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Opinion | Dec 28, 2018

The America That Is Not For Me: Part 3

The America That Is Not For Me: Part 3

I began working for my new employer in earnest.
I was assigned to a house of seven children whose ages ranged from nine to seventeen. Though I had previously worked with and cared for persons with a mélange of developmental and intellectual disabilities, this was the first time ever that I was going to work with and care for a young cohort of wonderful human beings with similar challenges.

I was happy to begin working in this challenging environment because I knew I will have another opportunity to learn more about the innermost secrets of the human mind although, quite frankly, I have not been successful in bringing myself to accept, appreciate or understand how my own mind works.

The human brain is indeed a flowery cosmology of hidden secrets whose inner workings and existential character remain largely unfathomable to the intelligent plumbing, prying eye of scientific inquiry.

I am of the view that it’s this engaging cosmology of hidden secrets that probably assigns each person the malleable stamp of individuality, of intellectual and physiological and temperamental uniqueness, and, far from the marked variegations we see in the caliber of human character and behavior, one cannot deny the unassailable fact that the rallying commonalities we see in the cornucopia of human nature probably make for the unifying oneness of humanity.

This is where racists and essentialists and male chauvinists and nativists and biosocial ethicists and philosophers and feminists come in.

However, I will not overstate the fact that these children couldn’t care less about the entrenched position views of these disparate camps of provocative schools of thought.

Rather, they care more about the pedestrian needs and wants of life. Simply, bread-and-butter convenience.

An ever-flowing jelly of happiness liberally splashed across the insides of these bread-and-butter matters was all that mattered to these children.

This is not to say working with children is a slam dunk. Of course children can also sometimes be smarter and more accommodating than adults. For one thing, I cannot imagine children dropping violent hurricanes and tornadoes of neutron and atomic bombs on each other’s playing niche on the basis of misplaced economic priorities and political misadventure in international relations. And for another, a child’s formative character is more plastic than an adult’s.

But these innocent-looking children proved me wrong.

These children, it turned out, did in fact play with violent hurricanes and tornadoes of neutron and atomic bombs as though they were playing with toys.

In their moments of abject dissatisfaction with anything, say unhappiness, hunger, and unfulfillment, these children rallied salvos of feces and unleashed them upon staff.

I experienced an instantial weight of this carefully orchestrated coup d’état of fecal bombs upon my person on a couple of occasions―experiences that have remained with me to this day―for no apparent reasons.

These experiences were quite different from another experience I had while working with and caring for developmentally and intellectually challenged adults in New York.

A client from my group defecated on himself, a diarrheic explosion for that matter, and I took him to the bathroom for a thorough cleanup. I got him new clothes after the bath, following which we rejoined the group, thankfully with no further diarrheic accident taking place even as we readied the clients for their parents, wards and staff to pick them up and send them to their residences for the night.

I later rejoined other members of staff to complete the day’s load of paperwork.

Suddenly a cloud of suspicion began circling over us. One staff member began sidling up to another staff member. In fact staff members went to the extent of stiffing each other. This goat-like sniffing stopped when the owner of the company arrived in the building in the company of a coterie of visitors―unannounced. Others cupped their hands over their noses.

No one got to me let alone sniff me.
The owner of the company and his coterie of visitors disappeared into absolute nothingness, and yet the unlimited freedom this inexplicable disappearance offered us did nothing to resurrect the shameful act of sniffing and staff sidling up to each other.

Even so a deprecating sense of fecal miasma hung in the claustrophobic space we packed ourselves into, a stifling cubicle that choked staff members’ rhinal comfort all of a sudden.

An unspoken consensus emerged that someone, one of us, had released a devastating torrent of flatulence.

A cloud of silence appeared over the conscious space above our sense of collective guilt thereby sparing the unidentified, unspoken guilty character hiding amongst us of collective blame, of verbal flagellation, of self-criticism.

A war of silence indeed.
Fortunately, we completed our individual paperwork assignments in no time and clocked out one after the other.

I got on a train and began to read, an activity I always engaged myself in after hectic days of work.

I turned to the last two pages of Armah’s controversial debut novel The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, a book difficult to put down.

Then I began to notice passengers acting strangely and with some measure of discomfort around me, with some blocking their nostrils, and others pinching their noses clumsily.

Others still refused to sit by me or anywhere in the corner I occupied, especially to me left. These passengers looked suspiciously at me as though I was from another planet―on an uninvited terrestrial visit.

I was forced to take a long and hard look at my left shirt sleeve following the teasing glare of passengers.

I was now a spectacle.
I was now an alternative fact, alternative news!
It wasn’t long before I spotted what looked like semi-dry stains of fecal matter on my left shirt sleeve, a semi-solid time bomb innocently perched on the comfort of my left sleeve.

That was when the strange stiffing context dawned on me, an unwitting bearer of fecal matter. I had been carrying the dissembled burden of fecal insignia all along, a covetous prize for my hard work. What a dedicated friend I had in a job I loved so dearly!

I thought hard. This fecal matter certainly must have come from my client, the one I had showered for drowning in an intimidating stench of his own diarrheic explosion.

How come I didn’t notice this?
And how come my co-workers didn’t notice it? No one may’ve noticed it because the silent color of the fecal matter blended in so neatly with the ferocious multicolored context of my shirt.

This gloss did eventually explain the full magnitude of the paralyzing stench that suddenly hit my nostrils on the train―as never before.

I vividly recall this peculiar smell following me after I had given the client a shower, an acknowledgment I quickly dismissed as the lazy outcome of an entrenched familiarity I had developed on the basis of giving this client a shower every time he defecated on himself.

In other words, I had developed this special sense of smell in direct response to a fixed particularity of this client’s fecal characteristics, of course a habituation that is difficult to explain convincingly. A characteristic sense of foreign smell that was integral to my physiological wellbeing, to my newfound identity―clearly defined by my professional relationship with clients who were strangers to their incontinent condition. For that matter, life was very wicked, uncaring, inherently unkind, inhumane and dangerously unpredictable. And to top it off, I loved my clients in spite of their intrinsic shortcomings.

For lack of a better expression, this theory potentially turned me into a coprophilic robot of sorts, something I actually wasn’t. I merely was doing my job, and the fecal matter may’ve got there inadvertently and stolen part of my identity in relative secrecy, a nominalist negation of my immanent intentions, you bet!

So what did I do? I removed the soiled shirt as soon as I got off the train and folded it up and put it in a trash can and then walked home shirtless, my shirtless upper body and the lower part of my body drowned in the thick of darkness.

Going shirtless was a very difficult decision for me to make but―for lack of a better alternative―I chose to go along with it anyway as I became more conscious of the haunting, burning smell than ever before. Strangers bombarded me with curious, cold stares but I managed to blend in with the pitch blackness of nature. I didn’t even mind if I were mistaken for an outgoing deranged scarecrow of a human being. I did get home eventually and went straight to the bathroom, my household and the apartment complex on a snoring pillow talk.

New York loved to embarrass me. And others―mostly Africans and people of African descent.

Embarrassing truths I found lying in wait, even in plain sight, when I began taking on my official tasks in connection with my new employment goals and objectives.

These embarrassing truths which are also self-evident are part and parcel of America’s race relations and of institutional behavior.

My New York employment story and experiences therefore became my Colorado employment story and experiences. Oh no, not again! New York becoming more like Colorado? Colorado becoming more like New York? I guess so. But more on my new job in Colorado in later pages when I discuss my reasons for going to nursing school.

At this stage I will completely ignore the imperial mindsets of the apostles and evangelists of post-racial America.

Nothing of the sort truly exists, the American Dream!

A figment of the imagination, the American Dream!
The American Dream that is also an attractive utopia!

Let's go for it!

Francis Kwarteng
Francis Kwarteng, © 2018

This author has authored 549 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: franciskwarteng

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