My one-time roommate Bobby led a pointless life—unless you consider taking up space, pissing on the floor, and fouling the atmosphere with a pungent reek worthwhile endeavors. But when his crackwhore sister visited him, their prattling vaguely amused me. That and his comically inept burgling provided marginal worldly value to Bobby’s existence.
Particleboard nightstands stood next to each warehouse bed. (A few years into my stay, the administration tried to buy my testicles with a cheap desk from the basement. Their strategy failed but I thoroughly enjoyed my new furniture.) A hinged latch had been screwed to the top of the nightstand, and fit over a metal hasp protruding from the drawer (as was the case with my desk’s main drawer). The administration sold padlocks. Mr. Gold advised residents to buy and use the locks, store valuables in the secured drawer to thwart thieving staff members and dodgy roommates. If a resident lost their key, Mr. Gold and company forced them to pay a “lost key fee”; the administration held duplicates. (At first this set-up smelled like a violation of my rights blah blah. But I soon realized that it made complete sense, what with residents daily going to the hospital to die and all.) Often the administration discovered that they lost a spare key; then Mr. Gold would fire up the PA and order a subservient maintenance drone to report to whatever room and bring a hacksaw.
I kept my spending money locked in the main drawer of my desk. One afternoon I discovered that a sizable chunk of my cash had disappeared. Mentally I replayed my unwavering pre-sojourn habit: turn the key in the padlock; tug and make certain the shackle remains snug. I religiously adhered to this routine every time I ventured into the real world, and even when I only wheeled across the hall to the nurses’ station or the modest distance to Mr. Gold’s office. Given Bobby’s ultra-sluggish wit, it never occurred to me to secure the padlock while I used the attached bathroom; in retrospect I feel like an ass.
I decided I would report the missing dough, along with my suspicion to Mr. Gold. But I wanted to present a well-founded case. That night I transferred from my bed and into my chair, turned and wheeled left past the drawn privacy curtain hanging between my and Bobby’s bed. His already overpowering body odor intensified as I passed the foot of his bed; he lay there breathing through his mouth and gawking with vacant eyes at his television. I continued past his bed and turned left into the john, where I slammed the door behind me.
Thirty seconds later I stealthily emerged, any sounds were masked by the insipid dialogue and canned laughter of a shitty sitcom. Flickering gray light from the television bathed the disheveled top sheet where my roommate had lain. I heard mumbling and a metallic jiggling sound on my side of the room, then Bobby threw the curtain up out of his way and stepped forward to his bed. He pretended to tuck the sheets between the mattress and box spring; his awkward and unsure movements betrayed an impromptu (and very unlikely) scenario meant to misdirect my attention. When he finished, he settled back onto his bed. I hurried to check the desk drawer and found my possessions untouched.
But it was obvious that Bobby would’ve stolen more money had he found the drawer unlocked. The following day I explained the situation to Mr. Gold. Like the politically correct ass-kissing coward he’d demonstrated himself to be, he insisted that the warehouse bosses didn’t allow him to pursue such a complaint without hard evidence.
The next day on my way to the bathroom, I almost wheeled through a puddle of piss fed by a stream flowing from the small yellow pond next to my napping roommate’s bed. Some residents regularly peed onto the linoleum floor while lying half asleep in their beds because they were too lazy to get up and baptize the porcelain catchall.
I stopped short of the puddle, backtracked and unlocked the desk drawer, then wheeled out of the room, down the hall and into Mr. Gold’s office. I described my roommate’s lax toilet habits; neither of us acknowledged that I had previously accused Bobby of stealing. The stunted administrator furrowed his brow and claimed that “the rules” mandate that he must actually see the puddle himself before he can acknowledge my gripe and tell Bobby to cut it out (for all the good it would do). He suggested that I wait in his office while he ran to my room and “poke[d] around”; he assured me he would be “right back.”
He returned a full 20 minutes later and eagerly recounted: When he entered the room he didn’t immediately see Bobby; he heard a commotion on my side of the room behind the privacy curtain, and walked over to investigate; there he caught Bobby rummaging inside my open desk drawer. He proudly brayed that he’d exiled Bobby to the third floor—home of profoundly retarded/brain-damaged residents, people suffering from advanced dementia, and the terminally ill. Almost as an afterthought he confirmed that the puddle of piss did indeed exist.