I think I've sufficiently, passive-aggressively pissed off the Cuban so he'll stop calling. I am a bad person. The Cuban, call him Juan, is an old resident of the program where I work. He moved out years ago, yet he and I had a nice rapport (read: he totally loved me and I tolerated him) so, after he moved, he'd still come by now and then to visit.
Scroll forward, I stop working regular shifts for several months, he moves out to a suburb with no good public transportation and we fall out of touch for a long time. Scroll forward again and he bumps into a mutual acquaintance downtown at a doctor's appointment and learns that I'm back working regular shifts, so he starts calling me at work once or twice a week to chat. Fine. No big deal. He even manages to get rides every now and then to downtown while I'm working and I take a break and meet him for coffee. He's a nice guy. I like him ok. It means a lot to him. Whatever.
Ok, scroll forward one more time. The calls stop coming and several months pass and I wonder what became of him but I don't exactly lose sleep over it. Mysterious and misdirected documents arrive at my workplace that indicate that he lost his housing and ended up in the hospital, but I'm not sure when or why. Finally he calls and it turns out he went off his meds (as lots of people do when they've been feeling so good for so long that they forget it's the meds that helped them start feeling good in the first place) and he got pretty psychotic, lost his housing, ended up homeless and crazy, etc., and finally ended up in the state hospital.
"Oh, nina," he told me. "I was so crazy. I was going up and down the streets looking for you. Calling for you. 'My angel! My angel!'"
Wow. I don't want to be his angel and I wasn't excited to hear that I'd been figuring into his hallucinations. He started calling me at work every night from the state hospital and I humored him for a long time, even though the calls were pretty tedious and repetitive. I started finding reasons to end them sooner and sooner. Eventually he told me he was being moved to a hospital in another part of the state and I was secretly excited by the possibility that he'd be unable to make long-distance calls from his new hospital. I was wrong. He kept calling. Eventually he was moved back to Portland and that's when he started begging me to come visit him. Begging. I avoided it over and over by claiming to be busy, claiming to have camping plans out of town for the weekends, etc, etc. Eventually, my excuses became frail and thin and worn to nothing.
How do you tell somebody stuck in a mental hospital that you aren't going to come visit them because you simply don't want to? You just don't feel like it. "Sorry, man. I just don't care that much about you." I mean, as a pseudo-social worker, there are ways I'm supposed to handle this kind of thing. I can try and deflect the invitations so as not to hurt his feelings, which I did. I can also say something like, "I'm sorry, but I'm not supposed to meet clients outside of work. It's company policy." Unfortunately, I'd rendered that one void by meeting him for coffee several times already. What to do...
So I caved and went to see him a few weeks ago. It wasn't so bad. I considered it an educational experience, my first time visiting anyone in a mental hospital. We sat in a stark, empty visiting room for about an hour and had the same kind of conversations we'd been having on the phone for a month. Boring. A lot of not-quite-inappropriate-yet-still-creepy stuff about how much he misses me and the good times when he used to live where I work, etc. Fine. Ok. He kept referencing some things he wanted to talk to me about, really important things, really private things, but he never actually talked about any of these things and finally, when I looked at the clock and told him I needed to leave, his face fell through the floor and he said, "Nina, I never got to tell you what I needed to tell you!" He was pleading again. I said, "We'll have another chance." By then I was backing out of the door and avoiding a half-attempted hug.
Of course I didn't want to have another chance and the next night at work he called and started asking when I'd be able to come back. What now? I was annoyed and wanted to say, "Juan, I just saw you. Relish the memories and quit begging." But instead I went back to quietly putting him off. Busy, sorry, working extra-shifts this weekend, going out of town, whatever. The begging got so annoying, so insistent, I started avoiding his calls. I made my coworkers answer the phone whenever it rang between certain hours and they all dutifully told him various lies.
I learned the hard way that, even though he'd been told that I went home sick, he might still call back an hour later to try again. I answered the phone one night, thinking I was in the clear, and I almost choked when I heard his voice, "Oh nina! What happened? Were you sick??" I told stupid lies about feeling bad and going to lay down but deciding to stay at work rather than go home. He started sounding doubtful. Then he asked if I could come see him Thursday. Christ.
My coworker, Mohawk, came in and saw me in such obviously bad circumstances and said, loudly, "Hey, I need to talk to you about something really important." I cupped the mouthpiece of the phone and searched her face, "Really?" "Yeah. It's really important." I honestly didn't know until I'd gotten off the phone that she was just trying to help me out. Thanks. Meanwhile, Juan was deeply suspicious. "Call me tomorrow night," I heard myself saying as he asked again if I'd come Thursday. "Really?" He asked. "Yeah, really." "Really??" "Yeah. Really." Click. Goddamn.
And that was the last time I actually talked to him. All last week, I managed to avoid his calls with help from coworkers. I knew he was probably getting mad enough not to call back when I listened to one side of an exchange he had with Chubby last Wednesday night. Chubby said, "She's unavailable." (I prefer they just say I went home, but who am I to get pushy when I'm asking people to lie for me?) Then he said it again. Then a pause. "Dude," Chubby said. "She's UN-AVAILABLE." He sounded like the jealous boyfriend I never had. It was great. Chubby hung up and shrugged at me. "He just kept saying, 'is she available or is she no available?'" Poor guy.
I waited Monday night and refused to answer the phone, yet no calls came from Juan. Same story last night. So, mission accomplished. Now he's mad at me because he thinks I'm avoiding him and he's not calling anymore -- all that, and I never had to actually say: "hey, dude, I don't want to visit you and I don't want to talk to you every single night that I work." I'm still not one-hundred-percent sure which method of handling this situation would've been better, but I'm at least satisfied to be where I'm at having taken such a spineless, easy path.
Now I can wonder what's happening to his mental health, now that his angel has dissed him. I'd feel worse, I guess, if I was anything other than an object to him. He doesn't really know me, doesn't really care about me as a person. I'm just a cute-enough girl who he doesn't fully understand was being *paid* to listen to him and hang out with him all those evenings in the past when he lived where I worked and when we used to sit around in the Drop In Center together, listening to Hoot sing Journey songs and laughing. Those were fun times and those fun times are over. Sorry Juan.