A__ speaks a bit like Eeyore, if Eeyore were somewhere between forty and sixty, has been sleeping on sidewalks for most of the last decade, and has a drooping salt-and-pepper moustache that frequently slips into his mouth like a wet, stringy mop.

"We-e-ell, su-u-ure, Paul, I can do that, I gu-e-ess."

It kind of breaks your heart to have to ask this guy to pee in a cup in front of you, but that's a routine part of his treatment program, and he doesn't really mind since he doesn't get an opportunity to use drugs while staying here, anyway, so for him--as for most of the men on the floor--the routine urinalysis test is little more than a nuisance.

But asking any grown man to pee in a cup in front of you can be a humbling experience, for all parties involved. In this culture, it is unseemly to witness another person's bodily functions. It's rather a transgressive act, it makes you aware of the fragility of our pitiful physical substance, it's a forced intimacy, it's cooties for grown-ups.

My job is like managing an oversized kindergarten class with much, much higher stakes.

A___ looks at me with pointedly sad, sheepish eyes, hides his hands in his pockets and shuffles along behind me.



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