He was not difficult to understand, despite the fact that he was missing a fair portion of his mouth.
I found Jean L’homme sans Visage, as he referred to himself, tucked away in a room filled with sunlight. He was alone, his eyes closed, and at first, I mistook him for being alive. He, as it turned out, mistook me for being dead.
He was a Poilu, a French soldier of the Great War, and he had traveled to America to visit a cousin in Boston. Somehow, and he cannot remember exactly, he arrived at the hospital. Soon, he found himself in one of the surgical galleries, and under the watchful eye of a surgeon, young nurses were encouraged to cut away as much as they dared.
One young woman, he discovered to his horror, dared a great deal. When she finished, she had removed the upper portion of his jaw, part of one orbital socket, and a fair amount of his tongue. In all, he told me, he might have minded terribly, if they had then killed him.
Instead, they kept him alive for another year, seeing what foods he could still digest without the assistance of teeth and saliva.
I asked him how he died, and Jean chuckled.
“I found a scalpel,” he informed me.
“Suicide?” I asked politely.
Jean shook his head. “I went looking for hearts in the staff.”
“Did you find any?”
“One,” he answered, and held up his hands. “Unfortunately for me, I could no longer chew properly, and I choked upon it.”
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