Filed in Work, Social Justice

In the Land of the First Noble Truth

Robert Hirschfield

Wisdom Collection

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We had just opened our building in lower Manhattan when we saw smoke sliding out from under Rooster Vargas's door. My then supervisor, a sultry woman in her mid-twenties who did not know what she was getting into (and who soon became conveniently pregnant and left), pounded on Rooster's door. She got no response. She barged into his room with a fire extinguisher so shiny and immaculate it resembled a religious object.

We found a chicken defrosting under a scalding shower. Rooster had gone shopping.

Seven years have since past. Rooster's residence is without Rooster. After interminably shooting up, snorting, tormenting staff, inflicting on other residents his bug-laden cart that clung to him like a second body, Rooster was evicted. I am still a case manager at the forty-four-unit independent housing facility run by my agency for people who are mentally ill (there are also rooms for people who are handicapped, either physically or financially).

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