Patrick wants a relationship, that’s why he talks to every woman we meet

Thomas Van Der Meer

On the edge of the psychiatric area is the sanatorium, which was opened in 1932 for the admission of more than a hundred nervous patients. For an asylum, the building looks quite cozy. Beautiful masonry, stained glass windows, bay windows, balcony in front and conservatory at the back. There’s an excessively large roof, and it does’m: it gives a sense of security.

The sanatorium owes its friendly appearance not only to the architectural style of the 1930s, but also to the trends in mental health at the time. The patients were admitted here with the thought that they needed rest, light, fresh air and exercise, and then returned home with renewed strength. At the back of the building, the windows overlook a Japanese blossoming cherry, which is now in bloom.

“Look,” I say to Patrick, 47, and I point to the tree.

Patrick looks in a completely different direction: his gaze is directed at a group of people in sportswear heading towards us in the distance. “There’s a woman there,” he says.

Patrick wants a relationship, that’s why he talks to every woman we meet. “If I talk small, it can turn into something.” On bad days he says: ‘That woman goes there especially for me’.


It’s not about sex for him, because he’s done it before. Twenty years ago, a sexually unrestrained fellow patient dragged him to his bed and found it quite interesting. ‘I thought, now he goes in. He really went in. ‘ It was Patrick’s first and last time. “I did it so I know how it is. It does not make much sense to do it again.” He wants a relationship to escape the clinic knot. “Every day is the same here.”

He is too impatient to wait until the company is within speaking distance and starts calling. ‘Hi Miss! Good morning! Good morning, madam! ‘

The sports club turns hesitantly and looks at Patrick with a worried look. Patrick wears a black hood and sunglasses – he was wearing them this morning when I drummed him out of bed for his medication – and the lower half of his face is hidden behind a thick blond beard. I also do not really know what Patrick looks like.

“I do not drive a car,” he says to the woman. ‘You do?’

“Yes,” she says.

“Does your friend drive a car?”

“Yes, my friend drives a car too.”

Patrick asks a few more questions – he wants to know what her favorite holiday destination is and if she likes listening to music from the nineties – and then she finishes it. “We’re moving on,” she says, smiling at Patrick. “We still have to run.”

We move on. “Lovely woman,” he says. “Too bad she already has a boyfriend.”


Women respond well to Patrick. They know how to keep him at a distance without making him feel rejected or think they think he is weird. That’s because women are educated in it. You as a woman should be able to do that, otherwise you will always get into trouble. Anyone who looks like a woman or has ever looked like a woman knows that.

Lily Allen sings along Beat them out about a woman, or rather all women, who are approached at the pub by a man and desperately try to think of how the heck she can get rid of him again. At the end of the song, she starts shouting apologies: ‘I have to go, my house is on fire. I have herpes. No, syphilis. Aids, aids. I’ve got AIDS. ‘

“But just look at that tree,” I say to Patrick.

‘Oh yeah. Yes, nice. ‘

The Japanese cherry blossoms were part of the sanatorium’s mission. Ninety years ago, they had planted it with the idea in mind: a bright view for the nervous. Nervous sufferers no longer exist as a patient category, and the sanatorium has stood empty for years, but the tree is more beautiful than ever: tall, broad, and dotted with thick clusters of pink flowers.

Thomas van der Meer is an author and works at a psychiatric clinic. He writes an exchange column with Arie Elshout every other week. The names in this column have been changed and some details have been changed.

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