My co-worker once said, "I could never be a doctor. When I was little, I told my pediatrician I wanted to work with sick kids when I grew up, and she stopped me with one question: 'How well do you deal with failure?'"
Bus Stop, the Schizophrenic Illiterate Sex Offender
Sweetie Pie, the illiterate rape victim
New Jersey, the Schizophrenic OCD with Catholic Guilt
Applesauce, the Schizophrenic who stands at the corner and weeps silently to himself
GCB, Good Catholic Boyfriend
5am: I got two hours sleep after our littlest crawled in our bed with bad dreams, so I dress and transport Bus Stop to the free clinic, where psych treatment is first come first served and often means clients pitch tents outside the entrance the night before to gain entry.
6:45am Search local bridges for Sweetie Pie, having not heard from her since she was last attacked downtown. A new mural made entirely of road reflectors has been installed, and I consider returning at night to see how it looks under high-beams.
8am In bed with the littlest, thinking I can sleep until my 10am meeting when Medicare calls and says that, though they're arranging a Lyft for his doctor appointment, I need to personally escort my blind client the twenty feet from his door to the cab for liability reasons.
1:30pm New Jersey is found dead in his apartment, and the property manager wants to know if I can locate his estranged family. I start making calls. I sincerely hope he didn't leave a note, that he died of a heart attack or stroke in his sleep.
1:40pm I escort my blind client to the Big Indigent Hospital downtown, relishing the feel of his hand and his cranky old man remarks more than usual, happy he's alive. Normally not a Starbucks fan, I suddenly crave overpriced coffee in the one place where everyone in line had someone die on them today, and head for the cafe downstairs.
In many ways New Jersey had been a painful reminder of Good Catholic Boyfriend, back when any relationship had been impossible. The Jersey accent, lined face, predilection for classic rock, Catholic guilt, and sweet-natured regard for me resonated terribly during the plague.
My nail polish is peeling. New Jersey's OCD would get so bad he'd bite his nails bloody and wash them for 45 minutes, howling at his reflection in the mirror. I picture GCB in his place, angry, violent, arguing with God in the street, and know I would still want to take care of him.
Signs for a Kronos Clock deadline appear in a hall maze jammed with patients, wheelchairs, and fast-talking residents, and I have a weightless impression of witnessing the final hours of the hospital before it is consumed in the firey maw of it's elder patron Time.
3pm Quick office visit to gather groceries for one my homeless families and haggle with a landlord over an out-of-state receipt, of which I am this close to photoshopping just to get my lady moved in. Two different women have built/offered me bespoke tiny houses, and my manager and I explore adorable homeless community websites that resemble Ben & Jerry ads.
The tiny houses feel like a silly expense, but, never one to turn down Free Things, I talk it over with my husband and start making calls to see who might benefit from one. After we inspect one the next day, we stop at my office to get clothes for a homeless client, and wind down the car window to pass a bottle of water to Applesauce, who just then was half-naked and screaming at passing vehicles. My husband becomes tearful, and says he's glad we're married and have such a good life together.
5pm On my phone outside the free clinic, waiting for Bus Stop to get his anti-psychotics, watching a tiny ouroboros turn over a video GCB recorded of the piano solo I composed for him. He's anxious, having not practiced as much as he'd like. The video will have to wait until I'm at my laptop, but the fact that he recorded it against his better judgement, that he installed/tuned a piano in his house for the purposes of playing music with me long-distance, dulls the sadness of New Jersey's death.
6pm In-person Q&A on homelessness with local developers, community organizers, and three city council candidates. They ask the usual questions. Having three candidates who have all experienced therapy-inducing levels of homelessness, childhood abuse, and hunger is new. One of them worked with New Jersey during the plague, and when I ask if she can dig up his family contact info, she is stunned, says 'of course', and then offers to join me for beer the next week.
8pm I finally get to watch GCB's piano video, the emotional equivolent of having a tree you planted two and a half years ago finally produce an apple.
One of the developers from the meeting earlier offers to pay for any repairs the tiny house might need, and in gratitude I volunteer to speak with a schizophrenic youth squatting in one of his properties near me. I close the laptop. Who knows how long this exchange will take to pay off.