As Long As You Know


I must have the worst sense of timing in the universe…or the universe has the worst sense of timing around me. One of the two. Either way, I seem to be the common denominator. Perhaps this is a touch self-centered, but I am inclined to be in a melodramatic mood at the moment. My patience is leaving me, escaping with every sigh I’m trying to repress. Somewhere along the way in my years as a CNA, I’ve developed the habit of rubbing my temples when I’m trying not to show my exasperation. It’s a useful little gesture as it almost completely obscures my eyes…my eyes which have never learned how to lie. My eyes which show everything I am feeling.
Including my current desire to throw myself down and show Mrs. S that she’s not the only one who can pitch a world-class tantrum. I feel a sudden swell of sympathy with Mrs. S’s long-gone parents: she must have been a hellion of a toddler and my goodness can she ever yell. All that’s missing is a little leg-thrashing and pillow punching.
Her entire vocabulary has boiled down to a single proper word–no–and those meaningless syllables that kids use to mimic and taunt each other. In this particular instance, I seem to be the other kid. At least, in her head. I’m fairly certain I did not toss my head from side to side screaming “wah-wah-wah” in a high-pitched, shriek-y tone.
If that’s what I really sound like, I think tiredly, I’m taking a vow of silence right here and right now. Well, that’s something. I might not have any patience left, but my sarcasm has not yet deserted me. Good old sarcasm: it’s seen me through many of crisis. I need to think of some way to handle this, but I’m just too tired to think. Instead I sink down to the floor, rest my back against the wall and bury my face in my hands.
The jeering stops after a minute. I peek through my fingers to see Mrs. S peering at me. Silence–and then:
“Would you like me to kick you in the face?” she asks, quite calmly.
“Um,” I reply, “no. Not really, thanks.”
We just sit there, her on the bed, me on the floor, and stare at each other. I’m in rumpled scrubs, looking, I imagine, quite harassed; she’s in filthy clothes nobody’s been able to get her out of for two days, looking quite put-upon. The silence stretches on again as we continue to regard the other with exasperation.
“I’m not a child,” she says suddenly, fiercely, coherently.
“No,” I respond, “you’re not. You are, however, being rather mean to me.”
Her foot swings out towards me, I jump back on reflex–but she’s not trying to kick me. She’s giving me access to the shoe that needs to come off so I can change her clothes. “Well,” she says, for all the world like she hadn’t two minutes ago been reduced to words to one syllable, “just so long as you know I’m not a child.”
And just like that, I appear to have won the argument. She allows me to change her clothes and, for good measure, her brief. I’m stunned but still possessed of enough sense not to comment.

It’s not until later, after I’ve left the facility, that I’m able to think back to the start of the incident and realize what triggered it. I had tried to soften the explanation of why I had to change her clothes; I had tried to sugar-coat it, sweet-talk her. In short, she felt like I had been babying her and had responded in kind. It’s hard, when my instinct is to protect them, handle them gently…it’s hard to realize that sometimes brutal honesty is the appropriate approach.
I drive home, feeling a touch amused (I mean, what did she expect me to say: “yes please, kick me in the face”) and a touch sad for her. I decide to stick with amused. I don’t think Mrs. S would appreciate my pity.

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