“Withholding.”–(Heydrich’s Catholic Church Supplies, Books, Gifts, & Art, June-October 2007, Part VI.) (Some of this has been posted already.)

[This is the next-to-last installment, by the way.]

A blog posted on December 9, 2007.

–Tuesday–10/16/07–I had more bureaucratic bullshit to attend to today in East Austin. I had been told weeks ago to apply for a medical assistance card. Because the bureaucracy is so fucked up, I wasn’t able to set an appointment over the phone–I had to go there in person a few weeks back, just to set the appointment! And so the appointment was for today. I was early, as usual. I tried to kill time at the branch library next door. I checked out the architecture of the place. The extent and quality of their holdings left a great deal to be desired; I daresay my own library is more thorough, certainly in many areas. I really wanted to sit down, but all the tables were occupied by homeless people, and I didn’t particularly want to sit next to any of them, so I went ahead and headed over to the medical assistance office.

Like many of the buildings in this public health system, this one was a sty. It smelled badly and everyone was coughing and failing to cover their mouths. Three women had children who couldn’t stop crying and/or whining. My appointment was for 1:20; they finally waited on me at 2pm.

I was granted the card–sort of. There is a sliding scale because I do have an income, albeit a miniscule one. I was told if my income or other conditions change, I’ll have to come by again, set another fucking appointment, and then come by yet again for the appointment. I was enraged to learn this card does not cover my regular doctor or pharmacy, that I am expected to go to their shitty doctor in the middle of God-knows-where, on the other fucking side of town, and also use their remote-ass pharmacy, which means either operation would be an all-day affair for me.

I was in a foul fucking mood after this, having wasted my day on this bureaucratic bullshit, to get a card and sub-standard services I don’t even want. I am getting really fucking sick of dealing with these bureaucracies and hanging out in shitty parts of town, as I knew three months ago I would. Worst of all I am angry that I’ve been in this fucking program three months and have not improved in the slightest. I don’t feel even remotely better than I did in July, my circumstances and income and work situation are still lousy, and I still am as depressed as ever and wish to God I was dead….

–Wednesday–10/17/07–Another shitty, stressful day at work. My manager was away on his honeymoon, thank God, but his supervisor was there breathing down our fucking necks. It got to the point, during the afternoon, when I just had to flee to the peace and quiet of the restroom, drop my pants, sit down, and air myself out. I doubt I could get through any workday without getting a little cool air to my nethers at some point.

Still, the days at that cursed little store just drag on and fucking on, with no relief in sight, because I’ve not seen any notices for any other jobs that I could do that would be less of a physical and mental strain.

I think The Smiths said it best:

I was looking for a job, and then I found a job
And heaven knows I’m miserable now
In my life
Why do I give valuable time
To people who don’t care if I live or die?

–Thursday–10/18/07–I had an early meeting with my nurse, to try to get her to change my useless anxiety meds, but she just suggested I take them at a different time of the day.

Still, I do love downing all these pills morning, noon, and night. It provides a sorely-needed seedy, Neely O’Hara-like glamour to my otherwise colorless life. And they make for some fascinating dreams….

*******

A blog posted on December 9, 2007.

–Friday–10/19/07–I still haven’t shaken my cough. I coughed so hard that at least twice I almost choked.

The manager’s supervisor was still in town. And she proved herself a Grade-A bitch today. She got rather bossy with me. But she wound up getting a lot worse than she gave. It seems she wasn’t ready for the hectic and punishing pace of this store, of working at a cash register and dealing with pushy customers, rather than sitting on her ass in a nice office. So needless to say I was thrilled for the brass to see how rough it is for the grunts.

I kept myself amused trying to think of when I’d submit my resignation….

In addition to my cough and that bitchy supervisor, my chief irritations today were olfactory in nature. A co-worker has taken to wearing really strong perfume lately, and it irritates my allergies. And the new guy they hired has a serious B.O. Problem. Everywhere he goes he leaves behind the scent of spoiled lettuce. (I think that metaphor is stolen from Joyce.)

B.O. Dude was also trying to hold his own with me on the subject of classical music, but stumbled badly when he referred to a piece of music–in this case “Trumpet Voluntary”–as a “song,” despite the fact the human voice appears nowhere in it.  Anyway, I was explaining to him that the performance on the CD we were playing was a little too schmaltzy and not entirely faithful to the actual composition, as the ending was performed quite differently than I’d ever heard it performed before, not to mention that said ending was played painfully sharp….

*******

A blog posted on December 9, 2007.

–Tuesday–10/23/07–I went to three group sessions, lasting a total of four hours, but was too groggy with meds to put in a fifth hour. And anyway, I feel the group leaders at this place tend to treat the patients like retarded children, which may be fine for the other patients, but I find it insulting.

Speaking of retarded, there was a guy in the art therapy class today who had something wrong with him, be it retardation or something else. Either way, something was not quite right. He announced he was an angel, visiting from heaven, and since the assignment today was a self-portrait, he drew himself flying amongst the clouds in heaven. (I did a rather awkward drawing, from memory, of a photo James took of me sitting in front of the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris. The group leader asked what we’d learned from the assignment; others said they learned they need to love themselves more and such-like, while I said I needed to take some art classes in order to improve the way I draw the human form.)

Anyway, I was coughing like a fiend, when the retarded guy said,

–You know I’m very religious. Would you like me to pray over you and try to bless your throat?

Deeply embarrassed, I decided to be polite, and said,

–Uh, sure. Go ahead.

Then he came around to my side of the table and asked me to bend my head backwards. I did so, and he began muttering a prayer and moving his flattened hands in front of my exposed throat. When he finished he sat back down and said,

–Okay, your throat feels better now, right?

And I had to admit,

–No, it feels about the same….

–Wednesday–10/24/07–Another chaotic day at work, because the computers were down most of the day, as they have been for much of the week.

The shop where I now work has the worst, most illogical, and user-unfriendly software it’s ever been my misfortune to use. It turns out the software was designed by some shit-head who married into the family that owns the corporation that owns this shop, a family of which my manager is a member. So for some stupid reason this blinds them to the software’s faults, and they are quick to defend it, apparently regarding a slight against the software as a criticism of the family.

And my calling of the designer a “shit-head” is not because he designed such shitty software. No, a few months back he came down from the home office to add some programs to the system here in Austin. A couple of times he got stuck waiting on customers, including one regular customer who didn’t recognize this guy and asked if he was a new employee. I said,

–No, he’s our computer guy from the home office.

Sounds like an innocent enough description, right? Well, it turns out he later grumbled to my manager about this, saying he was not the “computer guy,” but the “Director of On-line Services,” or some such nonsense. People in this fucking company take themselves way too seriously.

My manager has been off the last two weeks on his honeymoon in China. (Who the hell goes to China for their honeymoon other than Chinamen?) On the one hand it’s been hectic with the store being short-handed, but on the other, it’s not like he really does much while he’s in the store. All he does is sit on his ass in the office, play on the computer or work on his on-line college courses, and gab for hours on end with his supervisor. Occasionally he’ll emerge to assign us busy work, then go take a long lunch. So over all, the advantages of having him gone have outweighed the disadvantages.

The day before he left I waited on an older couple who bought two bibles for their grandchildren,and wanted their names stamped in gold leaf on the covers. I took their check and noticed their surname was “Broz,” and said,

–Oh, like in Tito?

[The late dictator of Yugoslavia, born Josef Broz.]

Delighted, they squealed,

–Yes!!! Oh, my God, how did you know that?

–Well, my history degree has to be good for something.

So these people had some questions and specifications, and it got to the point where I didn’t have all the answers. So I went back to the office, to find the manager, naturally, hiding out and goofing off. And to make a long story short, I wound up going to and from that fucking office at least six times conveying messages between this couple and the manager. I was furious, and wanted to tell that punk,

–Will you get off your lazy ass and come talk to these fucking people?!

But today we were again short-staffed, the manager not allowing on the schedule for the possibility that anyone might get sick–but then again, managers seldom do that. They like to keep just a skeleton crew on hand.

A co-worker who used to work in a pharmacy kept hearing my racking cough and hacking, and noting that I’d had it for about three weeks, concluded that I either had bronchitis or pneumonia and was probably running a fever . She offered to drive me to an after-hours clinic after work, but said that since she can’t afford to get sick I shouldn’t get too close to her. She wiped down all the phones I’d used, gave me a Sudafed, and gave me a simple clerical assignment I could do seated off to one side.

For part of the day I felt dizzy, unable to focus my eyes. I considered going home early or even going to lay down in the office on the floor. But I somehow made it through the day and got to the clinic. Both nurse and doctor checked my breathing, had me breath in a smoky mixture while sucking on a tube (I forget what this device was called–wait–a nebulizer), then sent me across the building for two X-rays.

My temperature was said to be “sub-normal,” a word that delights me. Having a temperature over the normal level usually means you’re running a fever; while a temperature under the normal level often means you’re fighting an infection.

Both of my ears were also said to be clogged up.

The diagnosis was bronchitis, with a degree of asthmatic breakdown thanks to twenty years of smoking. I got a note excusing me from work, but sadly, only through Sunday. I was actually a bit disappointed I didn’t have pneumonia, because I’d rather be seriously ill than have to work at that fucking store.

The cause of my illness? Maybe the cat’s dander, but I’m beginning to doubt it. The doctor seemed to lean more to my regular exposure to sick people at the MHMR clinics or on the buses.

I later read that if you don’t give yourself the time to fully get over bronchitis it can turn into pneumonia or something equally as bad.

My co-worker took me by the grocery store/pharmacy, the latter having two of the three prescriptions I needed ( I learned you can’t even buy glass thermometers filled with mercury anymore–everything’s digital now), and not long after I got home, showered, and got fully doped-up on my meds, I was groggy and ready to sleep, which I did for about twelve hours.

–Thursday–10/25/07–I called in and canceled all my appointments for the day, as I’m highly contagious. I got up groggy after sleeping twelve hours and was ready to go sleep some more.

Indeed I did sleep all afternoon, and got up drenched in sweat. My temperature was 97 Wednesday night, but was 95.9 Thursday evening, which was not a good sign….

–Friday–10/26/07–I slept much of the day, waking for awhile at mid-day, reading, then going back to sleep. The pharmacy called to tell me my last prescription was finally in, so I walked outside for the first time in two days and began coughing and hacking like a fiend again, to the point I was almost choking again. This happened again in the store, where I was choking so badly tears were pouring out of my eyes and my mouth filled up with water or foamy spittle or something and I had to rush to the bathroom to spit it out….

*******

A blog posted on December 9, 2007.

–Saturday–10/27/07–Again I slept much of the day, doped up, but was disturbed by the fucking door bell ringing repeatedly. I do not consider this door bell a luxury but rather an annoyance, as I hate its sound almost as much as I do that of a ringing phone. I also hate the fact that just anybody can get to my front door and bother me; I wish the bridge that connects my apartment to the parking lot was a drawbridge.

Anyway, it turns out the disturber of my peace was the dowdy gal.

A few years ago, when Fred and I moved to this apartment and would stroll around the grounds several times a day, I couldn’t help but encounter some of the other residents. Some were more talkative and outgoing than others. And among the overly sociable were an old lady named “Sarah,” and her young friend, a dowdy, homely gal of undetermined age. They seemed to hang around together a lot. Sarah insisted that if I ever needed anything that I should call her, and gave me her number. But I never remembered her number or her name.

The dowdy gal, whose name I’ve never learned either, has always given off the disturbing vibe that she liked me in a romantic way, though I definitely did not reciprocate her feelings. Once she gave me a ride back from the grocery store and her car smelled like mothballs and a not-so-clean old woman. Sarah, on the other hand, also gave me a ride once, and her car smelt perfectly okay.

So a week or two after Fred’s death these two decided to come see how I was doing. They came by during the day and rang the fucking door bell. Unfortunately, I was working the graveyard shift at the time and slept during the day. Their visit came right in the middle of my sleep cycle. I tried to be polite, but also explained my schedule. They then seemed to understand not to bother me during the day. As it turned out, the interruption was such I had trouble getting back to sleep and went to work even more exhausted than I usually am.

And so today I was sleeping heavily, trying to get over my illness, when dowdy gal rings my door bell again. She asked if I’d “heard about Sarah.” I said I didn’t keep up with anything that happened in the apartment complex. She explained that Sarah had died earlier this month, that she spoke briefly with Sarah’s daughter, but that she didn’t know Sarah’s last name and couldn’t find out any more information. I was too sick and sleepy to have much of a reaction other than to say that was a shame. Then the dowdy gal tried to draw me out more into conversation, and I repeatedly mentioned that I was ill and gave off hints that I didn’t want to be bothered. I tried in vain to palm the kitten off on her. I just wish to hell there was a way I could get this gal to leave me the hell alone.

After this unwelcome visit it took me awhile to get back to sleep, but sleep I did, and when I woke up I felt a lot less congested, my cough had largely gone away, and my nasal passages were clearer than they had been in weeks. My temperature was back to 97. My ears were still stopped up, I still had some junk in my nose, and I planned to keep on the medication for awhile. Mostly I was very disappointed that my illness wasn’t more severe, didn’t last any longer than it did, and that I’d probably have to go back to that fucking job again Monday.

Ah, but it seemed I judged too soon. When I got in the shower I began coughing again, and didn’t really stop after that, to the point of having one of those choking coughs again….

By the time I got ready for bed my temperature was back down to 95.2. Despite the fact I’m only supposed to take four Mucinex pills every 24 hours, I took two more around 2am. It’s not so much that I want to get well and have to go back to my job as that I’d like to breathe again and get that crap out of my chest….

–Tuesday–10/30/07–The first anniversary of Fred’s death. I got up a little before the time in the morning he died, lit candles and incense, and went into Fred’s “Dressing Room” to pray, then went back to bed. The previous night I had posted a message to the folks on the Basset Hound newsletter summing up my feelings about the first year without Fred. The sweet and caring responses from the other members the other members made me cry….

–Wednesday–10/31/07–I went in to work today, still sick, after a week with bronchitis, somehow managed to put in a full day, went to clock out, and my manager fired me.

He said,

–I really hate to have to do this, but I need someone who can handle the stress and hectic pace of the store on Saturdays, and you can’t do it. You’ve been a hard worker, contributed a great deal to the store, and I will give you very excellent references if it’s for a job I think you’ll do well in. And I’ll make sure you get your last check.

I gave him my keys, bade my co-workers farewell, gave the manager a firm handshake, and left.

On one level I wasn’t surprised–he had said he was going to give me a month to show whether or not I could handle Saturdays. And I was out sick for three of the Saturdays in October.

But I figured I’d be stuck there until after Christmas and would quit after that. I wasn’t entirely expecting he’d fire me. But my face registered no surprise.

Well, enough about that, I need to find work fast, preferably something that’ll bring some money in while still allowing me to get my treatment, and that won’t drive me too crazy.

Of course, I’d rather be fired for something I can’t help than for some dumb mistake or fault I can help or control.

After work I went to the movies. I figured I might be broke for awhile and this might be my last chance to go to the movies for some time. I saw “Into the Wild,” about an idealistic young man who chucks his well-to-do background, gives his savings to charity, burns the rest of his money, and goes on a 2 ½ year odyssey, wandering around America, and eventually living in the wilderness of Alaska where, thanks to his near total ignorance of woodcraft and survival techniques, he dies of starvation….

James said that [a friend of his] had asked him,

–B____? Wasn’t he the cool little dude that wore bow ties?

(This is a reference to the fact I wore a bow tie and a blue Brooks Brothers blazer to a wedding back in ’03.)

James said,

–I miss that B____, the B_____ with the bow ties, the B____ with style and panache. What did you do with him? Why has he been replaced by the miserable, depressed, anti-social, angry, bitter hermit?

I replied,

–Well, he hasn’t been replaced so much as put into storage until the Bad Times pass.

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