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  • She hollered to me, "Come in!"

    I pulled open the squeaky screen door. Outside it was a gorgeous day, sunny and cool, but not too cool. A hint of Spring. As I drove to my destination I noticed kids on bikes, couples walking babies in strollers, a skateboarder ...

    I knew she would be in the bedroom so I went in. She was plopped out on the bed using a nebulizer. There was a chair at the end of the bed which I was glad for. The place is always cluttered in a way that makes you wonder what is lurking beneath the piles and your eyes deceive you by seeing little flashes of spots. Hmmn, what was that?

    I try to focus on her although it is hard. She is not a person I hate. Hate is a strong word. Dislike would fit perfectly. She is one of those people who always argues. You say red, she says blue. You get the picture. I know she is lonely, which I guess helps me overcome my disdain for her.

    She likes to talk about her daughter with schizophrenia. She is unrealistic about her. She is a lost soul. I have met her. That was the time I called 911.

    The daughter was screaming and yelling and talking to imaginary beings all at once. I'll never forget the officer. He arrived, and the daughter and I was outside. It was another gorgeous day. The officer had been here before and he had met her before.

    He was about six feet five with tightly cropped white hair, although he was young. He took a stance a distance away. His legs spread in a wide V with his arms crossed over his chest. He reminded me of a comic book super hero. My eyes were drawn to his flack jacket and billy club prominent on his hip. Yet somehow I felt he was afraid of her. I was within arms length of her and he was ten feet away.

    I asked about a 5150. The officer speaks to the daughter, not breaking from or deviating his stance, and tells me she is ok. "OK?" I say. "Besides," he tells me, "The mother 'let's' her stay here."

    I think to myself, this is personal rights gone awry. But again, it's all about money, or lack thereof for mental health.

    He takes off leaving me to fend for myself. The schizophrenic daughter enters the house again, shooting me evil looks and mumbling to whatever companion was residing on her right shoulder.

    As I stare at my patient, and she tells me her daughter is back on the streets again, the aforementioned scene flashes in my mind.

    She tells me her daughter was here a few days sleeping on her couch. She couldn't stay because it's a senior residence and they don't cotton to the daughter's pacing and screaming.

    As she is talking I see dots again. I blink and rub my eyes but it's still there.

    "Um ...I think there is something there on your pillow."

    She turns her head but doesn't see it.

    "There - I say," pointing at the pillow. She finally sees it and reaches over and pinches it with her fingers. She squeezes the life out of it, that is, if that's possible for a bed bug.

    "You know," she says, "they have a smell when you squeeze them."

    "No," I say, "I didn't know that. But then, I have never squeezed one."

    "It's an odd smell, sort of rancid."

    "Hmm," I say, "interesting."

    It's about then I start itching. It's psychological, you know, or at least ... you hope it's psychological.

    My eyes start darting around and, like her daughter, I begin seeing imaginary demons.

    "Have you thought about an exterminator?" She assures me an exterminator has been in.

    "But," she cheerfully reports, "I like getting them myself."

    She pulls a water bottle out of the trash can next to her bed and points to the inside of the bottle where a small pool of water lies in the bottom.

    There I see a bedbug doing the backstroke. This is how far my mind has gone at this point. My last appointment of the day and the week. TGIF. Good Friday. Perhaps I'm suppose to suffer today.

    "Is it dead?"

    "Oh yes," she says. She shakes and swirls the bottle like it is some kind of snow globe. The bug swirls in the maelstrom as she watches til the water slows down and the bug sticks onto the plastic.

    "My neighbors get all freaked out about the bugs, but I just stand up and shake them off. That's all you have to do - shake them off."

    Then she cheerfully says, "I don't mind them as much as the mice."

    "The mice?" I reply, as my eyes dart across the floor towards the piles of clutter.

    "Yes, but the maintenance man sets traps. They are usually tiny but this week we caught a large one."

    "I need to get going, it's getting late." (Damn daylight savings as the sun shines brightly outside dimming my excuse). She knows this and keeps talking and I imagine now perhaps sadistically enjoying my squirming.

    Yet after a polite delay in my exit, I am able to leave her.
  • I climb into my car and dread the 35 mile drive home. When I get there I strip down and put everything, including my shoes, in a plastic bag that I tightly seal. Tomorrow I will take my car in to get cleaned.

    Ah ... Just another day at the office.

    Just wish my alter ego - Rosie the Robot - could go to my return visit next week.
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