This happened some weeks ago: a strange man wanted me to cut his ear.

I was on my examination room of Arles (France) that morning of the 23rd of December of 1888, like every day, when, suddenly, a man called Vincent Van Gogh appeared running into the nursing. He seemed very stressed, but sure about his words.

“I can't cut your ear” -I said immediately- “I have never cut an ear, and I think that the cut of your auricular pavilion will damage seriously your listening.”Vincent didn’t seem too much worried about it “I don´t mind about my hearing, because I’m doing this to preserve my live. I don’t care if I lose my listening if I can’t recover my life.”
I wasn’t understanding anything, so I asked him why he wanted to cut his ear. Van Gogh answered to me immediately “That is my private life, I can’t tell you more than I have said to you.” At that moment he changed the topic of the conversation. “I don't have much money, but I can’t give you a quite high quantity of it if you do what I said.”

At that moment I started thinking about my family and about the bad economic situation in which my family and I were, so I was ready to do what he was asking me. I just needed to ask him one more question “Okey, I can do what you want, but I just need to know one more thing for making this legally. You may know that if I don't know why you want to cut your ear and you die drained in my nursery, I can go to prison. And I can’t go to prison because I have to maintain a family.”

Van Gogh seemed very nervous with that last question and, after thinking about it for approximately ten seconds, he answered to me “sorry doctor, but I think I’m not going to say to you the reason of why I want to cut my ear because you would think that I’m mad. So, if you can’t cut my ear we will meet this night.”
A shiver crossed my entire body immediately. Why did that strange man say that  we would meet that night? I was scared because I really thought that he was mad, even if he didn’t say to me anything about why he wanted me to cut his ear.

When I saw him crossing the door, I immediately informed the intern, that was working at that moment in the reception desk of the infirmary and I told him to call the police.

They reached fifteen minutes later, and I reported them what just happened some minutes before. “Sorry, we can’t do anything with him, because he didn’t commit any crime,” said the one of the agents “but we can provide you protection for this night if you want.” “Oh, okay thank you, I think that  I will need it.” “Okay, we will be here at 8 o’clock”. I said goodbye to the agents and I continued attending to the patients that were in the waiting room.

Everything was going well until the police came, but I continued thinking about that strange man. He seemed really mad and stressed. Finally, the police arrived at 8 o’clock, like the agent said to me. Nothing happened during the first two hours, so I decided to go home.

But suddenly, when I was collecting all my things in my office, a police agent got in the room and said to me that a man had cut his ear. Could it be Vincent, the man that wanted me to cut his ear? “A prostitute had called us and said that a man had given her his ear. When we had reached there the girl was on the floor next to the telephone cabine, unconscious, and the man was near her losing a lot of blood. They were carrying both there right now.”

Each one came in a stretcher. On the one hand, the girl looked healthy, even if she was unconscious and maybe shocked. On the other hand, the man was losing a lot of blood from his ear but, as he was conscious, he was shouting a lot. I realised that I was thinking right: the patient was Vincent Van Gogh, the man that had said to me that we were going to see again that night. I noticed that he was right.

I put him ether (anaesthesia) under the watchful eyes of the agents and he calmed down enough. Later, I tried to cut the hemorrhage and I put him an ostentatious bandage. After 15 minutes, the wound stopped bleeding, but I could not sew him the ear. An hour later, Vincent recovered from the anaesthesia, but the woman stayed unconscious.

“Why?” I asked him “Why have you cut your ear? You’re completely mad!” “I’m sorry but I needed to do this.” He looked a bit affected due to the ether, but sure about his words. “Those policemen that are waiting outside have just said to me that if you do not tell me the cause of your cut, they will take you to prison” I lied, “so I have thought that you can tell me before that the police for having less pressure. Later I will tell it to them.” “Okay, I am going to tell you the truth.”

“I’m living with my friend Paul Gauguin in the yellow house of Arles and we have painted many paintings together. Even if the relation between us was productive and calm in a beginning, with the time the discussions arose. Last night the fight was strong and Paul said that he was going to leave Arles if I didn’t demonstrate him that he was important for me. So I decided to give him my ear. That’s why I came here this morning. Like you didn't cut my ear, I cut by myself, but, when I got out of the bathroom (where I have cut my ear), Paul fainted and I decided to go to find help from my love, Gabrielle Berlatier, that woman that is lying right there.”

That history left me very affected, because it made me really feel that Vincent was a lonely person that wanted to find happiness with prostitutes and painting with his friends. When Gabrielle slept, I Ieft her to return home. Before going from the nursery, she called Van Gogh mad many times and he started to cry. It looked that Vincent was a very sensible person. A week later, I decided to give him licence to go home.

After that, I decided to visit him at home every week. The first day I went there, all the paintings that he had done during his life impressed me, so I decided to buy one of them, named The Red Vineyard. He looked excited for it and he said to me two things that  surprised me: he had never sold any painting and the painting just cost 3 francs. He also gave me a bad new: Paul Gauguin had left the house and he went to Paris because he thought that Vincent was really crazy. Nevertheless, he had good aspect.

I continued visiting him all the weeks and while the time was passing, I liked more his paintings. One day he started giving me painting classes and I became in a good painter, but I never reached his level.  

One day, exactly the 8th of May of 1889, Theo, the brother of Vincent, was in his house and he said to me that he was going to leave Vincent in the Sanatorium of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, because of his mental problems. I couldn’t do anything, so I said goodbye to him.

I didn’t have any new about him until 29th of July of 1890, when Theo announced me that Vincent had died in Auvers-sur-Oise (France). Immediately, I reached there and I saw misunderstood artist laying on his bed. I decided to make a painting of him lying on his bed, to commemorate that amazing artist that had lived for the painting, but he -just sold a 

Ivan Seisas

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