A Short Story: The Hospital Window

Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste. ~ Charlotte Brontë Click To Tweet

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.

One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation…

Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window would sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his inner world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine these picturesque scenes.

One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man could not hear the band, he could see it in his mind’s eye.

Days, weeks, months passed.

One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look out at the real world. He strained, peering over the windowsill for the very first time.

It faced nothing but a blank wall.

Source: Often attributed to an unknown author and thought by many to be an urban legend, this story was originally penned by the writer Allan Seager, appearing for the first time as “The Street” in Vanity Fair Magazine in 1934. Since then it has seen numerous re-tellings, turning up in print, on television and online in various different forms. The version presented here is not the original, but the prevailing in popularity.