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Old guy in ICU today. John. In the bluish shadow of the late afternoon, I'm wiping down his legs, carefully wiping around the towel I'd placed over his privates for um, privacy. 'You can clean that off too', he says in a heh heh heh perverted way. It's not the first time and it certainly won't be the last. We play these games in the hospital. He plays the dirty old man and I play the coy young girl. The old me would have blushed or, rather, burst into flames. But now I'm getting good at these games.

It's not your birthday, I say.
Yes, but it is New Year's Eve he says.
Yes, but I'm not feeling that charitable.
No? You look like a very charitable girl.

Lights go on. Game over. I think I won this round.

'This hasn't been a good year', he says. He continues with the story of his wife's decline. Alzheimer's. How she's now in a nursing home, how it was a rough two years when he tried to take care of her at home. How she starting throwing things at him. Started swearing at him. 'The turning point,' he said, 'was the first time she looked at me with absolute hatred in her eyes.' A happy marriage to that point. Fifty-four years. 'My heart never felt so heavy as it did on that day.' We share silence for a brief time.

We play these games. With each new game we get to wear a different mask. The mask is protection. Without it, everyone would see how we really feel. And that's never pretty.

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