BACK STORIES

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My publicist asked me recently, “Why do so many doctors turn to writing?”   Which gave me pause.   Until I saw that my life, my brain, had become so packed with “back stories,” enough of them exceedingly dramatic and interesting, that I could almost do no other than struggle to deal with them, to assimilate them, in some productive and creative manner.  Otherwise, I think the “subtexts” of my existence were going to script themselves into my day-to-day living in some unhealthy and dysfunctional manner.  The more vital past events were looming larger and pushing to the foreground in my life, demanding an accounting.  This reality, and no other that I can see, is the origin for THE COST OF DREAMS.

William Faulkner said it best, “The past is not dead.  It’s not even passed!”

The following two subtexts demanded an especial mental and emotional reckoning in working up my first novel:

Firstly, I attended a young foreign-born woman in my hospital’s emergency department a number of years ago.  She had been shot and dreadfully wounded in her neck and face by her cocaine-dealing brother-in-law in southern Arizona.  Her husband had driven her and their two small children to the northern Midwest some months later, where I found her to be very ill from her inadequately treated, infected and unhealed injuries.  She was totally disabled.  After several surgeries and sufficient treatment, she required placement in a skilled nursing facility, while her husband dropped the children off at another relative’s home.   He then drove away and abandoned them all.

I directed her care for a protracted time, until she drifted away to another nursing facility in another city, I know not where.  I always felt very badly for her and the fate she suffered.

Secondly, I had traveled to Central America on a medical education trip many years ago, and came home to read that a young engineer from California had been murdered not so far from the region where I’d resided.  Travel mates of mine in San Francisco attended his memorial service at a large public auditorium, which I was informed was filled to standing room only by well-wishers, his friends, and his family.  He had been working on a project to bring electricity to a remote village, only to be brutally murdered by that country’s military.  A US national news magazine published all the horrifying and gruesome details.

Some had said to me, “well, he just threw his life away,” or “what a waste.”  To which I could only reply, “Complete nonsense!!  That young person’s wonderful life was stolen, unlawfully taken from him, while he attempted to elevate the standard of living for highland villagers.”  I could not permit the notion that the young man was to be blamed for his own murder.

These two aforementioned “back stories,” and the genuine human beings living them, I have never forgotten.  And now, everywhere I go, I have begun to see stories that I want to write.

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