Initially, I wanted him to be a cardiologist, for the simple ‘woman’ reason – I think most women love men who are in control, who are masters of the universe. And there is nothing sexier than a man who holds life in his bare hands.
I also know several cardiologists. One in particular. This one, instead of the regulatory surgical sterile cap, wears a sterilised headscarf of his football team, PSV Eindhoven (he has 12 of those, always in rotation). He is a playful, confrontational and provocative man, amongst many other things. But when he operates, he has this permanent little frown that furrows his brows. He occasionally looks up, and his eyes would be cold, mechanical and distant. Even if you were on first name basis with him outside the operating theatre, he goes by his formal title here. The sheer force of his presence dominates all. He certainly knows how to use scalpels and steel retractors very well 🙂
There is a deathly calm about him that the yogi in me is drawn to. I think that defines his masculinity. Even in intense or dramatic situations, he is calm and in perfect control. His fiefdom is more like a yoga studio, and he the yoga master, orchestrating the whole complex theatre oh so beautifully. But whenever this man manages to restart a heart and brings a person back to life, he smiles the brightest thousand-megawatt smile ever, one that burns through his surgical mask.
When he smiles like this, I see the boy that he had once been, leggy and scrawny, kicking a football in his Amsterdam suburb after school and getting into fights, often sad and angry (his mother died when he was eight), but always fired from within. I wanted to write about this fire that took him far away from his homeland, but when I told him about the storyline, he laughed at me. He said, “Jac, any kid who dreams of being a cardiologist or any –ist should be put into the school of hard knocks; he or she is just a bloody fantasist. Nobody knows for sure, until the last year of medical school, if they survive that far.”
His dream was to play professional football, but knee injury ruined that plan. So in between school and university, he took a gap year and went out to work in a kibbutz in Israel. Whilst there, he got involved with student activists and the UN instead, and ended helping displaced Palestinians in refugee camps. When his gap year ended, he entered medical school without any fanfare, because he was too embarrassed to tell his friends.
So if I wanted to write about the transformation of an eight year old’s obsessive quest into adult reality, I guess it had to be about mine. I was the kid who wanted to know things that adults couldn’t answer, like what lies beyond outer space and what was there before everything began. And thus began the construction of PW’s inner self with all the inner struggles and conflicts.
Physically, PW is modeled on a man in his mid-forties. I always think to myself, he is the most beautiful man I know. His body is at its best, better I think, than when he was younger. Because of his life’s journey. We can either be broken or strengthened by the trials of life; we can either grow fearful of living or rise to the challenge. This man, he has come a long way, to find balance, equanimity and wisdom in his life. There is a serenity in his masculine body these days, and I find this very beautiful. It’s like he’s mastered his own demons yet they are still there, beneath the surface.