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A Day in the Life (Sans Escalation)

You are a freelance translator. You work from home. Due to the nature of your work coming in from different time zones, your typical day begins at midnight till three or five in the morning, with a second shift at noon to six in the evening. Supposing you had many things to do all at once, you may occasionally find yourself pulling a few hours spare both ways. You spend the hours between six to about eleven in the evening catching up on chores and preparing the food you may be eating over the next day. Any hours you have left, at any point in the day, you try to sleep.

You have a nineteen-year-old brother. At age nine, he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder and a variety of allergies. Careful diet restrictions early in his life have ensured he has grown up relatively free-er of his allergies, but the ADD and behavioral problems are not helped by lapses into poor nutrition. Like all Asperger's sufferers, he has a fixation, in this case, automobiles. It is predominantly the only topic he will really talk about, or will revolve his conversations around. He is currently a normal University student. He spends his time doing homework, chatting with his friends over the Internet till very late, attending classes, and crashing on deadlines. He has poor facial expression recognition, he has a poor understanding of metaphor and does not generally recognize different tones in speech for their emotional value. He passes off easily as a normal, clumsy late teenager.

You have been given the task of looking after your large family home, the accompanying garden, and the boy who lives in it. With regards to the boy, you have been given standing orders to provide one meal a day, usually dinner; ensure that laundry is done; dole out pocket money as needed and see to any emergencies.

You start your day by waking up from a short nap at about half past midnight. You walk out into the kitchen, and find every light in the house on -- your brother is scared of the dark. All the curtains are open, as are the sliding doors. You shut off the unecessary lights and shut the curtains. You bypass your brother's work area, where plates have been stacked five pieces high, because he does not bring them to the sink sometimes, and though you will sometimes remind him they're there and worry about cockroaches, you do not feel it is your responsibility to take dishes off his desk.

You made mushroom rice, miso soup, stir fried tomatoes and french beans and stir fried chicken and chives for dinner. You left these dishes in their respective pots or containers in the kitchen, expecting your brother to serve himself when he was ready to eat. Your brother preferred to have instant noodles for dinner, which he made himself. You find the colanders, strainer and measuring jug he used for this task on the kitchen counter. There are stains on the counter of the sauce mixes from the noodle's packet. There is a very strong smell of additional soy seasoning he added to his noodles. He has not replaced the bottle of seasoning he took from the pantry. The empty bowl and cutlery he'd eaten his dinner with is at his place on the dining table.

You begin by clearing the counter and washing the cooking implements he used. You do not care about his used dinnerware on the table. You wipe down the counter and pack away the food you cooked, as it will not keep in the open.

At half past one, you sit down at your computer to begin your first shift. In the next room, the first of your brother's five alarm clocks goes off at 3:30AM. They continue to beep, one after the other, at half hour intervals since then. It is a relatively slow day, so you're able to stop work at 5AM. Your brother has a midterm test that morning. Since it's a weekend, he might have trouble obtaining a bus, so you decide you'll drive him to school. He isn't awake yet, and while his alarms have still been going off, you decide to let him have a little more sleep.

Since your brother may have a long day ahead, and you're often asleep by the time he usually heads to school, you decide to make some breakfast for him to help with his test. You shred carrots for a vinaigrette. You know with his instant noodle diets, your brother has been skipping most of his vegetables. It's not altruistic -- you miss having salads and good nutrition too. You throw together an apple and lettuce salad. You defrost some chicken rendang your mother left in the freezer and heat up a portion for him. You reheat a portion of the rice from the night before, and miso soup. You don't feel like rice yourself, so you make yourself a bowl of noodles, with the same salad as a side dish.

At 6:00AM, you wake up your brother. He is angry he has been woken up inordinately late. He had intended to wake up at 4AM, both to catch a bus at 6:50AM, and to study (before and when he reached school). You reassure him he will arrive at school before 8AM, and the reason you woke up him later was because you would be driving him to school. He continues to grumble about the lateness of the hour as he gets himself ready.

While assembling your tea, he comes out of the bathroom, mumbling because he has a mouthful of toothpaste but still managing to shout at you, about how his electric toothbrush is unable to start up. You test the toothbrush. It's quite dead. He is frantic about brushing his teeth. You inform him there are new normal toothbrushes in the bathroom. He goes back inside. You hear some doors banging. He comes out half a minute later yelling at you because he can't find any. You tell him they're at the back of the cupboard under the sink -- the only cupboard in that entire room -- on the bottom shelf. There are more loud noises from the bathroom, but since he doesn't come out for another ten minutes, you assume he's found everything he needs.

When he finishes dressing, he storms out and starts packing his bags. You inform him there is breakfast. He is frantic because he is afraid he'll be late. You ask him for the time of his paper, and it is at 8:30AM. It is now 6:30AM. You tell him he has time for breakfast, and you do guarantee he'll be at school before 8AM. You both sit down to your food. He samples his salad and tells you it's not cold enough. You note that the salad has been out for at least half an hour between preparation and his eating it. He complains the vinaigrette is sour. You tell him it's a vinaigrette. He prefers his salad dressing to be just salty, because he thinks the apples are tart enough. He tries the soup, and states that there is something weird about the base. You tell him it's a clear green vegetable broth that you added the miso to. He states again that it tastes weird. Your mother makes plain, salty miso soup with plain water. He does not like the added sweetness of vegetable broth. He thinks making miso with a broth base is the wrong method to cook this soup.

He talks about his toothbrush. He talks about how he thinks the manufacturer designed a very poor toothbrush, because the body of the toothbrush allows water to enter the battery cavity when he washes it. He thinks he might be better suited to a much more expensive brand of toothbrush, because he believes that will not allow water to enter the body of the toothbrush. He claims the water causes his batteries to rust, and he had to scrape off rust from his current toothbrush, as well as work hard to salvage his batteries.

You explain that electric toothbrushes are not waterproof. They're not designed to be washed or soaked in water. After use, one usually detached the head of the toothbrush, which is washable enough, from the motorized body, which is not washed. He'd been using his toothbrush for half a year, he said. It expired quickly. Clearly, it wasn't made very well. You have an exact toothbrush of exactly the same age (you bought it at the same shop, at the same time), and it's running just fine. He insists its water damage and how this cheap brand of toothbrush clearly doesn't handle water very well. You once again point out that no one asked him to soak his toothbrush in water. He claims the body got dirty and it is furthermore your fault for not telling him sooner that toothbrushes must not be washed, thus his toothbrush is now broken and you'll have to get him a new one.

When you drive him to school, he lectures you on the importance of hiding the remote control to the garage door in the glove compartment whenever you leave the car alone. People might see the remote in the open and smash open your window to steal it, after which, they might wander around randomly trying it on garage doors, and proceed to rob your house. Cases like these have happened before and it's clearly a menace. You are deeply irresponsible for frequently leaving out the remote control when you park your car in public spaces.

You reach the University and drop him off at 7:45PM. You have a peaceful drive home. You clear up the breakfast dishes, including his, open the curtains, and do some spot cleaning.

You head outside. You start work lopping a couple of citrus trees that need pruning. This takes about two hours. You head back inside at about 10AM, when the sun becomes unbearable, and sit down at your computer to check your mail. You dimly remember you wanted a drink of water on your way in, but forget this in a flurry of work mail. Your brother comes home at eleven-ish. You hear him typing on his computer outside and occasionally moving around.

You head to the kitchen to get some water. Your brother is there, and he is about to turn on the electric kettle. There are two water jugs you use to fill with spare boiled drinking water from the electric kettle. The first "jug", really a teapot, is full. The second "jug", which is a tall plastic flask with a screw-on lid, is empty. You stop your brother from switching on the electric kettle so you can refill the flask. Your brother shouts at you for filling the flask, because he wanted to use it to make tea and refrigerate it. You note that the flask has been empty all day. At any rate, as the days have been very warm, you'd like some spare drinking water around the house, as the teapot finishes quickly with two persons needing liquids. He wants cold tea. He walks in the hot sun to the bus stop ten minutes away from your house every day, back and forth, and cold tea will help him cool down. You have just been in the sun for two hours, and you do not drink cold tea at all. You explain as the flask stores more water in general, it makes sense to have some spare. He insists that he wants cold tea because it's the best thing to cool him down and he might get a sore throat if he does not get cold tea. He insists further than the teapot stores enough water for the both of you, provided water is constantly boiled.

You note that the electric kettle takes a while to cool down water enough to drink on its own, because it has been purpose-built to keep water warm for as long as possible, and this is especially true on days nearing forty degrees. You also make the point that you are the only person in the house who refills the drinking water jugs at all. Case in point, he was about to boil water in a half-empty electric kettle, without refilling essential water jugs with cooled water. He states that the boiled water cools down, eventually, after being poured into the teapot, which is still, by the way, enough for the both of you. This is a nag, but you have personally come out in the middle of the day for a drink of water before, and accidentally burned yourself on the teapot filled with boiling water he has poured in to "cool down eventually". It is, however, not worth arguing at the time, so you get your drink of water, refill the teapot with the amount you took, and tell him to at least boil a full electric kettle of water.

You do some laundry and hang that outside to dry. You return to your work, and come out at 6PM. You head out into the garden to check on your mother's plants, as well as collect the laundry. When you've brought the laundry basket in, you realize that it's garbage collection day tomorrow. You grab the week's rubbish around the house and sort the recyclables, wheeling out your bins. As you wander around the house, shutting curtains and switching on lights, your brother chortles at something on his laptop. You sort out the laundry, folding your clean clothes. You stack your brother's clothes in a neat pile and put that on his bed. It is now 7:30PM, but you aren't much for making dinner. There's a lot of cooked food in the fridge, besides. You inform your brother that he should find his own dinner. You take a shower.

When you come out of the shower, you smell and see pizza going in the oven. The kitchen counter is covered in wrappers, cheeses and sauces. You ask your brother what he cooked. He explains that he is reheating a frozen pizza. He added shredded cheese from the fridge, and wanted to add more tomato sauce. However, since he didn't want to open the jars and cans of tomato paste in the pantry, he emptied 3/4ths of a bottle of a ketchup onto the pizza. You note that ketchup and tomato paste are somewhat different things, but he doesn't appear to be listening.

You go get dressed. When you come out, the pizza is on the kitchen counter. Your brother complains loudly that the ketchup burned. You repeat what you said about ketchup and tomato paste being somewhat different things. Ketchup being more sugary, does burn a lot faster in the oven. It is why one uses tomato paste. You ask if he's going to clear up the counter after himself. He says, after he finishes eating. You make some tea for yourself, sit down to a slice of his pizza, and eat. The ratio of your food to his food is one slice to you, and everything else to him. He finishes eating before you, but is still chortling at his laptop when you bring your plate to the sink. After washing your plate, you clear up the counter, put the cheeses back in the fridge, and replace the things he used. You wander off to check work mail.

A little later, you hear a video conference call going off outside. Your father has called for the evening. You wander out to see if your parents require anything from you. Your brother discusses the household's cars and how he has spent his time polishing them lately. He is currently finishing up supervised driving hours with his driving instructor on the path to a full Provisional driver's license. He hopes not only to be able to drive to school on his own, but also to find part-time work. He believes it is important to find meaningful work. He comments on how, when your father asks after you, you always wake up late, often in the afternoon. He states that you go to sleep extremely late in the morning. He does not want to be a lazy person like you, who does not live like a normal person, who does not sleep like a normal person, or eats at the right times. He is very busy with University work, and has to have hours of group meetings with his classmates apart from normal class times to finish his assignments. He has a very heavy workload. At this point, you get up and leave. Though you would appreciate seeing what your parents have to say to you, if they have any new instructions from far away, you really see no point in sticking around for this.

Sometime near midnight, your brother comes into your room without knocking on the door (which was closed) and screams at you about not folding his clothes before putting it in his room. You state that his clothes have been laundered and were placed neatly on his bed. He scolds you for not folding his clothes. When his clothes are not folded, he can't put them directly into his drawers. When it is late and he has a very early day tomorrow, he needs to sleep right away. Wasting time folding his own clothes makes him sleep very late. You directly ignore him, noting that the clothes have been cleaned, and what he does with them is his own choice to do. He shouts at you about not having room on his own bed to sleep, and having to kick the clothes off accidentally when he sleeps. This will cause the clothes to fall on the floor, thus dirtying them again.

You turn back to your work. He stomps back to his room. You finish your work at 6AM. As you turn off your PC, you hear your brother waking up and falling over in the dark. You can hear him grumbling very loudly next door about your inconsiderate nature, leaving his clothes unfolded on his bed, which he has kicked off during the night, and has now tripped over on his way to the door in the morning. As you set your alarm clock, he comes out of his room and, seeing your light still on, bangs on your door to shout at you about how not folding his clothes has troubled him. You blatantly ignore him, finish setting up for bed, and turn off the lights. He eventually wanders away. You wait for all his noises to end with him going out the front door. You fall asleep.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 4th, 2007 10:54 am (UTC)
Dec. 6th, 2007 05:08 am (UTC)
Yeah. :/
Dec. 6th, 2007 05:25 am (UTC)
Is this situation long term or short?
Dec. 6th, 2007 05:29 am (UTC)
About two more months. I get to mail him off to his parents in February, and then have two months to recover my strength, alone!
Dec. 6th, 2007 05:30 am (UTC)
Oh! for alone time!!
Dec. 4th, 2007 03:44 pm (UTC)
Woah. I'm living with a brother who's paranoid shizophrenic. My experience is nothing compared to this. Take care of yourself.
Dec. 6th, 2007 05:21 am (UTC)
Incidentally, what is it like to live with a paranoid schizophrenic? Sorry if I seem to be asking about something quite personal, but I am curious, as the syndromes I've had the chance to observe have all largely been of an autistic variety.

Thank you too, for the kind thought. I will do my best. I think that's the most I can do. :)
Dec. 6th, 2007 05:48 am (UTC)
I'm betting every paranoid schizophrenic is different; I have no idea, but I'm betting that my bro is somewhere in the middle of the difficulty scale. He'll take his meds semi-regularly and when urged to (that's something, considering how many of them refuse, or stop their meds when they're feeling fine _because_ of the meds) but... he's hardly what you can consider integrated into society. His decision-making skills are shot, his mind changes often, so committing to a line of study or work is impossible, and we can't convince him to go into a daycare program. So, he stays at home and is on perpetual vacation (TV, internet, light chores). For a dependent though and a PS, he's pretty well behaved and low maintenance. I wish he had more to occupy his time, but it could be (and has been) worse. In the past, when he was in full denial, there were frequent escalations because of his paranoia, self-starvation and his perpetual wandering god-knows-where. I do anticipate that I'll be inheriting full responsibility for him at some point, and just hope his low maintenance continues...
Dec. 6th, 2007 04:28 pm (UTC)
Wow. I hope for your sake his low maintenance and good behaviour continues too. It's a similar hope on my side of things -- you do find yourself waking up every day kind of hoping the person you're with stays low maintenance and moderately cheerful. I try not to hope for help around the house, but everything else is a kind of perpetual vacation for my brother. He has managed to juggle being a full college student reasonably well though, which is helpful to his future prospects, we hope.

One of my longtime fears has been that I might end up inheriting full responsibility for my sibling. Since he's entered college, and learnt to drive himself around (finding a surprising amount of independence), that worry's been mitigated by far, but I do still worry.

Thank you very much for sharing your story. It's been a window into a similar life, however brief.
Dec. 4th, 2007 03:57 pm (UTC)
eek! I knew you were taking care of the house by yourself but I didn't realize that your brother was part of it too!
Dec. 6th, 2007 05:27 am (UTC)
Yep. I am taking care of the house right now, and the boy is one of the accessories that c/w. He's quite the housepet without the proper owners about, I fear. I just need to keep him kind of watered and fed till I can mail him off in February.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )