6/29/2012

The Lower Room daily confessional

I have no idea what his name was. He had the kind of hair that comes from having no comb to brush with, the kind of beard that comes from no razor to shave with. I'm not sure if he had a second change of clothes with him.

He knocked on the door, and asked in a lowered voice if he could sleep back here for the night. He'd be okay with the floor. I basically told him I'd think about it.

Because I hate when this sort of thing happens. I remember J. all too well, who turned the room into a shrine to Grandfather Nurgle and eventually skipped out rather than paying rent, leaving me with a room full of junk and cigarette ash, a bag full of syringes, and not a single change of jeans. I remember another J., who absconded with my computer, containing not only six years' worth of presence (recorded in chat logs) but the backups of those logs, as well as a great deal of music. (And, I'll confess, my porn.) I remember the random homeless, mentally ill lodgers who have been sprung on me overnight, and the lodgers who were neither homeless nor mentally ill but simply imposing asses.

Having shut the door on him, I sat down to spend as much time as I could online, until I remembered that thing. That thing about something something hungry and you fed me, something something least of these, or words to that effect. And, as I do so very well, I turned inward.

Why was I responding this way? Was I afraid of being raped in my sleep? Hell no. I have been in environments where I risked rape in my sleep (i.e. "exactly where I was that night"), but my cold read of the guy sounded no alarms. Was I afraid of being robbed in my sleep? I know all of the things that I value, and it'd be trivially easy to secure them for the night. Was I afraid of crazy? I wasn't afraid. Underneath all the obvious logical concerns, the only reason I'd shrugged the guy off was because he was a mild inconvenience. (He volunteered for the floor. Nobody ever does that.) I was comfortable and didn't want to be discomforted.

I cracked my door open, stepped out of the room, and told the guy that I'd need fifteen minutes to get the room ready, and that my alarm goes off at 8:15 in the morning, every morning. I rearranged the room, pulled out the middle mattress to sleep on. Didn't even consolidate the valuables, just pulled everything together. Said prayers quickly, because Godbothering in front of strangers is not okay. Readied myself for bed in record time.
He came in, lay face down on the mattress, and was asleep almost instantly. Just me, in the dark, lit only by my tablet. And there, in the dark, I thought through that thing I'd remembered, and felt... not guilty; ashamed. The kind of shame that comes with a pop quiz for something you didn't bother studying for, and knowing that you earned your C+ by copying from the person next to you.

There, in the dark, I looked up that thing I was remembering:
"...I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matt. 25:43-6)

And there, in a room lit only by tablet, I hung my head and, softly so as not to get caught, cried.

1 comment:

Mary Ann Kulla said...

When I was working the 2010 Census there was a billboard that read:

"THIS IS ONLY A TEST. IT IS NOT THE FINAL EXAM."

I happen to think you passed the test.

MAK