Monday, July 25, 2016

Me Before You

Earlier this month, my wife pleaded to watch the movie Me Before You, an adaptation of a novel by the same title by Jojo Mayes. Although I was not always fond of book-to-movie adaptations (a cynical outlook that proliferated throughout the years precipitated by movie adaptations such as World War Z, Dreamcatcher and The Great Gatsby), I yielded to her persuasion and decided to give Me Before You a try. A smile settled across her face, her eyes creasing with pleasure as I told her we were finally going to see the movie.
To my surprise, I actually enjoyed the movie, with some conversations in it stuck in my mind long after the credits finished rolling. A dialogue that made me reflect was towards the end of the movie, when Lou, who was taking care of Will, a young man progressively paralyzed from an accident (although not medically plausible, unless he suddenly caught Guillain-Barre syndrome, succumbed to a spine cancer or his spine decided to spontaneously degenerate at a young age), asked a question along the lines of “where would you wish to be if you were still healthy?”

Will, who was a wealthy young banker, was portrayed as an avid traveller and an adrenaline junkie before he met with the accident. I expected him to answer things like skydiving in New Zealand, surfing in Hawaii or scuba diving in the Great Reef Barrier, but his answer perplexed me:
"Paris. I would sit outside a cafe in Le Marais and drink coffee and eat a plate of warm croissants with unsalted butter and strawberry jam. I want to be in Paris as me, the old me, if I shut my eyes now, I know exactly how it feels in that little square. I remember every sensation”
I could instantly relate to what he said.
I guess that when our basic ability was taken away, the activities that seemed presumptuous and routine, were the ones that we miss doing the most. Not skydiving, not scuba diving, not wall climbing. When we are left paralyzed in a wheelchair, the thought of not being able to do simple things like having a cup of coffee in a cafĂ© without the hassle of trying to fit behind the table, having someone to carry us up the curb, or the stresses brought by being unable to charge our electrical wheelchair because the plug won’t fit French electrical socket made us miss the person who we used to be most.
Although I abjured the movie’s devastating ending that sort of advocate assisted suicide, I am glad that my wife brought me to see this movie for its message of gratitude. I pray we would all stay away from such debilitating disease, and still be able appreciate the little things in life and be thankful for what we have.

The scene from the movie reminded me of my time in Geneva. After work, I would sit outside a cafe in Le Grand Rue, a cobbled-street alley in between teetering apartment blocks, to drink hot coffee and eat a plate of warm crepe with chocolate, banana and peanuts. It's one of the place I keep visiting when I closed my eyes.

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