This I Believe

David - Centennial, Colorado
Entered on December 3, 2006

When I was around eight years old, my dad had minor foot surgery. And I regularly went with my mom to visit him at the hospital. My dad’s room was on the east wing of the building which was near the psych ward. And we had to walk through their lounge before getting to my dad’s room. I was eager every trip to get another look at them. They weren’t dangerous serial killers like in the movies, but ordinary people who were just a little odd.

During one particularly boring visit I asked to go to the bathroom, but I had become fascinated by the people in the lounge. I walked down the corridor and there they were. Most were watching TV, some were reading, but there was one very lonely looking man, sitting at a table, playing checkers by himself, his name was Sammy Jenkins. I went over and asked Sammy if I could play him in a match. He was desperate for someone to play against and eagerly agreed.

Sammy was very good. He beat me in less than five minutes. I told him I was here to see my dad, and probed why he was here too. The question stunned him like a deer in the headlights. ‘Here?’ he said ‘This is it. Everybody knows that.’ He gave an irritated sigh and asked if I wanted to play another game. It was about that time that my mom came down the hallway and told me that we had to go, and rushed out quickly before I could say goodbye to Sammy. What he said rang over and over in my head, and it wasn’t until several years later that I finally understood what he meant: Sammy’s universe was the hospital; the edge of the world lay just beyond the sliding glass doors. This completely reversed my way of thinking, because if Sammy never leaves the hospital for the rest of his life, he’s entirely right. This philosophy gave new meaning to everything I saw and experienced, because I—and possibly I alone—was experiencing them.

Existence and the universe weren’t out there, in the world. It all lived within the liter cavity of my skull. If I think it’s raining outside, and the rain exists exclusively in my mind, it’s still raining. Although Sammy’s beliefs and mine are completely opposing, we are both right. Sammy exists in his own universe, I do as well. This I believe.