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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Matt's Bathroom

This morning, most of the service teams started out in the field early. They had come and gone before I took the stairs just before sunrise. I made the coffee, greeted the parakeets and betta fish, opened up all the programs I run every moment I'm at work . . . . and stepped out onto the deck to watch the fiery ball of light squirt up over Sunrise Mountain into a pale blue sky brushed with peach clouds. Matt arrived soon - on time today - and I was almost disappointed because I enjoyed the quiet, familiar surroundings in the cool air. For a wonder, there was little in my ears right then. Maybe just the least bit of traffic noise coming from Rainbow and Sahara at 6:45 a.m. I knew my reverie would screech to a halt as I watched him climb the stairs. For when Matt and Limes are in a room, there are words and noise to behold. "Mornin', Limes." "Hey, Matt."

Ours is no different from any other flock of seagulls. Natural pairings and groupings occur for different reasons. Some of us have an affinity for others that probably can't be explained. I probably have some magnetism for being both oldest and the only female. David commented long ago that the only way he learns anything about one of the homes is through me. That man seeks me out for company and discussion regularly, whereas some of the others seek out David. There is no strain about who goes to whom. These are simply observations about people connecting with others.

It happens that Matt seeks out both David and I - frequently. He talks and asks about everything in the world. He is 22 years old and you've already read my words about how intelligent and artistic he is. But I've never stated outright that Matt is a hard case. When he is having fun, the entire neighborhood can hear him bellow like a bull moose in the lot between the vans. When he is messing up and is called to task, the din from behind closed doors is frightening.

I once had to deal with his unruly behavior. I asked one home dude to come in as a witness to the words I was about to deliver. When we started the proceedings, another home dude came to stand beside me out of concern Matt might attack me. He didn't. It was an event that gave rise to a legend - Limes. My bodyguard later went to David to say, "You don't need to worry about who will prevail in an altercation. She is something." One might think this would make Matt run from my presence. He doesn't. We are drawn to one another, maybe because of that dust-up. And once in awhile when we're joking around, I'll hear Matt say, "If you don't watch out, I'll let Limes off of her leash." He talks openly about the time I tore into him. I think he respects me for it.

Matt knows I'm blogging about him today because I told him. I thought to do so after he showed me something that caused me to sit back in my chair and ponder how complex humans are. Layers upon layers of stuff forming a person. Time and experience shaping the raw material. I will now ride the razor's edge attempting not to violate Matt's privacy, but to clearly show the many facets of the young man.

I am slightly older than Matt's parents who seem to be very nice people. They own a small business, reared two sons, enjoy spending time in their RV. It is clear there is a closeness because they come to Matt's aid when he asks for that and Matt is attentive to their needs as his father has muscular dystrophy and sometimes needs assistance. He frequently takes a company van to go to their home to clean carpet as well as tile and grout. His older brother spent some time in the Navy and now has a job, a fiancee and a dog. Cesar says the parents' home is decorated with photos of the boys as they were growing up. Pretty regular folk, it would seem.

Matt says he has Attention Deficit Disorder and was medicated for it. Maybe that's when his education began to derail. For, as bright as he is, by middle school he was attending special programs and he did not graduate from high school. He found the gangs at an age far too young, and went into that life up to the neck. He's experienced incarceration, being shot, seeing a fellow gang member shot dead in front of his eyes. He learned how to make a lot of money illegally at a very tender age, so the notion of "work" at a "job" is newer to Matt. He had a girlfriend for seven years and since she left him, he has not tried to find another. He is incredbily, unbelievably tough and yet we have seen him weep many times. He is full of emotion and angst. Matt and David meeting in a room when Matt is in a spin can be a loud, upsetting event.

Since we have known him, Matt has roomed with his brother, roomed with Cesar, rented a suite at a residence inn, slept in his car for nights on end, and David has offered to let him bunk in the office which has a shower and kitchen facilities. None of this has worked out well. He moves around constantly, all his possessions in his small car. I heard David chewing him out one morning, "Do something about all the *%&# in your car out in that parking lot. If Limes walked past it, it would scare her."

He has lost both grandfathers since coming to work for us. Each time, he flew to the east to attend funerals. Once, he only had enough money for one night in a motel, so he walked around Cleveland for two days and nights. His parents were in a motel in the same city. He did not ask them to help him. They would have.

Months later came the news that one grandfather had left a nice sum of cash to Matt and his brother. This amount would not set up a 22-year-old for life, but it was sizable. He lost his check the day it arrived. Soon enough it was replaced and David pulled him in for a long, serious talk about getting himself together, not gambling the whole sum, not talking about the money in front of everyone who might be quick to ask for a loan. He continued in his usual patterns for weeks, acquiring a pit bull puppy and a pellet gun along the way. Said Limes, quietly, "If ever there was a young man who does not need a puppy and a pellet gun . . . "

And then he asked to take a morning off. He toured apartments. He was approved for one and paid several months rent. He was so excited, he brought me his "new resident packet" to admire. He offered me the coupon it contained for a free smoothie and pointed out the Halloween pumpkin pasted to the cover of the packet. He moved in his few belongings, including his puppy and her gate. He knew to gate her in the rooms with vinyl flooring when he goes to work each day. Soon he was regaling me with stories of the household products and supplies he located at a 99-Cent Emporium. "One of my favorite places, Matt!" The next day he sang about the $25 lamp he found at Target and put together himself. I shared a similar lamp tale I'd experienced. He bought pots, pans and Tupperware. I've offered a set of dishes and drinking glasses for four that Mother Badger sent me when she got new ones. He located a futon (serves the purpose of both sofa and bed) and got a gaming chair. But the best . . . oh, the best . . .

Matt discovered Bed, Bath & Beyond. He likes blue, so he purchased a shower curtain, bath mat, waste basket, drinking glass, toothbrush holder - the same things everyone would buy to start a household. I was a little hard pressed to contain myself when he told me he'd bought a little basket and in it placed small rolled up fingertip towels, "You know, Limes, not for people to use, but just to look nice." "Sure, Matt, that's a nice touch." Justin walked in just as Matt was showing me a picture on his BlackBerry. Justin started to hoot and jump around. "Limes, Limes, wait until you see this!" I looked at the photo, a poor quality BlackBerry shot. It seemed to be his new bathroom and it did look nice. Justin pointed to the top of the toilet tank. "Look, look at that!" I couldn't really tell what it was. Said Matt, "It's a set of bath salts, lotion and shower gel in case any females ever come over, they'll know I'm civilized."

In my ears right now: Laughter remembered. David appears to have the H1N1 flu, which concerns us very much. I chaired staff meeting and told the men about it on Thursday. It cast a little pall on the meeting. I needed to ease the gloom. I announced I had something for Matt, and I did ~ a 20% off any one item coupon from Bed, Bath & Beyond. They all started to roar, but Matt tucked it away in his clipboard very seriously.

Something that charmed me: This whole story. The reminder that no person is one-dimensional, that we're each such a rich tapestry.


  1. This is great Limes, Matt reminds me of so many of the young men I have worked with through years. So many of them have a sensitivity they tried desperately to hide. Well Done!
    Best Wishes to David

  2. I thank you, Sir. David is doing well and plans to come in on Monday for awhile, at least. You can tell I love me some home dude, huh? It's true - I DO! For all kinds of human reasons. My BFF asked me if I had a "crush" on Matt. What???? My 57 to his 22? NO! Just a deep appreciation for a magnificent human being.

  3. I hope Home Dude Matt gets to read this. Obviously written with love. You are very cool.

  4. @ Tag - I read him every word of it. Twice.

    @ The Badger - He's a great human being.

  5. Thanks, OB - I am now being redundant, but he's a beautiful person. He's fascinating because he has so many opposing things going on at the same time.

  6. Judging by that one drawing, Matt looks like he's into manga.

  7. Actually, Kirk, I believe he IS, but that drawing was simply meant to represent me being tough when I had to be.

  8. Maybe someday Matt will make you a star of your own comic book or animated cartoon.

  9. HA, Kirk! I'd be a pretty funny (old) kick-butt heroine fighting for justice and good. You just made me laugh right out loud.

  10. Oh, yeah, I've got that looking-over-the-top-of-the-glasses thing perfected. But I'm at my best when the situation calls for some well-chosen words.

  11. Badger, I thank you for the vote of confidence! I seem to show a slight talent in that direction, or so says Matt.