Coughs racked my body when I entered the sanitarium and frankly, I didn’t care whether I would live or die in 1920. I lolled on the blue lawn chairs, brushed away falling crimson leaves, and picked at bland meals.
One kind nurse encouraged me to walk. A crisp day we wandered the outer reaches of the grounds and spied a man in a top hat, robe, and slippers who ducked from tree to tree. He gazed about as if to not arouse curiosity or suspicion, but stooped to retrieve something at each stop.
“Oh, that Mr. O’Neill is a sly one,” nurse shook her head. “He claims to be writing plays …needs solitude and fresh air. He has the nurses on his floor fooled.” She tapped her finger to the side of her head. “Quite a puzzle.”
I shivered. “Let’s go back for a cup of tea.” We left the man alone.
A week later, renewed, I strolled out to the woods. Rounding a large elm, I nearly tripped over this same robed pale man with intense eyes. He mumbled to himself as he jotted down words. His mustache twitched. “Care for a drink? A local man smuggles it for me.” From a whiff, I declined. He remained seated, but removed his top hat. “Eugene O’Neill, miss. You’re quite a beauty…hmm…seductive.” A swig of drink, a phrase, he coughed and wrote, “Desire Under the Elms - that could be a title.”