Leaning on the receptionist’s counter, Peter looks at the bathroom doors. “How long has he been in there,” he asks looking back at me? I shrug. We’d been through both floors making sure none of the other intake clinicians were scattered among the offices. I had been ready to set the alarms and lockup when Peter found Kent at the front door. In spite of our eagerness to head home we yielded to an old and nearly homeless schizophrenic. His wanting in to use the bathroom, the two of us knew, meant that we’d be here an extra 10 or so minutes.
Standing in the lobby, trying to mask over our growing impatience with a patron of the department’s closing hour we’ve become a bit antsy. Kent had a sporadic history of showing up just before closing. His asking to use the bathroom had become an irregular ritual many of the intake staff knew.
So, I should have taken Peter’s prodding as a hint of what was coming. I’d already been out on two emergency assessments, today. I had sent one to the ER with symptoms suggesting he might of have sloshed down too many of his meds with lots of cheap wine. The other had simply been upset with her counselor for not seeing her today. Those heavy scratches on her arm, looked more like she’d dragged her finger nails across her wrist, than a razor.
Peter had been in here the whole day doing intake assessments. He preferred doing those 45 minute intake interviews to collect necessary histories, ascribing an initial diagnoses and finally assigning the person to one of the program’s facilities. Scattered among the intakes were walk-ins by current clientele.
Looking past Peter toward the bathrooms, I nudge him and point at the bathroom door now opening. Larry’s elbow protrudes and his using it to push the door open grabs our attention. Zeroing in on his keeping his back to us, I quietly ask, “What has he got?”
Peter’s smirk flows along with his quiet question, “Are you worried Dave?”
Snickering, Peter walks toward Kent who’s not yet turned around. In spite of wondering, ‘Why now?’ I join in, intent on staying on the opposite side of Kent. Peter asks as we get close enough to see that Kent’s holding something close to his chest, “What’s you got Kent?”
Hunkering down a little more, Kent shakes his head. Now standing close to him on both sides the rank smell coming from between his fingers tells us the whole story. Peter and I look up across the top of Kent’s tattered cap at one another and then back down at a large wade of dripping wet toilet paper he holds close to his chest.
Putting our hands on his dirty, old coat, not needed on a late spring day, we make clear an unspoken intent. Not trying to push us away, Kent whispers, “No”. The smell emanating from between his fingers isn’t a distraction. I can’t tell you what Peter is thinking but, like me he’s smiling. Our histories of, day by day, dealing with assortments of chronic mental health issues keeps us from feeling ruffled by odors.
“Kent,” Peter says while bending down to look Kent in the eye, “you can’t take that with you,” while putting a finger on Kent’s hands. Of course, Kent lowers his head to keep his eyes hidden. “Kent we’ve got to put your stuff back where it belongs. You can’t take it with you.”
Kent whispers, “no” again.
Now, I’m imagining too much. Anyone, refusing to naturally let go of something dredges up one Freud’s ideas. ‘How often have any of my other clients refused to flush the toilet,’ I wonder?’ as Peter and I put all four hands on Kent as he weakly attempted to back on past us and out the door.
“Kent, you and I will put your stuff back where you had left it and leave it there,” Peter tells him.
I have no idea why Peter’s simple statement took hold of him, but Kent kind of looked up at him and then at me. His somewhat puzzled expression suggests confused acceptance of what has to be. Oddly trying to keep ahold of himself, Kent has stoked my curiosity with new fuel. I am comfortable seeing him trying to keep his schizophrenic self from just getting more scattered, but his effort this afternoon is off the edge.
Obviously more comfortable with Peter, since he’s leaning away from me and into Peter’s hands, I let him pull away. Keeping myself between him and the door. Peter nudges Kent back toward the bathroom door. Looking up at Peter, Kent takes hesitant steps toward where he’d just come from. Pushing the men’s room door open Peter keeping one hand on him says, “Let’s redeposit what you should have left in here, Kent.” I watch Peter shaking his head with a smile flashing occasional flashing at me.
After a minute or so of listening to Peter encouraging Kent to leave what he’s wrapped in toilet paper in the toilet I hear an almost silent “plop”. No sound of a flush follows after that. Rather, Peter’s voice comes clearly from the sink counter, encouraging Kent to clean up. Shortly after that, Peter with a hand on Kent’s shoulder guides a confused schizophrenic to the front door. As he passed me, I understood Peter’s nodding back toward the bathroom to me.
Quietly walking back toward the bathroom doors, I wait till Peter has him outside. I head in after Peter has come back and locked the door behind him. Flushing Kent’s effort to keep hold of himself gives me a moment’s hesitation as I hear Freud diagnosing me an expulsive character.