the little pieces I had been getting from him. And I didn’t disclose what I had learned to him. Instead, I just said they had given me their number in case he got into trouble.

Looking back today, he must have figured out how much I was bending the truth, and told me a bit more. Yes, they were living nearby, and they did insist on him bringing back money from work. How much, he didn’t say, nor did he mention their side of the story.

He also told me about his parents, how he had once confronted them because once he had drank a bit of alcohol or smoked, I don’t remember right. I also didn’t ask about what he felt because from my perspective I saw the love he had for his two children.

To reciprocate, I told him about my own wounds and mistakes. Some of them. At first it was a way to connect and give strength to my arguments that he would be ok and could get back on his feet. It turned out to be a walk with my wolves, again.

avatar Bruno Amaral
Bruno Amaral

I am a Digital Strategist, divided between tech and creativity, working for the Lisbon Collective and teaching Public Relations at the …