Thursday, December 18, 2014

older than everything

May, 2007

Dark day, clouds low bruises; rain grazing the window, the roof.

Talking, talking.
 
In the middle of a sentence she says, “Childhood depression.”

I say, "I felt really old when I was a kid. Not age-wise old...more like exhausted, like someone who has been awake for a long time. Old in a way that has nothing to do with time. I would talk to other kids...and it was like I was really far away from them; I could feel this huge distance between us."

"Did you feel more mature? The kids I work with...spectrum kids...I hear a lot that they prefer interacting with adults."

"I didn't really feel more mature. It had more to do with feeling tired. I just felt so emotionally exhausted all the time, and it made me feel like I was very different, sort of alien compared to others. I think, in reality, I was immature, even for a kid...my social skills never kept up with my actual age. But emotionally, I thought others kids seemed much younger than me. I had trouble feeling any connection to people my age."

"And what about now? Today?"

"It's different now that I'm in my 30's, almost the opposite situation. I'm literally older...but most people my age are married, furthering careers, raising kids...you know? Doing meaningful, difficult things. And I'm just hiding from the world, alone. I don't have any money. I feel...I don't know...juvenile or something, when I compare myself to others now. But when I was younger...I would interact with kids...and something about the differences between us, it just made me feel beat down and old. Today, I don't know. I don't know what I feel anymore."

It's quiet for a bit. I listen to the rain. She looks off to the side, thinks. She says, "During my residency, I worked with terminally ill children. Kids who had a very short amount of time to live..."

"What do you do to help kids in that situation?"

"You help them understand what will happen. You answer all of their questions, very directly. You help them prepare. And what was striking to me: these kids, emotionally, grew up very fast. Once they grasped what was about to happen...they seemed to very quickly become old souls. In many cases, there was almost a role reversal with the parents...the child would begin to take care of the parents, at least emotionally. Mom and dad, understandably, would become distraught...and the child would try to console them, help them through it. I saw that more times than I could count, those little hearts maturing so rapidly, reaching out to take care of others."

I'm a little shaken by the discussion. She's calm, no emotion.

She holds out her hands, makes them into fists, looks at them. She says, "I used to see a little one...this sweet girl, she had advanced rheumatoid arthritis.”

“I thought that was an older person thing.”

She shakes her head, says, “Any age. She was hit particularly hard. We would have free-floating appointments...I'd see her when she was not in agony. She was 8, and was already having numerous surgeries on her hands. She told me one time, 'I feel so old,' and I asked her how old she felt and she said, 'Old. Older than everything.'"

Monday, December 8, 2014

What We Know So Far

Excerpts from the Encyclopedia of M
 
Birds-

Birds are feathered meat-clocks. We don't know yet what their inner workings do. Probably they run on springs, cogs and pixie magic. Birds make a characteristic "chirping" sound; the strange ones eat pennies and gopher droppings. They are common to: north coastal regions, mountainous caverns and the dreams of wounded pie-cooks.

Toasters-

Grabby heat-machines; used in the de-softening of bread.

Toasters are nocturnal breeders and emit horrible urine when frightened.

George Washington-

Famous for inventing the Optional Axe Handle. You could use it, but you could also not, a concept which revolutionized the hacking and the chopping. Washington had the speaking voice of a dead ox but sang like a bag-pipe. He died in his pajamas.

Shoelaces-

Unknown. Probably the droppings of cloth pigeons.

Socks-

Foot-encircling stink-curtains. According to scientists (from Sweden) they are driven to enslave feet out of a blind need for aromatic suppression. Socks are inert when frozen. They are made from cotton and hate.

Rabbits-

Toothy, sex-mongering vegetarians. They live in holes and screech horribly. Rabbits are currently ranked #47 on the list of "Animals That Will Not Eat Pencil Erasers". They hop, not from glee, but from a humorous leg deformity. That's all we know about rabbits.

Trends-

Wayward happenings; things we do. People arise in them and despair accordingly. Trends, like naps, steal thoughts and guide us to quiet automation. The trend of studying trends led scientists (from Sweden) to discover that science itself is a trend. "People arise in them and despair accordingly," concluded the scientists, a fact recorded here previously.

Saturn-

A fail-shaped ball suspended absolutely nowhere. It is gigantic and irrelevant. Probes and comets crash into it out of spite. Future astronauts will fly past Saturn, point at it and say, "Worst planet ever." Scientists speculate that the famous "rings" of Saturn are merely stains and connote poor hygiene.

Magma-

Magma is important. It is the bones for planets. It holds together what's inside, but we don't know what that is yet. It might be lava. Lava is what happens when the magma cries. You can touch magma and it's okay, but you can't touch lava.

Pheromones-

The words animals use when speaking the stink-language. Much like invisible telegrams, they bring tidings of our sexual compatibility. "I am athletically inclined and shall produce mighty spawn," some pheromones tell us. "I am bookish and therefore distasteful," relate others. Science has yet to discover the body part responsible for pheromones. (But it's thumbs.)

Pants-

Genital-encircling modesty-curtains.They were invented in 647B.C. after humanity began to evolve out of it's naturally occurring modesty-pelt. Rampant nudistry declined as bits (strange bits) were exposed and people (now unsightly) cringed.

Bees-

Tiny ducks. Their pointy bills are in the wrong place and will sting you. Wear that bee-keeper suit when duck hunting.

Bees were first discovered by Viking scientists out on one of their educational looting sprees. It was an exciting time.

Moon-

Not made by ducks. It floats and glows and is probably irrelevant. Scientists landed there decades ago. They hopped about in air-suits and looked with their investigation faces. They discovered: boulders, no ducks, a modicum of dust and a great many teflon deposits.

Utensils-

A spoon is for the careful holding. It can bring, to your lips, a soup. Invented in 1377 by dainty vikings, it is now common.

A fork is for the wanton piercing. It can bring, to your lips, a ham (the soup goes right through it). This pronged utensil can be thrown at wayward socks.

A knife is for the rumpled spreading. It was popularized during the Norwegian Stab Riot of 1687.

Sunset-

Unknown. The sun goes, but it's confusing. It drops away, elusive. Research is under way to discover where exactly the sun goes at night. A NASA press conference was recently held to announce the creation of this study. "I mean, where is that %@#* thing going?!" raged sun-expert Fen Yurley.

Most scientists now believe that the sun is either 1. a celestial, heat-producing object around which our planet rotates, or 2. a lonely glow-whale whose immense size alienates it from the rest of god's creation.

Vernacular-

The saying of, the wording. Composed by those of us in the know, it then seeps outward and binds. It subjugates tongues. See also: linguistic feudalism.

Koala Bears-

Marsupials found in southern Australia. Described as "cute and harmless" by 18th Century explorers, these tree-dwelling leaf-addicts are now the primary cause of species extinction and global deforestation. Their chewing...their bleak, inexorable chewing...cannot be slowed or reasoned with. Our planet will die.

Warm Bread-

Not to be confused with room-temperature bread, warm bread exudes heat. Eventually it molds and then you have a decision to make.

Warm bread was first discovered by viking lunatics in 877 AD. Without warning, it popped out of a volcano and was found to be delicious.

Jupiter-

A sky-smudge. Pinkish. Inedible.

Shapes-

Shapes are what makes things stop. They are the edge of them. Shapes that are different are called "something else". Shapes that are the same are called "another one". The smallest shape ever is a lady bug.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Night shift: toothpaste

These are stories from a previous job. For the privacy of those involved, names and details have been changed. (Previous posts: meds, Walter in the waiting room, quiet type.)

Summer 2008

8:30a.m.

I'm standing on the sidewalk, in front of a grocery store. Next to me is Walter, a client from the psychiatric facility. He has been out of toothpaste for days, I finally talked him into a store-run. Before leaving I said, "Walter, I'll need you to speak quietly at the store, okay? If you yell, we might get into trouble."

He nodded. And he'd been having a good week. And you can't avoid store-runs forever, they go with the territory.

We loaded up, hit the store. Toothpaste: acquired, then purchased. As we were leaving, Walter stopped, placed his right hand to his mouth and began yelling. He barked, "Hey now, drop it! You fellas stop the bitching!" Hallucinating, interacting with voices. I couldn't get him to lower his volume or follow me to the car. Staring off into space, hand at mouth, he continued, "They found copper wire in Nixon's attic! Check it!"

So that's where we are now. Just standing. Me urging Walter to walk quickly, to follow me. Walter barking odd phrases into his hand, which to him is a communication device. Customers openly staring, give us a wide berth. Through the front door, I see one elderly woman speaking with staff, pointing at Walter.

I say, "Shit." Take my cell phone out, call Marcy, my supervisor.

She answers with, "How bad?"

"I don't know, Marcy. Medium bad. I'm at the store with Walter. He just deteriorated- out of the blue- started yelling into his hand. And I can't get him to move at all, he's just standing there."

"You're in the store?" Marcy asks.

"We're in front of it. And he's just too psychotic right now to hear me. You know, it's the usual stuff, he's not agitated or anything. It's the usual harmless stuff. He's just loud, and I can see people kind of freaking out."

She sighs, says, "Yeah, I can hear him. Jeez. Have you tried pulling him along at all?"

"No. You know, we tend to be hands-off, policy-wise, I didn't want to risk it."

"I'm giving you permission. Just lightly tug his elbow, see if he'll follow."

I try it. Walter gently pulls his arm back, continues yelling.

"Nah, he's not moving," I say. "And I see more than one person on their cell phone now."

"Well, M...shoot. I would send staff out to assist, but to be honest, I think this'll be resolved one way or another by then."

"I agree."

"Basically, continue to ask him to leave. If he hasn't moved on in the next few minutes, it'll be out of your hands."

"Yep. Okay. I'm sorry about this, I thought we could be in and out."

"No worries. Like I said, this is out of your hands now. All I can do at this point is reinforce privacy law: no disclosure of a client's personal information. Of any kind. Police get there, you're not to provide information about Walter...and you're not permitted to identify yourself as staff."

"Yeah."

"Just say what you can, observe, document afterward."

I nod to no one in particular, reply, "Okay." Walter begins laughing, stamping a foot. Into his hand, he says, "He fired that one up! It shot plum through the chimney!" He laughs more, till he's red in the face.

I see two police cars pull into the parking lot. I say to Marcy, "Yeah, they're here. I'll call back."

"This happens; don't worry. It's out of your hands at this point." I put the phone away.

Customers now begin to stop, spectate. They keep their distance, but slowly form a semi-circle around us. Walter yells and laughs and stamps his feet.

The police cars stop about 20 feet away. Two officers stay in their car and watch as two officers from the other car get out, approach.

Walter laughs, yells, "They found copper wire in his asshole!"

I fake smile and say, "Morning, officers."

They walk up to us. Walter is yelling into his hand, laughing. The officers watch him for a moment.

One says, "Sir? Could we have a word with you?" Walter doesn't hear them, he's too busy interacting with voices.

"Sir? Can you lower your voice? We just have a few questions."

"Nixon's horse didn't mind," Walter says, "they bribed it with whiskey." He stamps one foot, belly-laughs, continues yelling into his hand.

I speak up. I use a low-voice, try to sound half-bored, half-tired. "Walter means well, he's just having a tough morning. It's my fault...we should have stayed home; I apologize."

The first officer ignores me, continues to ask Walter if he can have a word. The second officers says, "Follow me over here."

We walk to the other side of their car. The officer asks, "So, what's going on.?"

I say, "He's just having a tough morning. He can be like this, and it's loud, but I promise he means well."

"Does he have any history of violent behavior? Any problems with anger?"

I shake my head "no", say, "He's sweet...he can just struggle with the volume sometimes."

The other officer asks Walter if he can look in his grocery bag. Walter doesn't reply. The officer tries to take the bag from him, but Walter won't let go of it. I say, "It's toothpaste. We just came for toothpaste."

The officer grabs his wrist, pulls the bag out of his hand, looks into it. He hands it back to Walter. He says, "I need to search his pockets. He have anything I should know about? Knives? Needles?"

"No, sir. He'll just have a wallet."

He searches Walter. The second officer looks at me, asks, "Does he have a diagnosis?"

I stare at my shoes.

"Are you family?" he asks. "Staff?"

I stare at the back of my hand.

First officer completes his search. Looks at us. Shrugs. Second officer says, "So here's the deal...several people called in, reported that an adult male was acting disruptive, angry. He doesn't strike me as angry...but I have to agree that this is disruptive."

"Okay."

"We're gonna have to take Mr. Walter here and escort him off the premise. But you say he's a nice guy, and I'm not gonna feel right sticking a nice guy in a jail cell. If we were to process him through the emergency room, have him admitted to the hospital's psychiatric ward...would you feel like that's an all right middle ground?"

"Yes, sir."

He nods. First officer takes out handcuffs. I say, "Oh...handcuffs?" Second officer says, "Sorry, that is written-in-stone policy. No way around it. We'll get them off quick as we can, once we're settled at the ER."

The officers take the grocery bag out of Walter's hand, give it to me. They take his arms, slowly move them behind his back, cuff him. I'm relieved to see Walter go along with it, he just continues to talk to himself. I was a little worried that he might react when they took away his communication device, but he seems oblivious to it all.

Once Walter is in their car, the second officer says, "You could meet us there if you wanted, but I'm guessing he'll be unavailable for awhile."

"Understood."

They nod, leave. The other police car drives off in a different direction.

I wave at the dozen or so spectators, then flip them off. I get in my car, drive back to work.

Once there, I pull open a file cabinet drawer. It's filled with color-coded incident reports, each one intended for a different supervisor, committee or department. I stare at them for a moment.

I call Marcy, describe what happened. She says, "Okay. I'll let his case manager know where he's at. I'm sure he'll be there a few days, at least; until his meds are adjusted."

"Which will probably work miracles. Always does."

She says, "Yup. Anything else?"

"Oh, I couldn't figure out the incident reports. The color-coding deal just confuses me. Which ones do I fill out?"

"I thought every department had a little laminated chart that breaks it all down?"

"We used to have one taped to the cabinet. It fell off years ago, disappeared. I guess we forgot to get a new one."

"Okay. So...with this being off-site, and the police thing...you need three forms. The gray, all-purpose incident report. That goes to me. Then you need the blue form...that goes to the Safety Committee. Then the purple form...that's for the lawyers, goes to Mike. With the Safety Committee, you want to keep it brief. Say as little as possible, otherwise they'll just make a new policy. With the lawyers, you want to provide as much detail as possible. Otherwise they'll just make a new policy. "

I laugh, say, "Okay."

"Grey, me. Blue, Safety. Purple, Mike."

"Got it. Thanks, Marcy."

"Thanks, M. Get those in. Go sleep."

I grab forms, a clipboard...I lay on the couch, fill shit out. I cram envelopes in the inter-office mail tray.

Finally, before leaving, I place Walter's toothpaste in his bathroom cabinet.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Incipient Turvy cameo appearance

As part of their Autism Awareness Month series, the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism is featuring one of my posts today. Nice of them to do that, you can click here to see the post.

Be sure to leave a comment and check out the other articles that are up, and that will be running all month. The site is a great resource; it's terrific that they are featuring works by writers on the spectrum. Bonus points: awarded.

Thx, more soon...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

nihil novi

(for the doctor)

not long after this recording, she lost use of her arms; prodigy, then fading, then early death.

faith is white noise for loss.

metronome...time goes by...

it raises more questions than it answers...

and the answer is always the same: a poacher

coded language, cold-storage

a crypto-tradition

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Nightshift (part 10)

(for the privacy of those involved, names and details have been changed.)

March, 2007

I wake up at 10p.m., get dressed. I sit around for a bit, listen to music, then head to work. I start my shift at 11. The evening staff fills me in on her night, tells me about the clients, about a few med changes. I don't say much, I just listen and nod. She gets her things together and leaves.

I make coffee, hang out in the common area. I turn on a television, watch news with the sound off. Saul walks through the room, on his way to the kitchen. He says, "I need a snack." He makes a sandwich...asks, "Can I have some of that coffee?" I say, "Probably not, Saul. You'll have trouble sleeping if you drink coffee this late." He doesn't say anything. He just sits across from me, in a recliner, eats the sandwich.

I watch news. Saul eats and quietly hallucinates. He looks off to the side...points his finger at something, goes back to eating. He laughs a little and asks, "How do they keep getting out like that?" I just smile a shrug. Saul looks off to the side...stares...gets up to throw his paper plate away.

He returns, sits in the recliner again. He says, "They get wound up sometimes. Do you see them, when they get like that?"

I say, "No, sir."

He laughs, continues; "Boy, they get wound up. They start squabbling and fighting. But they're so small, it doesn't do any harm, you know? They're like kids. I mean, they're old...they're ancient...but they're like kids, in the way they think."

I drink coffee, watch the news. Saul hallucinates, then says, "I wish they'd go away. They don't mean any harm, but I wish they'd just leave. They get rowdy, you know?"

I ask, "How was your snack?"

"Oh, it was good," he replies. "I just needed something. I tried to sleep but got hungry."

I rub my face and say, "Ugh, I'm sleepy, Saul. Having trouble waking up."

He says, "Well, you get more of that coffee. Anyway. I'm going to bed, see if I can sleep."

"Okay, Saul. Goodnight."

As he walks away, Saul says, "If you see one, just give it a good talking to. They don't mean any harm, but they're like kids. They need discipline."

I don't say anything. I just watch the silent television. It shows images of firemen, of storefronts, of weather maps.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

last known photo

September, 2007

I look around, try to remember where I am. I'm sitting on a bench...facing a parking lot. Dark clouds overhead, it's beginning to rain. A guy passes by, wearing a green smock, pushing a shopping cart...employee. I look back: I'm in front of a grocery store. The cart guy pauses, says, "Sir, is everything okay?" I don't say anything, I just nod. He moves on.

I stand, check my pockets. I don't find a grocery list...not sure what I'm here for. The rain intensifies; I walk into the store. In front of each aisle there's a sign listing which items can be found there...I stare at each sign, try to recall what I might need...but I'm too tired, my mind won't offer impressions. I just rub my face...think...make no progress.

I roam around. I walk slowly, drifting up and down each aisle. Sometimes I pause, stare at packaging...I pick up soup cans, squeeze them, put them back; I pick up a cereal box, place it back on the shelf upside-down. I pinch a bag of powdered sugar, then poke it. I pick up a carton of eggs, carry it with me for a bit, place it on top of an apple bin, walk away. I'm lost, fatigued.

I go to the bakery, buy a donut, coffee. I sit at a little table. Gently, I press small bites into the pastry, not chewing, just leaving teeth marks. I hold the paper cup with both hands; I squeeze it and watch coffee rise up to the edge...when it trickles over, I set the cup down. I look back, into the bakery...see a clock that reads 8:23. It doesn't indicate morning or night. I try to think about that...try to recall when I was at work last, when I slept last. I can't remember. That means it is either a weekend or I've taken time off from work again.

I stay at the table for a bit. Eat the pastry, sip coffee. I watch customers. It amazes me that they all seem to know why they are here...they head directly for specific aisles...they consult grocery lists...they talk on cell phones, clearly have lives outside of the store.  They have agendas, reasons. I try to imagine what it would be like to know what I need...I place my self in a different life, follow around this imagined automaton as it checks off destinations, goals. I concentrate, try to imagine what it would feel like to have a grocery list.

I laugh a little bit. A baker stares...then looks away, resumes baking. I discard a napkin and empty cup. I go to the meat counter...stare at pink lumps. Further down, I see dead, glass-eyed fish displayed in a glass case. I pretend their eyes are shirt buttons.

I breathe in...look around...I give up trying to remember what I'm here for.

I walk out of the store, into the parking lot, into the rain. I drift past cars, up one row, down another...eventually I find my vehicle. I leave.