Friday, July 19, 2013

third shift





“You shouldn’t have any problems. Most of them sleep through the night. Occasionally you have a situation with one of them but all in all you won’t have any of them coming at you with a blunt object.” 

That was how our little meeting ended.
     
I got the impression that I wasn’t what she had expected. Maybe it was the sudden look of apprehension as we shook hands, the cautious manner of her speaking as she showed me the medicine cabinet, or the way she looked over her shoulder as I walked behind her during the short tour of the building. It might have been the fact that my eyes were seriously blood shot, the long arrangement of tattoos running up my left arm to the base of my neck, the tattered jeans that I’ve been wearing for the past week and half or the picture of Adolph Hitler on my t-shirt with his brains blown out stating, “FOLLOW YOUR LEADER!”
     
She was much older than I had expected, she obviously had made this position her sole livelihood for countless years. All I saw was a woman who found out too late in life that she could have done more and was now in a desperate race to compensate. It was clear that as long as I came to work clean and sober, didn’t burn the place down, steal any of the controlled substances or molest the residents, she’d be impressed with my job performance; no use setting a bar so high that you can’t step over it.
     
“I’m not worried." I attempted to assure her. "The last job I was at, I had a hospital monitor thrown at my head, I was punched in the face by a seven foot fourteen year old and watched a nine year old boy smother himself in his own feces before he ate it.” 
She smiled nervously when she realized I wasn’t joking. She says goodnight and I follow her out and lock the door behind her. I had half expected there would have been more to do: count the addictive meds, file some daily paperwork, verify that all residents are present and accounted for; now just sit around and wait until the end of the shift at seven.
     
The hours dragged on.
     
I find myself attempting to make the clock move faster with my mind. I have accepted that my mind can effect the movement of time, I could make it all melt away and this shift would be over within seconds. I know this to be true; I have only forgotten how to achieve this. 

I’m convinced this can work.
     
“Hello there,” says a linty feminine voice from behind me that startles my concentration. I’m staring at what appears to be a dried out human husk, skin like pale beef jerky, and a head that is similar to one of those massive alien craniums, only shrunken, but the eyes are large and wet, as if she is about to cry. This creature produces a thin smile that makes her cheeks look like they’re about to rip from the strain.

“Uhh…hi.” I’m reminding myself not to stare.

“You must be the new guy." Her breathing is constricted, "Mieder told me you’d be starting tonight.”

“Mieder?”

She grabs onto the door jam to balance herself, standing is putting a strain on her, but she maintains the smile, “your boss. Mieder. I’m Gertrude. Gertrude Brinkerhoffen. You are…?”
     
“Oh…yeah…my boss.” I continually tell myself not to look disgusted and not to stare. She looks pensive at me with those drowning eyes that appear perplexed by what she sees, “Donald. Hi. I’m Donald.”
     
I stand up to shut off the ceiling fan; the breeze appears to be overpowering her. Gertrud stands somewhere in the four feet
range, the top of her head comes to my chest. She has spider webs for hair that is gradually fading away, accentuating the odd shape of the mass.
     
“Thank you.” She strains for the smile once more.
     
“No problem. Did you need anything?”
     
“Oh, no sweetie, I’m fine; I can’t sleep, so sometimes I just walk around. Get so tired of lying in bed all day.” She talks in a tightly pact structure, barely opening her mouth. Gertrude moves the spider web hair from her eyes; I notice the purple, bruise-like blotches on her forearm. “Well dear, I’m going back to bed.” She walks in small steps, keeping one hand on the wall for support.

“Goodnight.” I tell her but she doesn’t reply.
     
Most of the residents here don’t really sleep. 
You think your hearing voices most of the night. 
They talk and some scream, mumbling to conversations in their heads while staring at the ceiling, pacing in their bedroom, or dreaming. 
I’m sure one of them would know how to move time.
     
The medication that they take can be extremely powerful; they’re knocked out a half hour past evening med time till two hours before morning med time; a life of dreams and nightmares.

I step out of the office and watch Gertrude creep along towards her room. When I hear her shut the bedroom door I close up the office and head to the back patio for a cigarette.

A few of them have been getting up for cigarette breaks, as if the whole process of sleeping were a chore to get through. The idea of an addiction they can control must give them some sort of independence from the reality that their lives are fitted into this regimented living situation; because they can’t live anywhere else on their own. I’ve heard some of them hack up bits of their insides in blackened char burned phlegm wads. Burning through long coughing fits that leaves any one of them at the point of passing out from the lack of oxygen.

There is a clock on the outside wall by the door; I can resume my mission of mind-bending experimentation. Although the quick hit of nicotine and unknown chemicals drains whatever ambition I had and surrounds me in a thick grey and blue cloud.
  
Another resident is walking towards the door; his walk is swaggered and he has arms that swing low like a gorilla.  He sees me through the French doors that lead out to the patio, and pauses before coming outside. He looks like a refugee from a nuclear disaster area. Ashen skin that is pockmarked by a combination of freckles and brown cancerous moles, a head that appears more oval than the normal proportions, his hair grows out of the top most curve of the shape in a small tuft of pale blond hair. Where Gertrude looked like pale beef jerky, this gentleman’s flesh just sags about his bones and joints. Stepping outside cautiously, eying me, he takes out a cigarette and lights it before beginning his chore.
     
“I won’t do it. Nope. Won’t do it. Just get fucked, I say, get fucked. Stupid cunt. Fuckin asshole. Get fucked…” He goes on, staring at the ground, with his one sided speech. He pauses for a few seconds and shakes his head before continuing. “Not fair! No. Fuckin cunt! I won’t do it!” His skin is flaking in sheets and a pile of dead cells is accumulating at his feet.
     
I ignore him, even though he is looking right at me, and return to watching the clock. From the corner of my eye I notice him watching me and the clock; there is two and half hours to go, no use disrupting the space-time continuum for a measly two hours.
     
An out of character breeze blows through the screen-enclosed patio, it’s enough to disperse the cloud around me and I breathe in the new air. Some of the man’s skin is now sticking to my pant leg.

He gets up and stops in front of the clock before going back in; turning he gives me a big toothless grin, then moves the hour hand ahead two hours leaving only half an hour left to go in the shift.