Home, Part 6, And The Post-Mortem, AND A Contest!
November 17, 2011 § 8 Comments
Why yes, I’m doing this two days in a row. I get like this when I’m close to the end of a project; I just can’t wait to finish it and I rush straight to the end. Not saying that this ending is rushed. It’s what I planned from the beginning, but I just didn’t want to wait until next Wednesday.
I’m going to do this somewhat strangely. First, have the ending.
Naj mopped the floor of the St. Charles home for the several hundredth time. He liked to exaggerate about how many times he had to clean the group home, but even he couldn’t put it past several hundred. But several hundred days of back and forth and back and forth and squeeze the water from the mop and back and forth add up to damn near infinity. The times he did it just collapsed into a mush in his head. Hundreds of hours gone, as surely as the lemon scent of the cleaner evaporated and then they would just get dirty again.
Joe was cleaning out the room when Naj approached. Naj waved, glad for a second to talk. Nothing broke up tedious work like conversation. Brains boiled when they had nothing to do, and even just griping about the weather was enough to keep men like Naj and Joe sane.
“Hey Naj.” They clasped hands together. “What’s up?” Joe is much younger than Naj.
“I am well my friend. I am taking next week off, and my wife and I, we go to Cuba.”
“Oh yeah, you guys just got your passports? You’re Canadians now, eh? How’s it feel?”
Naj shrugged. “I am Canadian. I am Persian. What difference does it make? I will still get stopped at American airports.”
“True, true, and I’ll still get pulled over by the cops, brother.” Joe laughed as he wheeled out the garbage bin. He had a rolled-up poster tucked under his arm.
“Who’s room was that Joe?” Naj asked. He was slightly curious, but mostly just wanted an excuse to keep talking.
“It was that guy…the really quiet one. John, I think it was?” Joe said as he leaned on his garbage pail. He too was in no hurry to get back to work.
“Yes yes yes, John. I remember him now. I don’t think he spoke with anyone else. Not once. I said “good morning” every day, and he just looked at me with far-away eyes. You know those eyes?”
“Uh-huh. Yeah. Whenever I’d clean his room, he’d just sit there like he wanted to say something. I’d say hi and crap, y’know, just to make it easier for him, but he’d just sit there, y’know? I don’t know. He never had any visitors or anything, that’s for sure.”
Naj gestured to the stuff in the bin, a paltry few pieces of clothing and the debris of home life. “Is he moved out, or gone for good?”
Joe shook his head. “Nah, he’s checked out completely. Had a heart attack, last I heard. Happens often enough with people like him, but if you ask me, he was just waiting to die. Didn’t talk at all, didn’t eat much, didn’t do much. Just sort of gave up, I guess, and next of kin don’t want his stuff. Can’t blame ’em. It’s not worth my time to throw it out.”
“Sad, that is, when family goes.” Naj said sadly. Most of his family was still in Iran, but they might as well have been on the Moon. Naj could not go back there, not again. “Is anything there worth keeping?”
Joe held up the junk. “Shitty blankets and a few clothes that won’t fit you sound good? You can go through it if you want, just don’t let Finn see you.”
“No, if you say so that is fine. Goodbye, Joe.”
“See ya, Naj. Have fun in Havana, and don’t wear your turban to the airport!”
They chuckled, and walked off. While they needed a minute to vent, any longer and they risked Mr. Finnegan’s wrath. No small thing, that. Joe didn’t feel the need to get seen messing around by management. He didn’t plan on being a janitor for a group home much longer, as it was a shitty job in every meaning of the word, but there was no sense in getting fired for no good reason.
He wheeled the bin to the trash compactor and chucked it in. There wasn’t much and what he had said to Naj hadn’t been an exaggeration in the slightest: the patient had had nothing more than basically the clothes on his back and a few knick-knacks. For Christ’s sake, Joe thought, the only photo the guy had had he’d taken to the hospital. The only thing that had made that room the least bit livable was the poster.
Joe unrolled the poster. It was a big one. Hulk Hogan stared down triumphantly, his foot on the chest of a defeated opponent and a wild roar on his face. Joe felt a little weirded out, however, by the fact that Hulk’s mouth had been torn out. Not cut out, but torn out, lips and all.
He shrugged and tossed it in the compactor as well. Hell, he didn’t even know why the guy would have liked Hulk Hogan, of all people. He was just some washed-up old wrestler who made an ass of himself for reality TV.
I mean, thought Joe, Hulk doesn’t even fight anymore.
Second, have the post-mortem, and then the contest will be below! I’ll wrap it around the question I was asked earlier:
Why did you name the character John?
This was asked to me early on in the comments, and here’s my answer. This was a very difficult piece to write and I went into it with a lot of assumptions that were just wrong. I learned a lot about Down’s Syndrome, and a very little about the people who have it. Yet, one of the things I did learn was that they are people too. People with a cold don’t stop being people, and people with cancer don’t stop being people: people with mental illness don’t stop being people, even if that’s sometimes hard to imagine.
I have had only one significant relation with a person with Down’s throughout my life and, in a way, it was a bad influence on me. It separated those who have the Syndrome into a) my relation, who is special and unique, and b) everyone else who has it, who are amorphous and thereby neither special nor unique. I figured that there was something weird and different about them. There is something different about them, but it’s not weird and it’s not magical, and it’s certainly not terrifying.
They are humans and understand the world as humans do. Yes, they have a reduced I.Q., on average, and yes, there are low-functioning cases, but in the end, there isn’t something essential about them that’s different. Read about the symptoms and it will make sense. They often have poor hearing, which is the primary cause of their lack of social skills. They develop slower, which is also related to delays in speech and learning, which are in turn related to reduced or the loss of hearing. This is also one reason why those I.Q. scores are lower.
So, why did I name the character John? Why did I choose to identify myself with him? Because there but for the grace of my parent’s correctly-developing gametes go I. The only difference between John the writer and John the character, aside from lived life experiences, obviously, is…nothing. I could have been him. Any of us could be.
If I develop Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or AIDS or any other of a number of diseases, I could be like those people too. We’re all those people, and the only difference between us and the people who have Down’s is one chromosome. And that chromosome doesn’t change a God damn thing about them. They’re people, we’re people, and we all need love, support, and family.
I won’t lie: I didn’t know that going into this. I learned that the long way, and I hope you did too (if you didn’t already know that). I learned a lot of bad things too, like how roughly 90% of fetuses with Down’s Syndrome are aborted in the UK , a number that I suspect is much the same here. I highly doubt 90% is the national average for abortions.
I’m going to give someone with Down’s the last word, if only because I imagine that society doesn’t. It’s from Sujeet Desai, and you can read his story here:
I love meeting new people, especially when they respect me.
Finally, I’m going to end on a higher, happier note. Now that I’m done another commissioned story, it means my plate is now open for another! So you get to participate in the third instalment of my muppetational contest!
Yes, you too could win an amazing story lovingly hand-crafted by me! By amazing, I mean that I hope it won’t suck! But it will be yours!
All you have to do to win this fantabulous prize is to comment on this story, A Home of Iron and Glass. You can comment on the whole story, or just a part. You can comment with deep, dramatic insights, or with a simple “I liked it” (or “I didn’t like it”). You can just comment and say “wut” or something else as benign! You can even do it anonymously if you’re shy!
I don’t care! But this is your chance to win something, which may or may not be big!
So comment away! I’ll pick a winner in time for next Wednesday’s entry, which as usual, will be a continuation of Crown of Ash and Dust.
Oh, and if you want to choose the title as part of your winnings, I’m ok with that. Really.