He lives alone. He can’t live alone. Knowing those contradictions, denying their implications, Jerry and I made arrangements to bring Tim up to our house “temporarily.”
Meanwhile, we “fixed up” his apartment as if he could come back to it. (Technically, because of some fast talking from a lawyer who charged all the owners in the building to pay him an obscene amount of money to re-register our apartments as “condos,” Tim’s studio apartment–broken windows, ancient plumbing, defunct wall heater, barely functional stove and refrigerator, built-in cupboards and dressers with drawers permanently stuck half-open or shut, not to mention the termites and roaches–is a condominium.)
With Tim’s guidance, I rounded up his important papers, his meds (which he has been taking only haphazardly), his reading glasses (and both back-up pairs for when he loses them), his (actually our) magnifying glass, his list of phone contacts, the discs for his computer games, his current reading, and every piece of clothing and bedding lying around that could be run through a washing machine.
Jerry replaced the broken glass slats in the louvers. He installed a grab bar next to Tim’s tub. He swept and scrubbed the wooden floor within an inch of its life. Tim watched him mop the kitchen floor. Something sticky had spilled all over it. Tim didn’t remember what. He said, “It’s a good thing I don’t have any shame or I’d be ashamed–” Of the condition of his apartment or of our doing this work for him, I’m not sure. Maybe both.
I had noticed an occasional cockroach–I try never to touch anything there and I wash my hands as soon as I get home–but when we picked up a box of trash to take it out, I saw a horde of newborns race for cover. We would have to come back and fumigate–soon.
Jerry stripped the bed–“I don’t think those sheets have ever been washed,” Tim mused–and dragged the disgusting mattress and pillow to the trash behind the building.
We emptied and unplugged the fridge.
We brought all Tim’s clothes and bedding up to our house, as far as the garage, and we washed everything over the next couple of days. His mattress pad disintegrated in the washer.
“You know,” Tim said, “there’s no need to wash Levi’s. Levi’s just go and go and go.” He said it again later. He was adamant.
“We have to wash everything that was in that filthy place,” I said.
“Oh, that’s right. You told me.”
“I promise I’ll never wash them again.” I don’t know why I said that.
We bombed the roaches and left the “condo” closed up for two days. Tim protested mildly, “You don’t have to kill the roaches. I don’t mind them.” I told him, “I mind them! They’re on your silverware, you say they eat your pills. I mind them!”
All that we did made the apartment somewhat cleaner, if still short of inhabitable, but even with the grab bar I don’t feel it makes it safe. I have no intention of letting Tim go back to that dump again–ever. If I have anything to do with it, I will never let him live alone again anywhere, so help me, God.