You can’t make this up.
It was the end of the month, but not many people were at Pathways. Usually at the end of the month Pathways serves over fifty clients. It was an eighty degree sunny day so many of them probably left after they ate their meal to enjoy the weather.
That Tuesday Pathways served tuna mac with a salad, butter and bread.
“I’m all tuna and hotdogged out,” Bonnie told me as she searched for a picture to color. She chose one with a butterfly on a chrysanthemum and started coloring it with a fine tip marker.
Pathways has a $10,000 shortfall in operating funds this year. They can’t afford variety of meals right now.
I brought clothing donations for Patty, but she wasn’t there. Her boyfriend Hank was. Barb looked through my donations and took two shirts and a bra.
“I need size seven shoes and an eight in pants,” she said. She looks short enough to wear a petit, which is what I wear.
“I should’ve just stayed home,” Hank announced. “I’m depressed. I didn’t realize I’d be this way. I’ll catch the 1 o’clock bus and go home,” He grabbed the bag of donations for Patty and left.
When I offered Skittles to a woman who always asks for candy, she said, “I don’t want no Skittles. I want Starburst.” She sat down looked through fashion magazines – first In Style, then Vogue, then Harper’s Bazaar. She talked and laughed to herself nonstop. She had pressured speech, most of which seemed incoherent. But she could understand what I was saying about the candy and respond lucidly so maybe I’m wrong about her incoherence. She’s pretty loud when she laughs, but whispers when she talks to herself. She mostly ignores everyone. She’s in her own world. I can empathize. When I’m psychotic I have a hard time engaging with the world. I understand what people are saying to me, but I don’t make sense to them. I wonder why that is.
A man with a stoma sat at the head of the table. He had course brown hair and a gray Van Dyke.
“What’s your name?” I regretted asking him as soon as he answered.
“Wendell,” he rasped.
“My clothes aren’t dry yet. Is it ok to dry them with yours?” Bonnie asked him. He nodded.
“I’m done coloring today. At least I got started on the flower part. I used to color all the time when the kids were small but I’m all colored out. I think I’ll do a collage next week. I want to do one on cats,” Bonnie said.
“I’ll look for a cat magazine before the next time I come here.”
“I didn’t always like cats. I used to look after a baby that had to be fed through a tube in his stomach. His parents had a two bedroom apartment, but for some reason they kept two cats in a tiny bathroom with very little litter in their box so the cats pissed and shit all over the bathroom. Then they got a dog. They didn’t walk the dog so the dog did the same thing. Then they moved to a one bedroom apartment and got another dog. They didn’t walk it either and they let the cats wonder all over the apartment so there was piss and shit everywhere.”
“Sounds disgusting,” I said.
“It was. Cats have so much ammonia in their pee. Then one of the cats had 3 kittens. So that’s 7 animals in one apartment. One of the kittens died. The boy slept on the bed and there was piss and shit all over the bed. At that point I quit. I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t stand the sight of my own two cats or my nephew’s three cats. I just couldn’t deal with them.”
“Why didn’t you call child services?”
“I work at the paper with these people. They’d know it was me and so I didn’t want to get involved.”
“Then you’d have to watch your back.”
“Exactly. But now I’m ok with cats now and that’s why I want to make a collage about them.”
Theo looked thru a National Geographic. He cut out a picture of a polar bear. “These are beautiful,” he said.
“They may be beautiful, but they’ll kill you,” Bonnie told him. “There was a woman on Oprah who had her face torn off by a monkey – monkeys are dangerous too. She leaned in too close at the zoo feeding it. She wore a veil on Oprah.”
“Wasn’t that the woman who got a face transplant?” I asked.
“Yeah. She looked ok after that. She had some scars but at least she had a face. In 1969 when we moved to Florida my parents took me to Gatorland. There was no fence around the gator pool. A child could’ve fallen in and they’d all tear it to pieces.”
“I guess no one worried about liability back then,” I said.
“Guess not, but now they have a fence that comes up to my chest. I gotta go out and smoke.”
Theo finished a collage featuring animal pictures from National Geographic. They ask for National Geographic by a wide margin more than any other magazine.
I decided that as soon as Candy Lady put her In Style magazine away I’d leave. Then she grabbed a Vogue. I left her with it.