Freudian Slips: Throwing Shoes

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

March 29, 2011

Throwing Shoes

Scientists claim that genetically human beings are only three people apart. Genetic code understood, it is the interplay of people that come into our lives whose imprint makes our experiences unique.
In my twenty-five year career in human services, I have been rarely caught unprepared but that is what happened when I let the file of a new case sit unattended on my desk. While I only had time to peruse it for a few minutes, it proved enough time to glean a nightmare. I scheduled an initial home visit to explain my agency services because I recognized the immense needs of a disadvantaged disabled teenage girl.
However, weeks later I showed up at this home without the file and only a haunting sketch memory of the cold read of the newest client on my caseload. Doreen sat quietly at the kitchen table of her impoverished home environment. With her head lowered in deliberate shyness, Doreen’s mother explained the reason for her distrust of men. That is when the sordid details of the case came flooding back to me. Suddenly, I didn’t want to be here. I took a deep breathe of compassion and exhaled preconceived notions.
The mother’s face could best be described in the single word of stress. She appeared as though Father Time had worked twice as fast on her watchtower. She warned, “Consider yourself lucky if Dorie doesn’t throw her shoes at you. She does that to all men to let you know she ain’t going anywhere with you and to keep your distance.”
I lifted the vinyl tablecloth covering the round end kitchen table in a quaint suburban home. I looked underneath the table at Doreen, who immediately squirmed.
“Nah, I think Doreen likes me. See that? She is barefoot and has nothing to throw. She’s not giving me the boot just yet. I think she trusts me as her social worker.”
A smile ruptured on her infantile face. A giddy laugh squeaked out before she caught its contagiousness like too much of a good thing turned bad. After that inroad, Doreen began to warm up to me but her soft voice seemed congruent with her damaged self image and low self esteem. She deferred to her mother in the beginning until I eased her with more simpleton humor. After the first hour, she began to maintain eye contact. She started to intently listen and related her ambitions in concrete terms…first with single word phrases expounded by her mother then actual burgeoning conversation starters. She became my favorite client because of what I perceived to be her sense of survival to endure.
Her biological father languished behind bars for unspeakable felonies. Before his incarceration, Jed led a relatively quite life by repeatedly physically abusing Doreen’s mother’s body to the point of his removal from the house via restraining order. Jed's exodus occurred not before the children witnessed the domestic abuse during their impressionable developmental years. Doreen’s mental retardation made these pivotal years arrested development in more ways than one. Raising two daughters and a son by herself below poverty levels, Doreen’s mother next took in a transient man for financial support and to help parent the children. The man decided to sexually abuse the fledgling daughters behind closed doors of mistrust. For the next eight years, he violated both children. Unbeknownst to the mother, it turned out to be a family secret reinforced by not only threats of harm against the children if they told anyone but eventually Doreen’s older sister ending up the strangled victim in an unsolved murder. God saved Doreen’s brother of harm maybe by only gender design.
Like a breath of fresh air, Doreen fondled a live flower bouquet on the kitchen table for a second time.
As I worried if they were for her sister’s grave, I had to ask anyway. “Doreen, what do you want to tell me about those flowers?”
The mother answered overtop her daughter’s slow to move lips. “She excels at horticulture. That floral arrangement won first prize in a juried exhibition. Dorie wants your approval.”
Doreen reached and raised the flowers to my nose. I smelled its marvelous fragrance then complimented her creativity.
The mother seemed pleased by the bonding. “Your’e doing remarkable with her. Dorie doesn’t open up to adult men. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Doreen put down the flowers and got up and retrieved her purse. She reached into her private stock and pulled out a color brochure of a nearby apartment complex. I learned in conversation that the complex dedicated a few new units for subsidized housing. She showed me the schematic floor plan by pointing emphatically to a 12x10 bedroom. It was already established that she slept on a couch, suffered flashback nightmares and relied on tranquilizers to gain shut eye. Doreen knew my role in her life and I already knew where she was headed. She just needed help getting there. I inferred that Doreen wanted me to fund the move to a new apartment to exorcise the demons of this falling down house of horrors.
I leaned as close as Doreen let me without invading her personal space. I lowered my voice to just above a whisper. “If I could assist, would you bring your shoes with you to your new home or go barefoot?”
She answered, “I’ll keep the shoes on my feet there. I promise.”
Doreen took the life out me like flowers dying in the hard sun. This social worker broke the eye contact that he worked so hard to establish with his client. I turned away to let the salty tear finish running down my stunned cheek. No file review could have prepared me for this heavy moment anyway. If human beings are indeed only three people apart, because of the last two evil men in her life it only took two good people to feel as one. I never felt more compassion to any other child so quickly in my life.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thankx Joe,a great read. RFV gardens

9:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Joe! I hope you're able to help this family get into that new apartment.

I had an interaction yesterday withone of the girls from the special needs dance class that my wife assists teaching. To think a man could violate a childs' innocence, let alone one with special needs is the worst thing I could ever hear.

My prayers will be with this family.


10:04 AM  

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