31 December 2007

Mr. Personal Hygiene

Rance reports sleeping fairly well last night, thanks to six hundred milligrams of Seroquel, double his usual dose. Does his case manager know that he sometimes doubles up? Surely they must notice that sometimes he runs out early? Rance assures us that they have never asked. As long as he's not manic, that's all they worry about. They give him his scrip and send him on his way. It's 7 a.m., and Rance sees no reason to shower today. Too many showers can make your skin pucker and cause fungus to grow. And these snitches who complain about him, this residential shelter in which he's been placed --- the third housing arrangement his case manager has found for him in the last two years --- this place is full of snitches. How is it their business what days he takes a shower? And they lie like dogs! They claim they have to clean up after him! "Nobody cleans up after me," says Rance, "And I don't clean up after nobody else. Goddam snitches." "Gotta get outta here," Rance vows. "There's nothing here for me." Rance cannot read or write. He does very little abstract thinking. He either gets what he wants, or he doesn't. His doctor wants to involve him in therapy for his dyslexia. Rance calls it, "Lysdexia." "Those doctors don't know nothing. I'm 55 years old. Th' hell I need to read about at my age?" Decades of cigarettes and last night's careless dribblings of malt liquor have left Rance's grey beard yellowed and matted. He smells like stale cigarette smoke, sour malt liquor, and unwashed clothing. After vomiting in the corridor last night, then breathing through his mouth while slept for 5 or 6 hours, his breath this morning could stop a freight train. There is a faint whiff of dirty diaper about the man as well. Rance stopped to use the rest room this morning, but was unable to ensure that all his poop went into, rather than onto, the toilet. Even now, the residential shelter's denizens are complaining bitterly to the staffer on duty. The janitor refused to clean up after Rance. If nobody will volunteer, then everybody has to use the bathroom downstairs, or stop in the public library five blocks away. Nobody cleans up after Rance, including Rance himself. "Hey captain, I got a helluva headache. You loan me a couple bucks so's I can get a eye-opener?" Rance has his hand out. He's been in so many fights, his knuckles appear to be one solid. distended mass. He is unable to completely flatten his palm, as the joints no longer flex that far. But we get the idea. We slip him a couple of Sacagawea dollar coins. Rance is delighted. He swears he'll be paying us back when he gets his disability check. He plans to quit drinking on his own good time, when he's good and ready. No human face should look like that. Puffy and cadaverous and unable to smile without appearing to twist and contort. Rance limps off to the 1132 bar now, for a morning eyeopener, and as much drinking as he can find the funding for during a cold, overcast Friday. He could join us for a free soup kitchen breakfast, but we know not to ask him. He will only go there alone, or in the company of his drinking companions. "There's nothing there for me," says Rance, but what he means is, there's nothing in him for there. The emptier he can make himself feel, the less he has to carry.

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All original text (C) 2007, 2008 David J. Carney. All rights reserved.

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