“I saw a great movie over the weekend.” The faces of my companions turn toward me, silent with expectation.
We are relaxing in the Jacuzzi after our morning workout in the pool. Our group has waxed and waned over the years, but all told, we’ve been swimming together for more than a decade. The oldest member, now 89, moved to Maine last year. Our youngest member just hit thirty. At 54, I’m now the grandfather of the group.
“It’s called ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,’” I say. “It’s a true story about this French guy, Jean Dominique Bauby, the editor of Elle magazine, who had a massive stroke at 43 years of age.”
I’ve got their undivided attention now. Most of these fellows have logged four decades in life. They know that forty-three is young for a stroke.
“The stroke knocked out his brain stem, but left his cerebral faculties intact.”
“So the guy’s a quadriplegic, but he still can think?”
“That’s right—he can think, but he can’t talk. The only way he can communicate is by blinking his left eye. One of his therapists comes up with a scheme where she reads the letters of the alphabet to him and he blinks to select the letter he wants to make words.”
“Man, that must take forever!”
“You’d think so—but the guy actually wrote a book about his experiences in the hospital after the stroke. The movie’s based on the book.”
Once again silence descends on the group for a brief moment, then one fellow says: “I don’t know if I’d want to see that. I mean, how much can he have to say?”
“He says he’s left with only two things: his imagination and his memories.”
From their facial expressions, I can tell this spontaneous mini-review is not going over well. I feel a need to redeem myself. So I say: “Of course, the best part is that all of these beautiful women take care of him.”
“Ah, now we get to the meat of the matter,” one fellow smiles. “Sex!”
Everyone laughs. I laugh too. But what I want to say is that there is no sex in the film at all—only love-making with words. I open my mouth, then momentarily think better of it, and elect to say nothing. I’m not entirely certain they would understand.
It’s only a movie, after all.