The Carer

“Simon, I’m going to quit on Friday.” Nick said, running a hand through his wavy hair.

“Bro, it’s your third day. You’re going to quit after only three days?” Simon replied. He was a colossal black man with a mustache and cockney accent.

“Josh doesn’t like me. He attacked me yesterday, because I shouted at him.”

“Nick, do you think you’re the first person in care to have ever been attacked? Josh has kicked me before.”

“Yeah, but I just thought Josh was bipolar. I thought I’d be only be dealing with mood swings.”

Simon kissed his teeth. “Let me be straight with you. People who say bipolar is just mood swings don’t know nothing. Bipolar is when one moment you’re on top of the world and the next you want to kill yourself. And you know that Josh is autistic and has ADHD as well. If we’re going to get technical he lacks a corpus callosum, but you don’t need to know that. What you need to know is that even though Josh attacked you, he does like you. You’re good with him and you’re 21. You aint never done care before, but you’ll learn from your mistakes. Remember, be kind but firm. Don’t shout at him, because he aint gonna respond -”

“Simon, sister come?”

Josh barged into the office. He was eighteen and six feet tall. Built like a chubby bull, he had messy black hair and a neckbeard. His face was physically distorted.

Simon sighed and held up his watch for Josh to see. “It’s 11:50. Your sister’s coming at midday.”

“Sister come now?”

“Hey, Josh, do you want to jump on the trampoline with me and Vijay?” Nick suggested, being careful not to sound angry.

“Yeah jump. Simon jump too?”

“Sorry, bro, I need to work.”

“You work, you good boy. I like your hair.” Josh ran a hand over Simon’s hairless head.

“Nick, when he does this, it’s a real sensory experience. He understands the world through his touch.”

Nick nodded and ushered Josh through the care home. They went through the living room where a house phone was standing in one corner, and out into the garden where Vijay was already on the trampoline. Vijay was a short Indian man with a friendly smile.

The three of them began jumping making Josh cheer with delight. He then spoke to Nick.

“Do flip.”

“Why don’t you do a flip?” Nick countered.

“No you.”

Nick shrugged and threw himself head over heels into the air. His whole world spun around and he landed flat on his back. He stood up and grimaced. Josh was laughing his head off and all three of them began jumping again. Nick smiled, as he saw how much fun Josh was having. Laughter was streaming out of his mouth and his cheers could be heard on the other side of London. Nick found it difficult to believe this was the same boy who had attacked him the day before. Josh’s laugh was infectious and Nick couldn’t help, but join in. To see Josh like this made Nick understood exactly why Vijay and Simon did carework.

“Sister come yet?”

Nick checked his watch and saw it was 12:30. Josh’s sister was late.

“Let’s keep jumping. She’ll be here soon.”

“No more jump.” Josh unsteadily climbed off the trampoline and ran back into the house. He went to the office followed by Vijay and Nick.

“Where sister?” Josh asked.

“She’s late, bro.”

“Call sister?”

“I’ll call her at one.”

“You call sister? Yay, I love Simon, I love Simon, I love Simon.” Josh hugged Simon and started kissing his face.

Nick and Vijay were cracking up with laughter, but Nick decided to intervene by suggesting that Josh help them cook scrambled eggs for lunch. Josh helped them by pouring in too much milk and enough chili powder to make the eggs hotter than a Saharan Summer. Even so, he was still proud of himself, which Nick loved seeing. Josh ate the food, spilling it down his front.

At 1, Simon explained that he couldn’t reach Josh’s sister. He suggested that they watch a film for now, but Josh shook his head.

“Get ready for sister.” Josh sprinted upstairs with Nick and Vijay in tow. Through the open bathroom door, they could see Josh brushing his teeth and gelling his hair.

“Look at that,” Vijay marvelled, “I’ve never seen him do this before.”

Josh went into his bedroom and called for Nick and Vijay. Nick joined him and saw that Josh had taken off his sweat and food-stained tracksuit. He was holding out some smart clothes.

“Help me look nice for sister.”

Nick smiled and helped Josh dress. Afterwards, they went downstairs and began watching a film. But as time pressed on, Josh started pacing and biting his nails. Everytime he heard a noise, he ran to the door, only to return downtrodden.

At 3 o’clock, Simon came into the room looking annoyed. “I have some bad news, bro. I was just on the phone with your sister. She aint coming no more.”

“No sister? I want sister.”

Nick felt his heart wince at the pain in Josh’s voice. “I’m sorry, Josh. Did she say why she couldn’t come?”

Simon kissed his teeth. “Of course she didn’t. Josh, I feel every ounce of your pain. She’s three hours late with no phone call and then she cancels on you like this. It aint right, but it’s what happened and there aint nothing we can do about it. Let’s go park, yeah?”

“No. I want sister,” Josh snatched up the house phone, “call sister.”

“Bro, I already called her. I’m so angry. She knows how you are and she still does this. But there aint nothing we can do. Let’s go to the park and play some footie.”

“No. Sister now.” Josh threw the phone against the wall, obliterating it. Before anyone could stop him, he ran out of the living room and to the front door. He opened it and started running up the pavement. In a blur, Simon was chasing after him. Nick stayed by the house with Vijay. He was too far away to hear the conversation, but he saw Josh spit at Simon and try to punch him. Simon marched back.

“He’s bluffing. Leave him be. He’ll be too scared to go any further. He’ll come back.”

Nick shook his head and ran after Josh, ignoring Simon’s warnings to stop. He knew he was breaking procedure. Josh was a 3-on-1 client for a reason, but Nick couldn’t worry about procedure. Josh was the priority.

Nick caught up with Josh, and careful to give him a wide berth, began talking to him.

“Josh, we have to go back. It’s not safe for you to be here.”

“Go away.”

“I can’t do that. I’m here to help you. We need to go back.”

Josh ignored him and carried on walking. Nick sighed. They were a long way from the house; he couldn’t give up now.

“Josh, your sister lives too far away for you to find her.”

“Why sister not coming?” Josh stopped walking and turned to Nick. His eyes were watery and his voice was breaking.

“I’m sorry, buddy. Let’s go home.”

“No sister. Sister not coming. I want sister.” Josh broke down crying and clutched onto Nick. Nick held onto him and allowed Josh to cry. He could feel his heart breaking, as he heard Josh’s howls. He started leading him back to the house.

“I hear what you say to Simon,” Josh said, while clinging onto Nick, “you say you leave. I don’t want you to leave. Nick, no leave.”

“I won’t leave, buddy.” Nick said, and he meant it.

They returned to the house and passed by Vijay and Simon who were in the office. Nick sat on the living room sofa and Josh rested his head on his shoulder. After fifteen minutes, Simon called Nick into the office, while Vijay stayed with Josh.

“Firstly, I need to apologise. I shouldn’t have let you go out there on your own. I was just angry. You did well though, I’ll be sad to see you go.”

“I’m not leaving. I’m staying. Josh overheard us speaking earlier. He doesn’t want me to leave and neither do I. Despite what happened, I care about him. Seeing him cry broke my heart.”

“I’m so happy to hear that. I know what you mean. As a big black man, I aint afraid to say I want to cry when I see him in distress. Let’s go tell him.”

Nick went to the living room where Vijay and Josh were waiting.

“Josh, I have something to tell you. I’m not leaving, buddy.”

“You no leave?” Josh screamed out.

“I’m not leaving.”

“Yay. I love Nick. I love Nick. I love Nick.” Josh pulled Nick into a crushing embrace.

Nick laughed. “I love you too buddy.”

Author’s Notes:

This is something I wrote for my local Carers organisation.  They were holding a competition for short stories and poetry based around the theme of caring.  I recently completed a brief stint as a caregiver, so I decided to write a short story based around my experiences.  This story is very much true to life.  In one way or another, all of the events in this story happened in real life.

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