Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pour Me Another

Christine, no matter what else she is, is a total sweetheart. She's had labels slapped on her since birth - autistic, bipolar, developmentally disabled, obsessive-compulsive - labels that are so dominant they cause others to forget that she's also a chocolate-loving diabetic with a passion for baton-twirling, achy shoulders that like to be massaged, and an engaging if unending style of conversation.

You may remember that I first met Christine many years ago when we were matched in a program that aimed for more equality for the disabled persons in our community. I was very young and just beginning my work in psychology and social services, and I had no idea what i was getting myself into. As she barreled into the room, lauded me with gifts (stained cartoony sweatshirts still smelling of moth balls and old sweat) and implored me to call her Christine instead of her actual given name (Barbara, which according to her, is old-fashioned), I began to have an inkling that life would never be quite the same again.

Supposedly, my mandate was to teach her "life lessons" to make her more independent, but I sometimes wonder if she wasn't secretly hired to teach me. Perhaps if I can list some of our adventures, you can judge for yourselves.

Lesson #1: Filling ketchup bottles is boring.

Finding a job is tough. Finding a job for the mentally challenged is way, way tough. Especially when the employee is as picky as Christine. Folding t-shirts wasn't stimulating enough; after 45 minutes of her first shift, she made a bed out of them and took a nap. Shredding documents was worse - eventually she found other, funner things to shred, like mouse pads, coffee cups, pens, and petty cash. But filling ketchup bottles was the absolute worst. I guess the monotony got to her, because the Heinz bottles sitting all innocent-looking on unsuspecting customers' tables were actually filled with more "interesting" contents - horseradish, coffee grounds, leftover green peas scraped off someone's dirty plate. The customers complained pretty heartily apparently. The gravy-cayenne-crushed-up-Ritalin was NOT a hit.

Lesson #2: My willingness to apply topical creams depends on the location.

So, 350-pound hyperactive women sweat a lot, or at least this one did. A LOT. Especially underneath her enormous, pendulous, surprisingly brown-nippled breasts. And big boobies chafe when they spend a humid day rubbing against, well, practically her knees! This leads to massive boobie-rash, the sight of which still haunts my dreams. And when she shed her shirt and handed me the tube of ointment, I could not suppress a shudder. I was wishing for a rag on a very big stick, but all I had besides my bare hands was a vague and silly notion of "making a difference." Ha.

Lesson #3: Riding the bus is fun!

You already knew that public transportation could be "fun" - the drunken leching, the frotteurs "accidentally" rubbing their inflamed crotches on you, the plink plink of someone paying the fare with 25 dimes - but I bet you didn't know that it was fun. Fun. Christine knows. Christine feels that the fare is negligible but that high-fives to the driver are of absolute necessity. The driver doesn't realize it's not so much a greeting as a warning. Oh yes, there will be singing. There will be dancing. There will be reenactments of The Lion King, aka, Best Movie Ever. And god help me, there will also be the passing of gas, because as much fun as riding the bus is, so is eating 7 bean burritos for lunch.

Lesson #4: Anti-psychotic meds make you hairy.

When I suggested a day at the beach, i must have been out of my head. It somehow slipped my mind that swimming = taking off our pants. Imagine my embarrassment at having to explain to her that the pube garden growing across the better part of her thighs really needed to be hoed, so to speak. Now picture the horrific shower scene that took place later: obese naked lady perched precariously on the side of the tub, legs spread wiiiiiiide open, big tufts of coarse, curly hair swirling around the drain like drowned rodents, and a razor so clogged with fur it looked like a tiny person with a huge afro.

The razor never recovered, and as for me, well...I drink.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Men I Intend to Marry:

Yes, I do realize that it is a legal requirement that I be divorced from the first husband before "embarking" on the second, but the truth is, I'm not sure if remarriage will ever be in the cards for me (despite what a psychic reading recently revealed). I didn't really expect it the first time around (marriage, I mean); it was a happy accident that couldn't be helped - love is referred to as whirlwindy for a reason, I suppose. And for that reason, I really don't expect to be so lucky a second time. I've had my Big Love, even if it wasn't the happily-ever-after that I probably (hopefully) deserved. So now if I have to "settle" for acrobatic sexual feats, dear friends who would do anything for me, new friends who make me laugh over plates of pasta, and a series of belly-clenching, foot-raising, heart-stopping, breath-quickening first kisses, then damn, I guess that will just have to do.

Now here's a list of boys who I wouldn't mind doing it with (and for comparison's sake, the old list). Is it just time that changes, or is it me?

1. Rick Mercer: Oh he's a cool guy, that Rick Mercer. In just 22 minutes a week, he manages to make me giggle. Some guys get a car ride, a martini, fettuccine alfredo, another martini, the wait in line to buy the tickets, the dark moments in the theatre before and after the movie, the car ride home, and the agonizing walk to my front door to make me laugh, even just a little, even just once, just a slight hah, even an eyebrow raised in appreciation or the corner of my mouth lifted in faint amusement would suffice, but still they fail. But not Rick. Rick is good. He is clever and witty and I even believe him to be a good person. Imagine that.

2. Timbaland: Who can resist such a super talented guy? I mean first of all, just think of all the cool ring tones I would have! And he knows all the right people - would I say no to a threesome with Justin Timberlake? Well, maybe. Would I say no to a threesome with Nelly Furtado? Try and stop me! Good thing he loves me just the way I are.

3. James McAvoy: How cute is he? How panty-wetting is that accent? Something tells me I could be rough with him, and that he would like it. Is that terrible? Yes, that's probably terrible. I should stop thinking such naughty thoughts. Like now. Or, in 30 minutes. Because he's probably a nice guy. He's probably got a Mum. He probably keeps his elbows off the table and everything, and I just keep thinking about flipping up my skirt and...oh wait. Down girl.

4. Madonna: While this is technically a list of men I intend to marry, Her Madgesty probably has the biggest balls on this list, or anywhere, and therefore qualifies in spades. Besides which, she's just boss. I adore her. She's fierce and she knows what she likes. I don't often say this, but for Madonna, I would totally obey. I would be her slave, for like, 30 whole minutes (yeah, I'm thinking those 30 minutes that I'm not thinking about James). I don't want to settle down and adopt African children with her. I just want to suck her toes. Haha. Totally kidding about the toes.

5. Jim Halpert: I hope he finds eternal happiness with Pam, I really do, but if for some reason it doesn't work out, he can have my number and I will happily rip off his button-down shirt, use his tie imaginatively, and put the photocopier in the office to alternative use. RRrrowwwrrrr.

6. Hawksley Workman: Yes, I know I've hummed about him before, but honestly, there are very few men in the world who sing directly to your crotch, and he is one of them. He's just a big bowl of ice cream and I want to lick him all up. You don't need any more proof than the evidence in his latest song, Piano Blink, which sounds like it was written just for me. I can get totally blissed out just listening to him sing in my bedroom, and if he makes me that happy through the wonders of internet piracy, then just imagine how powerful he'd be in person!

7. Jason Segel: It was hard to pick just one of Judd Apatow's gang for inclusion on this list. In reality, I'm picturing something much more polyandrous, because who wouldn't want to live in a house full of cute boys who can make you laugh? I have had love for Jason since Freaks and Geeks, which is to say, for quite some time. And amazingly, I kept that love even through Undeclared, and if you remember the pathetic blubbering mess of his character, then you know that's quite a feat. Having just seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I have to say that this boy brings something new to the table - unlike most Hollywood types, I can actually imagine having a conversation with him that doesn't make me want to jump off a bridge suspended over some very pointy rocks, and if that ain't romance, I don't know what is!

8. Clive Owen: Excuse me, but is this man not sex on legs? Movie theatres actually have to set their climate control ten degrees cooler when this man is on screen because ooooooeeeeee, he's on fire. See me breaking out into a sweat just typing about him? Now just think about the heat I'd be generating if there was actual skin-on-skin going on. We'd be talking epic, fire-ball proportions! Whew. Better get some flame-retardant sheets.

9. Jasper Fforde: Every time I review a Fforde book over at The Quickie Book Review, 2 things always happen: 1. I propose marriage 2. I make terrible double-f jokes, such as Fforde is Ffucking awesome! The truth is, #2 is probably a major reason for his continuing lack of response to #1. But I gotta give the guy some props, because even without a proper author photo on his book jacket, I still want to have his babies. His last book prompted me to offer "good lasagna and bad wine" , and you know what that means. Just be my boyfriend already!

10. Simon Pegg: Simon Pegg is something else entirely, an unlikely movie star with a knack for satire and wit that makes me melty. Yes, the dry humour does get me off, but the fact that he's a bit mysterious doesn't hurt either. If he's a cookie, I'd like to crack him. Doesn't that sound deliciously dirty?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jay's Guide to Office Etiquette: How to give your man a boner on the company dime

When sitting at your desk, shoulders hunched toward the glow of your computer screen, papers piled in haphazard "organization" all around you, books propped open for easy reference (or at least to make it look good), it is surprisingly easy to appear to be working, even working quite hard, when in reality exchanging naughty text messages with a certain boy.

Not that I know this from experience.
I'm just throwing theories out there.

Of course, you then run the risk of blushing over these hypothetical dirty texts, and then your nosy (wonderfully nosy) coworker asks rather loudly what on earth could make "a girl like Jay" blush.

To which you could potentially respond: "I'm not blushing, I'm just flushed from the excitement of a job well done!" which is such a load of bullshit that you just blush all the redder.

And somehow your cell phone knows this is a bad time, and because your cell phone hates you (of course it hates you! didn't you just crush it in the crack of a recliner during a bout of random drunkenness? oh yes. yes you did)....because your cell phone hates you, it beeps loudly, louder than usual I'm sure, to alert the whole office that Jay's latest fling is inquiring as to the current state of her panties, should she actually be wearing any.

So all heads turn towards the sound of the incoming text, and in a fit of cleverness you can only attribute to all the aspartame you've consumed, you turn your head as well....toward the guy who sits beside you. That's right. When deflecting blame from yourself, never be afraid to pass it on to the innocent sucker sitting nearby. To really "sell it", you could do the "slight nod of disapproval", or even go so far as to cluck your tongue in disappointment at his utter disregard for those actually trying to work, goddammit.

So now you slide your cell under your desk, where surely no one will notice you replying feverishly. Getting caught sending sexy texts is almost as bad as getting caught in your friend's bed mid-blowjob. Or something.

Not that I would know about that first-hand, either. I'm just guessing.

And when that seems like poor camouflage (because texting furtively under your desk looks a lot like wanking it from your coworkers' perspective), just go directly to the ladies' room, where the stalls are all occupied with women sending penis-themed messages to their hunnies. It kind of makes you wonder how the heck any work ever gets done, but then you remember that it's company policy to always employ at least 10% anti-social virgins (who eat their lunches at their desks, bring potted plants to work, knit in their free moments, and only wash their hair on special occasions), and you feel the relief of not being counted upon to be even remotely productive.

The day goes by amazingly quickly once you make the decision to stop actually working at work and just piss away the time by taunting boys and rendering them useless at their own places of employment (if you're texting well, the poor things won't even be able to stand up). All this lack of an honest day's hard work would normally have you feeling unsatisfied come 5 o'clock, but I have discovered an ingenious way of filling your chest with a real sense of accomplishment: expensing those naughty text messages!

Pity the fool that ever gave me a company credit card.

Monday, April 14, 2008


I think possibly karaoke was sent to us by the terrorists in order to distract and anesthetize the hoi polloi into a false sense of "having fun" so that while every dive bar features some version of the anatomically-indistinguishable he-she with gravy stains on his-her shirt and a predilection for John Mellencamp songs, the rest of us slosh around the beer in our steins while we slur random words that we kinda\sorta think sound close enough to the lyrics, and then all together belt out those really great 5 or 6 words of the chorus that we're all sure about (come on baby, make it hurt so good).

Reasons why Jay will never be caught dead karaokeing:

1. I can't dance to someone stuttering out the lyrics to Crimson & Clover.

2. I can't keep a straight face when someone with a thick Punjabi accent is covering the Village People.

3. I'd have to put down at least one drink to grab the mic, and anything that cuts into my drinking time is not cool by me.

4. I feel squeamish around duets - especially the syrupy, pukey, romantic ones - and especially ESPECIALLY when sung by 2 people who are not a couple. Like, for example, my sister and my mom's boyfriend singing Meatloaf to each other.

5. Which is still not as bad as when 2 people who are not a couple sing raunchy songs with dirty lyrics to each other. Can anyone say INAPPROPRIATE???? Can anyone say CANCEL THE NACHOS?

6. Which is still not as bad as when 2 people who ARE a couple sing raunchy songs to each other, because in my experience:
a) this couple is FUGLY
b) this couple cannot help but launch into a quasi-choreographed dance sequence that involves some bumping and grinding that no one, and I mean NO ONE should ever have to see.

7. It leaves you wide open to people posting silly pictures of you on facebook.

8. The guy in the cowboy hat and handlebar mustache rubs his crotch just a little too eagerly while singing I Touch Myself.

9. According to my unauthorized autobiography, i don't have flaws.

10. Why would I pay good money to sit at a bar and listen to amateurs destroy some perfectly righteous tunes when I could go to the bar next door and listen to the music the way it was meant to be heard - at ear-blistering decibels, mixed, remixed, and spliced together with some BeeGees because evidently the DJ is having a seizure.

11. Despite the world being filled with good music, karaoke mostly features: cheese by Celine Dion, stinky cheese by Mariah Carey, and inevitably, some baby boomers reliving their misspent youth with Grease tributes out the wahzoo. Yeah, I said wahzoo. And just for the record: Gloria Gaynor should only be sung by drag queens with big curly hair, sinfully short skirts, and gold go-go boots. Seriously.

12. And to the cougar wearing too much lipstick and not enough shirt: Mustang Sally isn't doing you any favours. First of all, it dates you. If you want the 19 year old to go home with you tonight, here are some pointers:
a) Try some Fallout Boy instead. That will at least put you in the right century, if not in the right age bracket.
b) Leave the leopard print at home.
c) The next time you bleach your roots that awful colour, try to leave a little leftover for your mustache.
d) If you MUST wear spandex pants, lose the gotchies. Your panty line can be seen from space.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Work is the curse of the drinking classes.

Have you ever been on one of those marathon conference calls at work, you know, the ones where some guy all the way in Montreal is blabbering on about something, god knows what (the only thing worse than the speakers on your phone are the speakers on his), and the only productive thing you've done is learning how to crunch those inter-office memos into the tightest, most aerodynamic projectiles ever, and using them to sink three-pointers in the office-ho's cleavage?

Well, it's not just me is it? I think companies would actually waste less money if they paid job coaches to come in and help us fine-tune our resumes.

Ah, work. Nothing raises your blood pressure and lowers your self esteem quite like it.

The cubicle thing is pretty amusing though. I mean, any situation that has you praying that your nearest compatriot doesn't buy cheapo dollar-store deodorant is okay by me. And way to capitalize on the spill-proof mug industry! I mean, when your elbows can cause someone else's coffee to spill all over a third person's computer, you'd better make damn sure that lid's screwed down tight. Of course, I've just happened to notice that "spill proof" really means "spill possible", but since you mistakenly think you're safe, the spill is surprising, and all the more spectacular because of it. Not to worry, though. Third degree burns totally get you the afternoon off, paid! Score! But be prepared to kiss those TPS reports goodbye.

I'm not sure if there's any such thing as cubicle-feng-shui, but I do believe that your pen cup should not be anywhere near your mouse wire. Because then it tips over every time you play minesweeper....erm, I mean, every time you good, solid work. Hard work. Quality work. Work that causes your pens to fall over. A lot. And the sound of 20 Bics hitting the desk, rolling toward the edge, then you swearing but reacting too slowly, and then all 20 Bics tumbling to the floor below and scattering to all 4 corners of the earth...well, that's a godawful sound. Especially when you're hungover. Or so I've heard. And especially when it's already happened 4 times. In the last half hour. And you never get all 20 Bics back. No, you're lucky if the return ratio is 80%, and at that rate, it gets quite costly to be dumping your writing instruments all over the place. But let's face it - if you move the pen cup to the other side, where your elbow routinely knocks over the coffee, then you'll have twice the mess, and your pens will be sticky for the whole goddamn rest of the day. What I prefer to do is tie a single pen to one end of a piece of string, and the other end around my wrist. True, I still can never find my pen, but I have started a revolutionary new office trend, and having these kinds of priorities is what surviving the work day is all about. Now I only need 3 martinis when I'm done work, and hardly any anti-depressants at all!

I love people who decorate their little spaces. I have a rubber duckie dressed as a cheerleader on mine. I think it's supposed to remind me that life doesn't suck or something. Sometimes it's hard to tell. Sometimes I think the duck is mocking me. My friend suggested that I decorate my wall with a large mirror so that I can watch myself throughout the day. It's already largely known that I enjoy the sound of my voice. In fact, my boss has taken to calling me Diva, and I'm sure I haven't the foggiest idea why (fake british accents aside), but honestly, I have a hard enough time getting my work done as it is without a hot blonde winking at me all day long!

Today a woman was going around handing out snacks, and she stopped at my desk to point out that there were rice krispie treats hidden underneath the cheesies. Nice. But then she said my name. Twice. And I was a bit taken aback - yes, I know I've recently been the subject of some office gossip, but how did she know my name? Elliott, who sits nearby, felt the need to point out that my name is plastered across my computer in large red lettering. It's even punctuated - Jamie!, it says. Jamie! Even my computer knows my name. When I sign on, it says HELLO JAMIE. I imagine it having a creepy computer voice, like Hal. I imagine it knowing too much. I imagine it somehow watching me undress at night. Almost every application I open at work says Not Jamie? Click here. And goddamn if I'm not tempted to click there, Jamie or not Jamie. And frankly, since we're on the topic, I'm also a little offended by my computer. You'd think after the quality time we've spent together it would start calling me Jay already. But my stupid computer is formal. It is so insistent on keeping things stiff and polite between us that I've taken to curtsying to it every time I leave my desk....and considering I was born without a bladder, that's kind of a lot. So now my computer and I are locked in a vicious battle of etiquette, and the question remains.....who will win???

Yeah, I know. I don't really stand a chance. Even my stapler is betting against me.

By and large, though, I am vastly entertained at work. I love how cough drops in the vending machine have gone up 50 cents in price in the time it took me to catch a cold and then get rid of it. I love how the company puts hand sanitizer in the bathrooms because it's faster than soap and water, and since they've already let you pee on company time, don't be thinking you'll be washing yourself too! I love Juanita, who gives me the giggles. Juanita sounds like a stripper name, and though I don't know for sure if she does any part-time pole dancing, I do know that she has terrific knockers that would certainly give a nice home to crumpled dollar bills. Just sayin'.

Of course, my "just sayin" policy likes to get me into trouble. People like to yell the phrase "HR issue!" as I walk by, and I'm pretty sure they're not just referring to the length of my skirts, though that probably doesn't help. However, was it me who made the thumb-tack penis? No, it was not. Okay, technically it IS on my cork board. And technically they are my thumb-tacks. And I suppose while I'm confessing I may as well admit that I may have goaded on the artist. But it wasn't me. And it's not to scale, I don't care what you've heard.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Have Uterus, Will Panic

Have you ever prayed to a little white stick?

Have you ever slumped over the toilet at work, depressed that your panties were as pristine as when you first put them on that morning?

Have you ever been late, significantly late, and prayed to God that it was cancer and not that? Pleased baby Jesus, not that.

Most of us girls have.

Most of us girls have at one point paced the sweatiest aisle in the pharmacy: on one end you've got darty-eyed boys trying to inconspicuously palm a box of magnum condoms, on the other end you've got peaky-looking girls trying to bury their box of feminine-itch cream deep in their basket of nail polishes and loofahs they don't need, and smack dab in the middle you've got us twitchy girls, usually with some friend offering moral support with a side of I-told-you-so, trying to decide between "requires 25% less urine!", "the pink giraffe means you're pregnant, the purple pulled pork means you're not, the pinkish-purpley asteroid belt means drink two Redbulls and try again later", and "free celebration condom inside!".

Generally speaking, today's pregnancy tests are pretty much fool-proof.

And generally speaking, the wild surge of emotions that comes with buying a home pregnancy test makes fools, or worse, of us all. So whether you're frantically unbuttoning your jeans praying nonono or yesyesyes, the chances are that you're shaky, you're nervous, and you're going to fuck it up.

Let's, for the sake of argument, assume that I have recently made such a trip to such a store with a girlfriend recently, and that she was in the nonono category.

Now, I have been fairly lucky so far in my life, but I do know some of what she's going through, so I've promised to hold her hand through this ordeal, and hell, I'm such a good friend, I'll even hold the stick she's just peed on if it makes her feel better. She asks me to take a sympathy pregnancy test instead. We buy matching tests (and peanut butter cups, and some laundry detergent, because whether her life is "ruined" or not, she still needs clean khakis for Monday)and start holding our breath together.

The experts recommend that you using your first morning's urine for the purposes of a pregnancy test - they even have a fancy acronym for it: FMU. But fuck that. At this point, it's fair to say that she's already spent 2 weeks or more freaking out, eating salty foods, doing extra jumping jacks, and trying to will her uterus to evacuate. She's felt the push-and-pull of wanting to know and not wanting to know, hoping for good news and avoiding the bad news, being worried, being very worried, being very, very worried, and above all, being in denial. So the fact that she's finally gathered enough courage to buy the stupid test and is now power-walking home with a glint of mad determination in her eye probably means that she's not going to calmly set the test down on her bathroom vanity, make dinner as if there's no possibility whatsoever of another tiny human being living inside her belly, and then head to bed for a night full of easy rest without any tossing and\or turning wondering if there will be protesters at the abortion clinic or if she should start saving the astronomical cost of what tuition in 2026 will most likely be, and then wake up the next day with a full bladder just brimming with potential. No, she's going to race home, think about vomiting, put some Madonna on the stereo, brace herself with a peanut butter cup and goddammit, she's going to use her late-evening-4-cups-of-coffee-and-a-shot-of-whiskey urine. It'll just have to do.

So, you pull down your pants with a last-minute wish that you'll find that Aunt Flo, against all odds, has finally decided to visit, and finding that she hasn't (that bitch), you pee on the stick. Or, you attempt to pee on the stick. But come on, we're girls. There is no aiming the pee. The best you can do shove the thing between your legs and hope not to get splashed. Fun times.

Now, once you've peed on the stick, you realize you should have read the instructions first. Because now you're holding a drippy stick, shaking with the injustice of it all, wondering what the bastard who did this to you is doing right now, probably playing Guitar Hero obliviously or something, trying to read the squinty print on the side of a soggy box. Why is the writing so small? Don't they know that impending doom renders the best of us illiterate?

And then there's the wait.

Now, I've had some long waits in my life.

The time between IV goes in and tumor comes out? Long wait.

The day and a half between Katie's water breaking and Janie's head crowning? Long wait.

Those few seconds between seeing the oncoming car and it smashing into us? Long wait.

Watching for either a pink plus or a blue negative to appear on a magic wand? Longest. Wait. Ever.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Close Encounters with Addiction


I just finished reading that book up there, the one that I stole my title from. The problem is, it paints a flat picture.

It doesn't show the things that I have seen, up close and personal, working with the homeless population of this fair city.

It tries to. It introduces you to addicts living in downtown Vancouver, in a shelter not unlike the one I've worked in. But the truth as I've come to understand it is that none of us can really understand it until we've been elbows-deep in it as I have. Because I thought I knew. I thought I had the gist. I went to school, read the books, took the tests. I knew how it worked, how it didn't work, how to fix it, how not to fix it, how unfixable it sometimes was.

But really, I knew shit.

I didn't know that a person could be so desperate for a fix - a fix of anything - that she chugs hand sanitizer until a stink so bad it could strip wallpaper comes out her pores and she literally pickles herself. And then one day, on the gritty floor of the shelter cafeteria, I found her. And later found several empty gallon jugs of the stuff hidden under her cot.

I didn't know that a 20 year old girl could cry to me about being in agony, stripped raw, really, from so much whoring that she can barely walk right, and thus has to earn her drug money one 5$ handjob at a time.

I didn't know the pain of watching a crack addict give birth to her 11th baby, place it in the arms of children's aid for the 11th time without shedding a tear, and then sob because the nurse wouldn't give her any pain medication.

I didn't know how I would feel the first time I walked in on a dead body floating in a bathtub and think to myself Thank God. Yeah. Brutal. I am the lowest of the low for thinking such a thing, but maybe it gives you some indication of the kind of life this person led. It wasn't much. It was mostly heartache, misery, and drugs, with the occasional fish stick thrown in.

I didn't know what it would be like to sit face to face with someone, ask them about their cutting habit with their scars in plain sight, and hear them explain it so rationally - cutting and bleeding is the only way to feel something, feel anything, through the haze of drugs and pain - so rationally that I find myself nodding in agreement.

I didn't know how sick I would feel when a client was jonesing so badly during our short time together, scratching at invisible bugs, twitching violently, glazed and seeking, that they would eventually think up some excuse to leave the room, and we both knew damn well it was to go shoot up. And upon their return, with fresh track marks on display, the farce starts all over again. It never ends. It makes me sick.

I didn't know that there was a whole new level of sadness of frustration reached when a client celebrates their 3rd day of sobriety by going out and getting high.

I didn't know what a job that has you asking people Do you have Hep C? Do you have HIV? Do you think you might be pregnant? and hearing yeses to all three does to you over time. It breaks you down. It makes you cry at night.

I didn't know what it was like not to save them. Not to save very many at all. To lose them to coke, to meth, to the street, to pimps and johns, to knifings and prison and psych wards and the icy claws of death that stalk homeless shelters like you wouldn't believe.

I didn't know what it would be like to call someone's parents with regret, to inform them that their child who hasn't returned home in 5 years never will again. That the unclaimed body of their baby girl can be found in the city morgue. That they will never see her again. That she wanted to come home but couldn't. That she spent her last days craving the stuff that killed her, lying on a dirty mattress that didn't belong to her. That she spilled tears of remorse on her lumpy pillow. That it wasn't AIDS, although she had it, and it wasn't malnutrition though she'd rarely eaten in a month, and it wasn't hypothermia though God knows she'd spent nights half-frozen in snow banks, that it was a simple bacteria from a dirty needle that got into her bloodstream and went straight to her brain. That it was a sorry way to die, not nearly quick enough, and that she suffered, and that she missed her mother, that she suddenly realized she'd been living her life all wrong. And that in the end, it was too late. And all I could do was watch.

All I could do was watch.