(page 5 of 10)
Joe Rizzo worked for several years as a transport aid at Group Health. He’d been disciplined a few times for wheeling elderly patients on gurneys too quickly, dropping patients off on the wrong floor from the recovery rooms, or telling the patients his personal problems. It was well known, especially since he spoke about it all the time, that he couldn’t keep a girlfriend, often had problems with his landlord, was a heavy drinker and smoker, and never finished community college courses because of fights with the professors. From what is known about him, he did a two year stint in the army after high school, was dishonorably discharged, and spent the next couple of years after that sailing from job to job till he ended up at Group Health.
It’s so funny to look at someone that looks as sweet and innocent as Shapour, and then see his leaders banging their fists and condemning the western world with pure vitriol.
The other employees thought that Joe was just slow, but no one told him that to his face because he was six feet tall, weighed around 220 lbs, and was as strong as a wrestler. He did have a few friends looking out for him, though, and that’s what got him saved from being fired.
On the day Shapour came to work in traditional attire, a lot of folks commented positively on his looks. The only holdout was Joe. When Shapour walked past him, Joe would whisper something anti-Muslim or something about terrorism or camel jockeys under his breath. Shapour told me about it a few times but I just shrugged it off as the rants of an insecure loser.
I was in the supply closet looking for some generic aspirins, stool softeners and diabetic needles that day. I’d kept the door propped open because the heat in the tiny room was a little stifling. Joe knew I was good friends with Shapour, but he didn’t know we were actually lovers. As I was filling my little cart, Joe came by.
“Hey Michael,” he started. “How’s it going?”
“Can’t complain,” I answered, continuing my supply quest.
“This country’s going to the dogs, huh?” he wondered.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“All these foreigners? Taking our jobs and women?”
Oh, oh. I knew where this type of dialogue was headed, so I thought it best to ignore it. Joe kept on, though.
“You know how many years I gave to this country? In the army?” he queried
“Two years, Joe.” I was a little irritated already. “That’s common knowledge.”
“That’s right. I’m a true blue born and bred American.”
He points the small American flag tattooed on his left arm.
“See that? These colors don’t run.”
“Looks good, Joe.”
“I know you’re friends with that new nurse, Ayatollah or whatever his name is, but we gotta do for ourselves in this country, you know? We gotta take care of our own.”
I placed all the medical items in my cart, closed the supply room door, and turned to Joe.
“Listen Joseph,” I told him, “if you have a problem with Shapour, just talk to him. You’ll see he’s not that bad. And he’s not looking for a handout.”
“I got his name stamped on the bottom of my jack boots.”
“That’s the worst fucking thing I’ve ever heard coming out of your mouth, Joe!”
“Sorry, dude. That’s how I feel.”
“You wanna stand right here in front of me spewing this shit?”
I was so heated I probably had steam blowing from my ears.
“Geez,” he apologized. “Didn’t know you felt that way.”
Just then, Shapour came walking towards us from down the hall. Joe took a quick glance at him then took off.
“Something wrong?” Shapour asked, studying my expression intently.
“No,” I answered, finally calming down. “It’s okay. A lot of characters in Group Health.”
“I’ve been getting compliments about my outfit.”
I looked him in his eyes. It was the most meaningful thing to do at the time.
My Farsi Boyfriend continues...