Taking a job at a home for the developmentally disabled was not a benevolent act, it was completely selfish. I needed the money, and more importantly, I had a new girlfriend I wanted to impress with my desire to help those in need. Of course, I assumed she wanted the sensitive, caring type, she was a sociology major. I even went so far as to hang a “Dukakis for President” poster on my living room wall. It seems the only thing I overlooked was the impact counterfeit compassion would have on a person’s opinion of me. That, and she was a Republican. She dumped me within a month leaving me broken-hearted with a job at a house full of people unable to wipe their own ass. I got what I deserved, but I decided to make the best of this situation and actually try to make a difference in the lives of the residents of Wesley House.
I was hired mostly to do “guy stuff” with Randy, a 19-year-old man-child whose only age appropriate function was his libido. He had the confidence of a fighter pilot and zero social filters, so he was making life difficult on the previously all-female staff. He liked to play basketball. I didn’t, but I watched it a lot on TV and figured I should be able to keep up with a man whose shoes I had to tie. I soon learned that Randy got to set the rules of this and every game. I was clearly overmatched, and Randy ended the season undefeated.
Randy’s life was madness, and I became the straight man in his bizarre vaudeville show of head butts, intentionally spilled dinners, and holes in the drywall. But, unlike vaudeville, there was no piano player to vamp if you were bombing, you just had to sit there and fail.
About a year into the job, Randy was going to the bathroom, and I was assisting him by thumbing through a magazine in the hall. He began to laugh. I cringed knowing that whatever is causing laughter in a bathroom stall has a good chance of ruining your day. I looked to the heavens for strength, but instead found a six-inch streak of human excrement on the textured ceiling. This was more perplexing than disturbing. I checked the floor around the toilet and could not find a single turd, much less a scuffed one. I stepped back, surveyed the scene, and realized the streak on the ceiling was at an angle from the bowl, not straight above. Trajectory! I drew an imaginary arc with my finger from the bowl, to the ceiling, and down to…oh, Jesus…the sink. Minimum goddamned wage!
These episodes occurred so often there was no point in being angry. I was just forever disappointed that no matter how hard I tried Randy would always be this way. Cleaning up that mess, I discovered my true character. I simply followed the trajectory and found it lying there like a turd in the sink. I gave up the benevolence charade and quit the next day. I was selfish and egotistical for thinking I could change those who were not seeking change. They deserved better. They were the ones who had it together, and it was I who was disabled by my misguided efforts to fix them.
@MonoOcular1 is Steve Howe, a writer living in New Mexico.
You can also hear this story read by the author at http://dimestories.org/live-events/albuquerque/ DimeStories are 3-minute stories ready by the author at live events in multiple US cities. “Trajectory” was the winning story in Albuquerque July 2014.