Title: You Never Know

Rating: PG-13 - Sam

Author: Vero
Translation : Gerardo
Beta: Irene

Summary: Anybody has a note what it said when you could died? anybody knows if is doing the right thing? anybody know who is at your side? anybody know who can help you? anybody know when are wrong? anybody know...

Note: We are a group of people learning English so if there are errors in the story, please tell to us that we can help you too much... and sorry maybe the next time we can improve more. :)!

The pain was like a knife fixed in his chest and radiated quickly upward, paralyzing his jaw and the left arm. Immediately, Sam was a prey of terror that accompanies the panicky fear of death.

Sam Seaborn had never felt anything similar.

His reflexes made him grasp the steering wheel of his car with more strength and somehow he managed to control the zigzaggin vehicle while he was panting, trying to breathe. He had just entered the center of the city, and sped towards the west, mixing with the maddened Washington traffic. The images along the road were floating
in front of him and then moving back, as if they were at the end of a long tunnel.

Appealing to all his willpower, Sam resisted the darkness that was threatening to devour him. Gradually, the scene began to clear. He was still alive. Instead of stopping the car, his instinct told him that if he wanted to survive, he had to go to a hospital as soon as possible. Luckily, the GW was not too far away.

"Hang on a bit more", he said to himself.

Together with pain a profuse sweat appeared that first bathed his forehead and soon spread to the rest of his body. It produced burning in his eyes, but Sam did not dare detach his hands from the steering wheel to dry it.

He went off the highway and the pain returned, squeezing his chest like a steel wire. Later on, the cars slowed their pace in front of a red light . But he could not be stopped. He had no time. So he went ahead, honking the horn, and crossed intersection in one breath. The cars that were advancing from the streets managed to avoid him by inches . Sam saw the faces of the alarmed and furious drivers. The pain was already permanent,intense and overwhelming. He almost could not breathe.

The hospital was a little further ahead, on the right.

- A bit more... please..

Before him, a great white sign stood with an arrow and red letters that said: GUARD. Sam managed to drive the car directly towards the platform that was leading to ER ; he stopped too late and smashed against the cement wall. He fell down and forward, making the horn bellow and trying desperately to breathe.

The first person who got to his car was the security police officer. He opened the door wide and, after observing Sam's pallor with alarm, shouted for help.

Sam scarcely managed to murmur, "Chest pain."

The head nurse appeared and asked for a stretcher. When the nurse and the police officer extracted Sam out of the Jeep, one of the residents came and helped to place Sam on the stretcher. He also noticed the creamy coloration of Sam's face and the profuse perspiration.

- Diaforesis, - he said in an authoritarian tone. - Probably a heart attack.

The nurse rolled her eyes. Of course, it was a heart attack. She ran closer to Sam, without paying attention to the doctor, who at the moment put the stethoscope in his ears and was trying to listen toSam's heart.

When they got to the examination room, the nurse arranged oxygen, IV and monitoring EKG, and was busy connecting three EKG electrodes. The resident initiate the intravenous perfusión while the nursesuggested he should immediately order 4mg of morphine on drip for the patient.

The pain was half-diminishing, and Samīs mind cleared . Though no one said it, he knew that he had had a heart attack. He also knew that he was very close to death. Even in this moment, while he wasobserving the oxygen mask, the flask connected to his arm and the EKG that was vomiting paper to the foor, Sam felt more vulnerable than ever.

- We are going to move you to the Coronary Unit, -the nurse said to him, - everything will turn out well.

The nurse patted Sam's hand and he gave her a smile.

- We have notified your doctor and the White House. They're on their way here. You do not need to identify yourself; I have followed all your television presentations.

In Sam's viewpoint, the coronary unit was very similar to the ER, and equally frightening. It was full of electronic esoteric and ultramodern technology. He could hear the beat of his heart dubbed by a mechanical beep, and when he turned his head he was able to see a phosphorescent tracing with a blip that was crossing a screen of a spherical television.

Alhough the devices and machines were frightening, it was also calming to know that the clinic was packed with that tecnology. Furthermore soothing, it was proving the fact that his own doctor, who has been called shortly after his arrival, had just entered theCoronary Unit. Sam was a patient of Doctor Gerard Vernet for about 3 years. Everything had begun when the White House insisted that staff should do annual checkups.

- How is it going? - asked Vernet, taking Sam's arm but paying more attention to the screen of the EKG.

- Not very well. - Sam answered with a rough voice, trying three times to say these three words.

- I want that you to try and relax.

Sam closed his eyes. 'To relax! No kidding.'

- Are you in a lot of pain?

Sam nodded. His cheeks were swimming in tears.

- Another dose of morphine, - ordered Vernet.

Minutes after the second dose, the pain became more tolerable . Doctor Vernet was speaking with the resident to make sure all the samples of blood necessary were taken and he asked him for a specialcatheter. Sam was watching them, much calmer for the fact of seeing the face of his doctor and feeling the safety and authority of this man. Better still he could feel the pity of the Doctor Vernet, his worry. Doctor Vernet cared for him-

- Sam, we have to perform a small procedure, - said
Venet, - we want to put on you a catheter Swan - Ganz to be able to see what is happening inside your body. We will use local anesthesia that will not hurt you at all. Do you agree?

Sam nodded . Where Vernet's opinion was concerned, he believed him invariably. Sam liked the attitude of his doctor: Sam had surrendered to a checkup after weeks of Vernet's lecturing him about his diet, his habits of sleeping little, and the abandon of his exercises.

'If I only had listened to him ', Sam thought.

But in spite of the pessimistic vision that Doctor Vernet had with regard to the new style of life that Sam began developing, the doctor had admitted that the results of his studies were satisfactory. Hischolesterol was not too high and his EKG turned out perfect.

Until, less than one week after the checkup, Sam had the sensation that he was on the verge of contracting a flu. But it was only the beginning. His digestive system started feeling sensitive, his vision seemed to deteriorate and the stress had increased in the work.

***********************************************************
When he entered the hospital, Toby found himself immersed in a sea of injured men. There were adults and children sobbing, drunkards, people who were applying a towel to a finger or a scratched chin. The majority, experts in endless waiting, were looking fixedly forward .Some of them were visibly sick, others were enduring pains. A well dressed man was giving a tour holding the arm of his also elegant companion.

Helooked for CJ between the women , but did not see her. He stepped up to coming nurse who was surrounded by a crowd of patients who wanted to know exactly when their turn would come. Toby tried tointerrupt, but soon he understood that he had to wait for his chance.

In a while, he attracted the attention of the woman. He was astonished by her aplomb. Wise himself, he did not know whether the chaos about her was affecting her, because she was not giving signs of it.

- I'm looking for a person that was brought in today, - Toby said. He had to speak loudly to be heard.

- What is the name? - asked the nurse, with her hands crossed on a heap of clinical histories.

- Seaborn, Sam Seaborn.

- One moment. - She pushed back her chair and stood up. There was an expression of seriousness in her face. The persons grouped about the office looked at Toby with a mixture of respect and nuisance. They were evidently jealous of the rapid response that he had received.

The nurse come back almost immediately, followed by a woman of impressive dimensions and her name on the tag said, "Miss Veronica Smith". She made a sign to Toby, who obediently approached.

- Please come with me, - said Miss Smith.

The only part of her face that moved was the mouth, hanging between wrinkled cheeks. Toby obeyed and continued into a corridor behind the voluminous figure of miss Smith, who was preventing him from seeing ahead. They crossed a series of rooms that would be doctor's offices, as Toby supposed.

At the end of the corridor the nurse opened a door and stepped aside, to give way to Toby.

- Excuse me,- Toby said, passing by her side with difficulty.

- I believe that both us would dowell to lose a bit of weight, - comment Miss Veronica Smith.

The nurse remained in the corridor and as soon as Toby entered the room, she closed the door behind her.

Toby found a small room full of Medicine magazines,some books, vinyl chairs, and plastic plants.

CJ was standing, looking fixedly out the window that faced north. When Toby entered, she turned and looked at him with bloodshot eyes caused by crying and fear of the impression she was given.

- What...? – Toby began.

Abruptly CJ ran to him before he could finish and threw her arms around his neck. Toby wrapped her waist with his hands and permitted the embrace until he regained equilibrium.

- CJ, – he said finally.

He began to feel the bitter flavor of fear. To him, it seemed a mental cruelty on the part of the nurse that has called him, to not tell them anything and to leave it to their imagination. CJ's behavior began to undermine his idea that this could be one of the simple accidents Sam had usually.

-CJ, – he said, now with harshness. - CJ! What is going on? What happened to you?

- It's our fault, – whispered CJ. She didn't speak well, she begun to cry. Toby felt that her body shook from the strength of the crying. He waited while looking at the room. He saw the picture of Hippocrates on the opposite wall, the parquet floor, the cardiology foliant on the table.

- CJ, please, tell me what happened.

- It was our fault, - she said at last. - We did it. – The sobs broke her voice.

- What happened to Sam? - asked Toby, feeling a knot of terror in his chest.

CJ grasped with more force at Toby, as if he was her only salvation. The control that she always unfolded disappeared. With a great effort, Toby freed himself of CJīs hands clasping his neck.

When he did it,he helped her to a chair, where she sank like a deflated balloon. He sat down at her side.

-CJ, you should tell me what happened.

CJ raised her eyes. They were full of tears. She opened her mouth, but before she began to speak, the door opened . Doctor Gerard Vernet entered the room.

Toby had his hands supporting CJīs shoulders, but he turned arround when he heared the noise at the door . When he saw doctor Vernet, he stood up and looked for the doctor's expresion to be an indication of what was happening.

After all, they knew each other for three years.

- Nice to see you again, Toby, – greeted Doctor Vernet, shaking his hand. – Iīm sorry it has to be in circumstances so dificult.

- Maybe you can to tell me what happend, – said Toby, hiding the fear.

- You donīt know yet? – asked Vernet, and CJ shook her head.

- I belive you are the one that should tell me what is going on with Sam.

- Right, – said Vernet, looking stright at Toby again. –Why don't you sit down, – suggested the cardiologist.

- Why don't you just tell me? – asked Toby.

Doctor Vernet studied Tobyīs anxious face.

- Sam had a cardiac attack, – he said finally.

Toby opened his mouth slowly. his eyes were filling with water, as if he was in a trance. He didn't move a single muscle nor breathed.

- No, it's not true, it's impossible, – shouted Toby with so much force that Vernet and CJ were startled.

- Toby, – said Vernet, putting his hand upon Tobyīs shoulder compassionately . With an abrupt movement, Toby was freed of the Vernetīs hand.

- How dare you sympathize with me. That is a bad joke to follow your healthy counsels!

CJ, in spite of her tears, stood up quickley and took Toby's arm when she saw Vernet step back, surprised.

- Is this a bad joke? – shouted Toby, freeing himself from CJ's grasp.

- No, it is no joke, – said the doctor in a smooth but firm voice.

- Toby, I know this is difficult for you, but you must calm down , Sam needs you, - said CJ.

Toby's mind was a whirlpool of thoughts and emotions. He fought with himself, trying to concentrate. A deadly silence fell upon the room. Abruptly, Toby began to pace. Moving with quick steps, while his hands writhed.

- This is not possible. – said Toby.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
The color disappeared from Josh's face when he saw Toby, CJ and Doctor Vernet.

Vernet thought he would faint. Finally, Josh could articulate.

- I cannot believe it.

CJ shook her head.

- I understand, - said Venet.

- This is not right, he is too young for this, - Josh said. He glared with a challenging expression, his face distorted. - I Want to know... you... you told him that his health was very good. You did a series of tests on him and you told him that the results were normal, as they did them to all of us. Why they did not find anything in these studies?

- They might have prevented all this, - assured Toby.

Vernet recognized anger, this familiar predecessor of grief and sorrow.

- I did not say exactly that his health was perfect, and neither is yours, - he said very softly, - the lab analyses were satisfactory, but I prepared him, like always, with regard to his diet and his high level of strees. And I reminded him that he was neglecting to do his exercises, to relieve the tension that lately he suffered on the job, I advised him that he should see a specialist, a
psychiatrist.

- What's the point of doing a checkup to us if one has a cardiac attack three weeks later? - shouted Josh.

- I am sorry about it, - said Vernet, - our aptitude to predict the future is limited. We know it. We can only do everything we can for Sam.

Toby, who sat in one of the chairs, stomped his foot, hitting the chair. An uncontrollable ire, product of the exasperating morning that he had, fed now by Sam's disease, blocked it up.

- WHY? - he shouted to Venet, as if the cardiologist was part of a conspiracy around him. He grabbed his shirt and shook him with violence. CJ intervened between the two, embracing Toby.

- Toby! - she shouted, terrified by the possibility of becoming enemies with the only man that they needed in order to help Sam. - Is not Doctor Vernet fault. If anyone is to blame.

As if he was waking up from a dream, Toby released the shirt of the doctor. He fixed his tie. He bent and lifted the chair, then stood up and covered his face with his hands.

- It is not a question of blaming anybody, - Vernet said while he was nervously fixing his own tie, - but of treating Sam.

CJ did not let go of Toby's arm, for her Toby was acting in strange ways.

Vernet began describing Sam's clinical aspect and his treatment.

While he was listening listlessly, Toby examined Vernet. 'It was evident that he has done the same thing often, and his phrases, like " I sorry" were sounding not sincere '.

Toby had the disagreeable impression that this man was enjoying, not in the same way as he had enjoyed a movie or good food, but in a subtle and complaisent form: 'He was the center of attention of a crisis in the White House'. His imaginary attitude didnīt appeal to Toby . But bound in his mind to remain silent for a while, he was summoning calleidoscopical images of Sam - how they met and knew each other during these years.

-To relieve the inevitable feeling of guilt, - said Vernet, - I want to emphasize that the reason of the cardiac attack that Sam had is a product of several factors. Lamentably, in these last years the number of cardiac attacks increased between people from 25 to 40 years old.

Toby walked abruptly to the window and looked at dirty snow that was falling down.

- There is something indeed in what you say, but it is not a constructive way of facing a disease, - he said.

Vernet tried to think what would be the best way of answer this judgment. Taking his eyeglasses off, he said:

- I am not sure of the order... - When Vernet begun to said this, Toby turned around.

- The order that it serves? I will tell it to you. The bad thing that a disease has is uncertainty. Human beings are capable of adapting to anything, provided that there is some certainty, but they go mad when they tumble without knowing anything.

While Toby was speaking, he returned noisly to Vernetīs desk.Having seen the book of cardiology and the notes, he got hold of them and threw them into the wastebasket.

- We do not need all these scientific words!

- Toby...- Josh tried to interfere.

Toby walked towards Josh with his face red.

- Are you going to tell me, Josh, that you believe that Sam will be able to return to work with us?... Vernet how many people with cardiac problems can survive pressures like we have to diary in the White House? - shouted Toby .

Venet rolled backward in his chair and took the edge of the desk with his hands, as if he was on the verge of flying.

- Not too much, - said Vernet.

- It is not enough, - accused sharply Toby, - be more specific.

- OK! - exclaimed the doctor. - Sam will have to change his activities even change his work.

Toby did not say anything. After having intimidated Vernet, he felt suddenly without intention or direction. He sunk into one of the chairs.

Venetīs face recovered slowly. He exchanged looks with Josh and CJ. Then he continued his recommendations, turning to CJ.

- It is better to think that a cardiac attack is not a fatal disease, and to take every day as it comes.

- Saying it to Sam is like telling a dying man that he should not think about his end. - mumbled Toby.

+***************************************************************

While walking to the elevator that would go to the floor where Sam was, Toby was fighting to stay calm. Never in his life had he felt troubled with such painful emotions. On one hand he was longing for the moment to see Sam, to see that he was well; on the other hand, the idea of seeing him was frightening. Even thought he was remembering his face after the fight that they had this morning about the mad cow desease, he couldn't help feeling guilty about what happened with Sam.

The elevator stopped. The doors opened. Before them extended a blue corridor, full of patients, with pajamas on, their relatives, nurses, and maintenance workers up on ladders, arranging the lights.

Doctor Vernet led them through the corridor, passing the nurses' station. Toby was looking down at his feet. CJ was walking at his side, she took his arm.

Sam had a single-bed room inside the Coronary Unit Ward, it was small with glass walls. On the left wall, one camera contolled him. He was sleping on the bed, breathing in rapid and superficial form under a mask of oxygen. His face had a creamy tonality. A nurse who was attending to him stood straight after fixing the intravenous drip.

Sam felt he was extracted out of a deep dream so sharply that he was startled by a sensation of terror, like a child who has had a nightmare. He did not know clearly what had woken him up, but he supposed that it was because of some noise or movement. Then he heard someone calling him from very far. Making a great effort, he managed to open his eyes. Initially, he felt disoriented, but as he was observing the objects in his limited field of vision, he recalledthat he was situated in the GW.

And then the worried Gerardo Vernet's face came up from a thick haze.

Sam blinked.

- How you doing, Sam? - asked Vernet with a smile.

But the question presupposed an answer. Sam raised a lax hand, all his attention was in his effort of breathing. His respiraion was like a locomotive in miniature.

Sam noticed that his temples were pulsating but, apart from his hands being dump of sweat and a feeling of disagreeable sensation in his head that he associated maybe with fever, he felt well. At least he didn't have that tepid pain or especially that exhausting oppression that paralyzed him in the initial moment of the heart attack.

Vernet placed his hand on Sam's forehead and separated the hair from the perspired skin.

- Can you bear a brief visit? I came to you with a surprise.

Sam was not managing to see a great part of the room, especially because the only light came from a small lamp placed behind the bed . The only thing that he perceived with clarity was the union of the level celing with the wall. And on the wall, the shade, several times amplifed, of a bottle of intravenous syrom and of the pipes that were connecting it to his veins. The bottles hardley seemed to move.

Vernet moved so that Sam could see towards the door.

When Toby saw Sam, his fear of facing him vanished in a big wave of affection and worry. He could not believe how pale he was. His eyes sunk in the orbits and were surrounded by black circles, as if after a blow.

CJ wanted to run and embrace him, but was not managing to move. The pain fixed her to the floor - Sam needed her, and she could not move. With a great effort, she walked to his side, placed her hand on his arm and squeezed it.

Josh turned to the bed and stopped opposite to CJ. Josh could not offer anything. And as Vernet had done, he again smoothed Sam's black hair that was framing his extreme pallor.

- How are you? - asked Josh, looking at the tangle of pipes
and bottles, monitors and indicators. To his left side, he could hear the electronic beep of a cardiac monitor.

Sam took Josh's hand, and squeezed it. With every precausión, he breathed deeply. He did not feel that pain that was like a stab, though he had the sensation that it was costing him a great deal to expand his lungs.

- Now... me... - he made a pause to swallow, - I feel fine. - answered Sam with a voice scarcely a ripple and making a great effort to speak and even to breathe was an irritation; and at any moment he was fearing it would return the pain but he was glad to see them.

Sam fixed his scared blue eyes on Toby, Toby smiled weakly and with trembling hands held on to the foot of the bed to calm down. Toby felt helpless and undecided, something to which he was not accustomed.

He felt reponsble for what happended to Sam, Sam's words in their discussion this morning were resounding in his head: "What kind of world superimposes the needs of business to morality, especially if it's a question of the health of the population? And what kind of world could look for another side when the people can die to hide asecret?" .

He looked at his watch. Toby fearedd that Sam could realize his precarious emotional condition. Avoiding looking at Sam he said:

- I must leave, I have to return to the office. I will be back.

Toby left inmidiatly.

CJ realized that Toby was fighting to hold back tears.

- I will walk Toby to the elevator, Sam, - said CJ seeing that Toby went to the door.

She reached him in the corridor and took him by the arm,

- Toby.. what happened to you?

Toby didn't stop.

Toby! - exclaimed CJ, forcing him to look at her.

- I have to get out of here, - he answered nervously.- I cannot face him. He looks terrible. I donīt know what to do... I provoked this situation.

- What....?Toby you cannot... - asked CJ, surprised, remembering at once Toby's reaction in the waiting room.

- I should leave. Call me if you or he need something. I will be in the West Wing.

CJ saw him run for the corridor crammed with people. He didn't wait for the elevator and walked down the stairs.

**********************************************************

Sam had entered the hospital more than three weeks ago. He was accustomed to the routine of the hospital. The chirping of the rolling carts which the nurses were pushing through the corridors; the distant siren of an ambulance that was coming closer and the loudspeaker of the hospital calling a doctor have turned into soothing sounds. Often these so familiar sounds were enough for him to know that time it was without needing to consult his watch. And everything meant that, in case of an emergency, he was going to
have help rapidly.

Never has he enjoyed being sick, but in this moment he gave in to enjoying it. Already he hasn't felt any pain and the nurses were very competent and attentive. Already he did not need to take the sedatives that made him feel a slight sensation of light-headedness,as if he had drunk a couple of glasses of wine.

CJ, Ginger, Bonnie or Donna were coming by almost every day, reading him aloud, telling him anecdotes and stories about work, or remaining seated and keeping him company silently. Leo, the President and the First Lady were calling him daily and sometimes several times a day. His room was full of wreaths and flowers. Though for he was reminded of a funeral, he knew that they were samples of affection. He gave himself the luxury of reading magazines about navigation and football.

But today he felt a king of the world, Dr. Vernet had discharged him. He had finished getting dressed, and collapsed into the wheelchair, which now was pushed personally by Dr. Vernet, speaking to him continuously about how he should look after his health.

- Sam, look, you spent some good time on your own in this hospital, do you understand me? Besides, I do not want to go back to hearing that a madman crashed against our ER parking. If you return here, you will have to look for another doctor. Because I do not think well about those who have so little brain that they allow this to happen twice. And besides, you must have better aspect on Thursday when you return for your examination, or I will going to be angry with you, and I'm warning you that with Toby I have learned to improve my style, and only I can say to you that it is convenient for you not to see me angry.

Josh and CJ, who were walking close to the wheelchair, listening at the Doctorīs advices ,they were smiling, in spite of the fact that Sam had not yet decided whether or not he would return to working in the White House. Still he had a lengthy period of rest in his house and they promised that would give them a response .

Sam felt grateful for the attention of his friends, but he was feeling Toby's distress and that he was avoiding him; he did it during these three weeks, planning to visit a few times and though he was calling several times a day, the conversations were nothing more than trivial and never touched the topic of that morning after the attack . Sam knew that Toby was hurt, and that he felt the reason of his attack and this feeling worsened Sam's indesicion of continuing in the White House. But Sam could not avoid it. He was not blaming Toby for what happened.

Like Vernet said, these things happened and one never knew. He needed very much, in these moments to be calm and to think over his future calmly.

The door of the elevator opened to the Hospital Lobby and Sam was amuzed that it was empty, when he saw The President, Leo and his bodyguards.

- Mr. President, - Sam said, surprised, trying to stand up, but was forced to sit down.

- Hello, Sam! How are you doing? - they shook hands and for an instant Sam was afreid that The President would push his wheelchair to the exit. It would be intolerable for him, but who could stop Josiah Bartlet if these were his intention. Vernet went backto occupying his place and The President was walking to his side together with the others.

- All is well, Sam?

- I fell well, Mr President, with desire to get out of here.

- And to come back with us? - asked Jed.

Sam grimaced.

- I assure you, Mr.President, that as soon I go out of this door I will keep in mind that question and look for a response.

- Then I will not leave you until you have this response and whatever is that you should think over you will with me.

Sam didnīt understand that last commentary until they have passed the Hospitalīs door and he saw that in the street the presidential limousine was waiting for them. Vernet pushed the wheelchair until it reached the limousine; Sam already had guessed the intentions of Jed Barlet, and understood that " I will not leave you to go " was meant literally.

- And now I can stand up?

*********************************************************

The trip from the hospital to Sam's apartment was developing silently. Sam was seated next to Bartlet, Leo and the others followed them in the car behind.

Sam was looking out the window, he saw the habitual variety of people without a roof over their heads and those that were happier begging than working. In one of the streets, a man attracted his attention. He was sitting down on the sidewalk with his legs crossed,his back leaning on a parking wall near an empty bucket. In his lap, he was supporting a sign: I"M HUNGRY. In the simple request slightly primitive, he suggested to the one who would stop, to give him some money.

In Washington, many beggars were waving a plastic cup towards the cars that were passing, with hope that those who were driving their 50,000 dollar Merceds Benz or Jaguars would roll down their windows and throw a few coins to the wretches that could not afford warm food. But in spring, the humid winter wind that sows feelings and guilt was vanishing under the heat of the sun. The only windows that rolled down allowed in soft fresh air. But now, in winter and at this hour of the day, the windows of the opportunity for the needy ones were closed. But who knows, you never know; probably someone might open them.

A few claps in his knee snatched him out of his thoughts. He turned away from the window and saw The President who also was looking out the window, but said:

- Sam, you have been in a hospital, faced death and in a sense you were warned before it happened. You know what it's like to face a disease and its consequences, do you believe the patient must know exactly what he has?

Sam's eyebrows joined in surprise.

- Would anyone like to know that he has a fatal disease? Or something like that? Mister President, look...

- Calm down, Sam, my MS is in remission, - pacified Jed. Sam's face was a study of sudden fear. - I am asking you a philosophical question. Or probably ethical.

- I think we all face this question at some time. - said Sam thoughtfully. - Everything depends on the circumstances. More than on the person. It is necessary to keep in mind how one's going to take it. There are persons who insist they should be told the truth and then they faint in front of a scar. But what made you ask this
question?

Jed shook his head.

- Nothing. As I said to you, I was trying to extract an analogy, I suppose.

- The patient is the country, - deduced Sam with sagacity. - And I understand that you are wondering until what point you can keep it informed without causing panic.

The president nodded.

- I am not the best person to give you this kind of advice, Mister President. You do what seems to be the better thing.

- That, - observed Jed with a grimace, - belongs to the same innocuous category as prescribing a medicine to treat a cold. Take an aspirin, drink plenty of liquid and rest. I am looking for a miraculous drug and the doctor delivers me an aspirin and advice.

- I am not a doctor, but I know the simpler remedy is sometimes best. - Sam said.

- I wish life was as simple as rest or aspirins.

- I do too, for your own good, the presidency was simple, - Sam said.

Bartlet looked at Sam trying to find some stimulate for what he has just said in his expression. His agreeable face frowned reflecting his torturous internal conflict.

- Do you know, Sam, that in a sense, the fatal "presidential microbe" was not introduced to my current blood up until we were well advanced with the campaign, and I realized that I had wished to be President. But it was not until we won the election and "rented" the White House for four years that I realized the presidency was including many negative things, and among them loneliness. Even for a President with a family. And sometimes this price is too high because we cannot have the luxury of relaxing with personal problems, but when something happens like what happened to you or to Josh, there is no question of State that worries me more.

- Mr. I am fine, You must not worry for me.

- I shouldn't?

Sam sighed.

- No.

- The discussion that you had that morning with Toby, was it about something you shouldn't have worried about?

Sam tried not to into Bartletīs eyes. - You should not worry because of it.

- Sam? - Bartelt said with a look that was inviting Sam to expose his soul.


For Sam, Jed Bartlet had something that awoke in others a confidence similar to the warm and unquestionable certainly image of a father. He seemed a political patriarch.

- I had dreamed of coming to the White House, - he began saying slowly, - and it wasn't until the last moment, but since we met Josh and I saw in him the possibility of doing something, making things change. I knew as well as you it was going to be hard , and I would have to leave things aside, but now to be here means to do a lot of dirty work, and when it is not dirty it is confusing and disorderly. I began to see with clarity that to be employed at the White House was meaning to surrender to the system, like a log to the saw. And when out of the machine, surely I was going to be salable and full of knowledge. But, thus fly the chip they were going to fly these unproductive features of my personality, the pity, the humanity, and the instinct of changing things. I must avoid losing this chips while I can, while it isn't too late.

- And it was this way until the minute you had determined to jump off "the saw", before the attack.

Sam nodded.

- You said it, Mr. President.It is true that I earn knowledge and experience inside the White House. But at the same time, nevertheless,...

- You believe that much of your idealism was extracted in the White House, - observed Jed leaving of side a possible discussion. - You think that lately you have not been orientated to favor it. - Jed made a long pause and then asked, - Sam, don't you like to work at the White House?

The question sounded almost like an outburst.

- I don't know, I truly don't . Sometimes I see things reasonably from a certain distance but when I am in the way, I do not understand what is happening. Eventually I will come to a point where nothing matters. That's way I have stopped thinking about the people as persons, I only see them as a vote to be won and, certainly, it adds to my guilt.... I feel so tired, really exhausted all the time. And nevertheless I lack the sensation of being useful... I'm always afraid... Afraid of doing something badly and of looking like an idiot. I am not prepared too well for this, And even I believe that you perceive the same thing, - he said thoughtfully - I have fear of making mistakes, I am not so worried whether my commentaries will be good or bad for the citizen, but because I can make Toby or Leo angry, and after everything... - Sam took a deep breath and a longpause, -...one minute in politics one has a dear and valued friend, the next minute, who knows?... Initially one has to learn to keep his mouth shut. Afterwards the lesson is learned so well that it
incorporates into his nature... But underneath, one is furious most of the time.

- Being furious is not the best idea in your position, - assured Jed.

- I totally agree... Mister President, - continued Sam with asaddened face,

- Maybe this it is a natural effect of the system, - added Jed smoothly, - the final result of too much intensity and repression over many years of practice. I had begun feeling like you described. In this game, the fear and the fury are in symbiosis. If somethingcan differentiate them it is that the fear is complicated. In the beginning, one has fear of making mistakes because they can damage the people, the persons, then the citizen tends to lose importance as one advances in the political career. It is like being employed at a mental hospital. ...Many politicians have this attitude, Sam. A kind of approach to life, unpredictable, passive - aggressive. First idealistic, after annoyed and finally resigned. Finally, the ire and the frustration silenced during so much time, are exploiting in the magnificent deployment of self-indulgence. At whose expense? Whose else? The sins of the ancestors relapse on us, the children of the system... and you wondered whether it could happen to me?... I believe it could. Actually, it already happened because of this mining of your idealism. I'm not surprised that so many gentlemenexisted inside the politics; the truth is that what amazes me is that some politicians were human beings completely. Very few ones were achieving it.

- I have managed to believe that if one wants to come and be supported in the White House, I must accept everything without a ripple. Like I said, there are a lot of guys like me waiting to occupy a place in big league.- Sam said.

Bartlet was looking at Sam while declaring the last hrase, and for the first time Sam's voice became hoarse. Jed could see his enormous weariness, the lines that the fatigue engraved in his face, like the tiny rivers that a strong rain opens on the soft area. Jed did not look at him, but rather through him.

- You know, Sam, being President has taught me some things. One of them is that a President cannot afford the vulnerability to be sensitive to the critiques since it incline to try to avoid them more than to act better... The presidency, Sam reduces the skin of a man to the thickness of a skin of an onion. Not uselessly Thomas Jefferson had called it "a life of splendid misery ". Not uselessly was Abraham Lincoln referring to the Executive mansion saying "this damned house ". Not uselessly had James Garfield whispered confidentially to a friend: "My god, what do they will see in this place as to wake the desire to enter it in a man?"...But you know, this is the narcotic peculiarity of the presidency. Few presidents really enjoyed the period of their mandate... The presidency, Sam,offers a series of annoying and endless pressures....Producing more tension than that of a daily crisis, generally added to the crisis of the previous day, without resolving them. The requirements demand full
effort, for example, having to sign several hundreds papers a day. Once I take up the counting of these signatures during an epoche of great activity, I uncover that I'd written "Josiah Bartlet" on more than five hundred seven documents in a period of 24 hours.

- Did you count all these signatures? - asked Sam, amazed.

- Yes I did ! - assured Bartlet accompanying the reply with a hand gesture. - An insignificant complaint, probably, and that wakes up contempt in my fellow-citizens. The same fellow citizens rarely realize that the average life of a president is five years shorter than the normal average, which means that the simple distinction of being chosen brings the bonus of a limited lifetime. This small statistics, - mumbled Jed, - was mentioned to Leo when he urged meto postulate myself.

- Like probably neither you had considered if he had said when you even not had decided if to be postulated or not, - inquired Sam with a small smile.

- Sam, when a man has been attacked by the "Presidential Microbe" or the incurable "Virus of the White House" he thinks only about the honor, the prestige, the challenge and the certainty with which even the more tarnished President finds a place in the history books. Not long after he enters the white House he discovers that all the honors are little compensation for the difficulties, worries and the sense of responsibility, magnified a thousand times, until it becomes a nightmare... I am not afraid of responsibility, otherwise I would never have sheltered the intention of reaching the White House... Sam, what happened to you is what happens to a typical young politician who starts by having idealistic objectives, you are a typical politician whose personality is experiencing, gradually, certain modifications... Perhaps this has not suggested to you that it is necessary to study the system for its psychological effects and to change it in order for it to nourish and not extinguish the ideals and the sensibility of our young politicians?

- Maybe - said sam

- The change is inevitable, Sam, and the hope for all of mankind of good will, is that it carries out to improve, become positive for the society and for every individual. Probably it is a moment of analyzing and reform. But up to the more and deep rigorous analysis it will be imperfect. But though we do not reach the ideal state, we can move towards. At least we will have made sense and opted to try, but if you resign or it you do not try... - Jed put a hand on Sam's shoulder, - you never know. And if I know something of you, Sam, I know you are not the kind of person who doubts.

- Mr. President...

- Yes, Sam.

Sam hesitated, while the prohibited familiarity and charm were fighting inside him.

- Thank you very much, Sir.

Jed looked at him and nodded, then turned his eyes to the homeless in the street.

THE END

 

 

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