This is a short list submission for the ROSA Award.
It’s been ten minutes, and Gregg’s still wiping. I can hear it, the balled-up toilet paper chafing his crack.
“OK, Gregg, that’s enough. Three wipes—that’s the rule,” I say, knocking on the bathroom stall.
“I’m almost done,” he says in a Boston accent. Then he starts up again, this time more aggressively.
A couple minutes later, Gregg finally steps out, a big, muscular man in an old Coors Light shirt. He’s tall, too, and hulky, with a big nose and dark, curly hair. He’s smiling, as if he’s won some big award.
“OK,” Gregg beams. “I’m done. I’m done.”
He’s also a repeater.
Back in the recreation room, I leave him with the TV on. I go check up on some of the other guys and distribute some meds. I come back, take a seat on the other end of the couch, and we talk some. This is our routine.
In one of the commercials on TV, a buff beach bum spies a young blonde drinking a beer. He introduces himself, compliments her curves, and asks her out on a date. But when she goes to embrace her tanned prince, he instead reaches for the cold beer.
Turns out he was just sweet-talking the booze.
When the commercial ends, Gregg says, “Let’s get some beers, but I don’t wanna get drunk. I don’t wanna get drunk. Only two beers for me. I don’t wanna get drunk.”
I’ve been told to avoid topics like this, so I smile and say, “Only two beers for you, Gregg,” and suggest that it’s a good time to take his pills.
In the afternoon, though I’m not supposed to, I drive Gregg to Burlington Mall, which is a couple miles outside . It’s a nerve-wracking game, telling my boss that Gregg’s asleep upstairs, and then sneaking him out one of the basement doors. The other caretakers pretend not to notice anything, mainly because they’re playing their own games, too.
Outside, Gregg hops into the van, as if we’re heading out on our own beach vacation. “Shotgun! I got shotgun!” he screams while trying to buckle his seatbelt. We’re on our way.
He sticks his head clear out the window like a dog, and cranks the radio. Girls in tiny shorts jog by as sunlight warms his face.
“I can feel it. I can feel it!” he howls.
“What?” I yell back.
“Today is gonna be a good day! Today is gonna be a good day!”