My apartment reeked of the dusty cheapness of cardboard. I wanted to dump my belongings into random piles of clutter just to eliminate the boxes, but since total strangers packed them originally, I could barely find anything with ease, and at least the scattered squares offered a storage system of sorts in the mayhem that became my new normal. Everything will eventually have a place, I kept reminding myself, especially when I’d run my toes into the corner of a box. You’d think after nearly three decades with these two gangly objects attached to my ankles, I would have a more reasonable estimate of the length of my own feet and I would avoid such painful encounters. But nonetheless, beyond always wearing shoes, I am forever cursed to stub them at regular frequencies and the chaos in my apartment aided their misfortune.
I enjoyed the benefits of organization and compartmentalization as much as I cherished running water and soft pillows. To live in this unsettled state typically discomforted me, but the odor aside, I felt pretty proud of my ability to live in what appeared more like a children’s play fort than a grown-up’s living room. Stacks of varied heights draped with clothing greeted me each day when I returned home. Now if only I could crawl under them, I would be back in my childish heyday. I stood transfixed contemplating a moment too long on those memories that warmed me and isolated me at the same time, and I might have found myself sleeping in my imaginary tent when a knock at the door returned me to my adult responsibilities.
A glance through the peephole confirmed what I knew when I left my landlord’s commercial plumbing store yesterday: the electrician would be making a weekend call. My brilliant handshake needed to be branded. It needed a name, and it needed to be phenomenal. Wait until Bonnie heard the latest about its powers of persuasion.
“Good morning! Am I glad to see you.” I really was delighted to have my dryer in working order.
“Oh, I like hearing that.” He was younger than me, a bit scruffy, but not untidy. Blue jeans and a logoed uniform button-down were unassuming, but it was the tool box at the ready that I found most appealing about him.
I intended the greeting to reflect the appearance of a professional to provide service expertise on my doorstep, but he may have mistaken my enthusiasm as a reflection of my personal interest. I ushered him to the utility room quickly.
“Come right this way. My dryer undoubtedly is as glad to see you as I am.” My spontaneous attempt to direct his attention to the issue at hand become a pathetic anthropomorphic exercise at my dryer’s expense, and rather than let it lay, I extended the reference. “Although, I could not convince him to relocate himself so you could get to the wall easily.”
If he perhaps felt rejected by my turning attention to his job, he didn’t seem overly downtrodden. “That’s okay, I think I can manage.”
I made myself scarce once he entered the back corner of the apartment, and I left him to solve the challenges of modern electricity. I expected he might need to disconnect the electricity at some point, disabling my television, wireless router, and most every useful contraption that might lead me to be otherwise occupied. Maybe I would hide out in my living room fort and invent a name for my self-created, extraordinary, highly effective, two-handed grip that guaranteed a 100% success rate. Clearly I needed more test subjects and more activities not dependent on electricity.
My level of home repair self-sufficiency held its own when gauged against what I expected against a random sampling of single, female non-homeowners. When faced with contacting the super or attempting minor repairs, I counted mid-level plumbing, furniture assembly, caulking, screen repair, and shelf mounting among my triumphs. With some PVC glue, a wide assortment of allen wrenches, a caulking gun, wire cutters, and a stud finder, I strapped on an effective tool belt of my own over the years.
For some reason, my stud finder only worked at finding two-by-fours in the wall, though. My dating belt contained no such gadget, although I could recall a couple stiff dates that offered the brilliance of inanimate objects. I endured a few that had the wood, but too many knotholes, and some that on closer inspection, significant flaws in the grain. Hopefully the change of scenery would improve my prospects, but for now, the boxes took first chair and they needed to take their musty stank with them. Once I could clean those out, I promised myself a weekend in the mountains enjoying the scenery of Wyoming before summer slipped away, and then maybe by autumn, I would entertain the possibility of getting back in the dating game. More than likely, I’d leave that project for last, and maybe even postpone it until next year.
As I expected, the electrician disconnected the power with a sizzling “phump,” and the whirr of the apartment ceased. What better excuse to empty a couple more boxes?
Five in total had been emptied and collapsed by the time he finished, and the contents of three of them had been given new homes in the kitchen cabinets. The inside temperature rose noticeably, so when the ceiling fans began swirling, the breeze cooled my damp skin. As warm as the day would be, it still felt better than the Texas heat.
I could hear the electrician’s tools clanging as they landed in their box, echoing off the empty walls. Within ten minutes I heard the sweetest sound of all: the hum of my dryer cycling its warmth. Even the success of so many emptied boxes did not compare to the satisfaction of the dryer running. I cheered loud enough that he could hear me down the hall and over the appliance’s steady operation. His work here was done. I hope he was earning overtime for his gallant efforts.
He found me still looking for a suitable spot for my cookie sheets when he returned to the kitchen. “Okay, as you obviously heard, your dryer is up and running.”
“Yeah! Thank you so much! I thank you, and my clothes thank you.”
“The problem was a wire running from the dryer outlet to the…” within moments, I tuned out his voice and disconnected my brain from the gibberish instructions he offered. Understanding electricity didn’t interest me. “So you should be all set now,” he concluded, which is all I needed to know.
“Wonderful! Thank you, again for coming out on the weekend. I’m going to celebrate with a load of laundry.” It didn’t matter what he’d done, as long as it worked.
“If you are in the mood for celebrating, any chance you might want to join me at the end of my remaining stops this afternoon for a beer at the BrewHouse?”
Oops, when did this become a dating opportunity? He was cute enough, I suppose, but more than that, I had ten years on him. When most other women might have felt their inner cougar growl at the chance to be uncaged, I still felt more excitement about my dryer working than the flattery the occasion presented.
“That sounds tempting,…”
“…but no.” He finished my sentence as less of a rejection and more of a statement.
“‘No’ sounds so abrupt. I just moved to town. I haven’t even unpacked yet,” as clearly he’d already noticed, but I gestured at the boxes anyway.
“I figured you might not know anyone being new in town. Maybe you could use a night out.”
“How do you know I’m new? I could just have found a better apartment, moved out of a place I was sharing, you know.”
“Did you just move out? Is this one of those, ‘I just got out of a bad relationship,’ excuses?”
“Not an excuse, but not entirely untrue.” In fact, all the normal excuses may have applied: I wasn’t looking to date right now, I wanted to spend some time alone, it isn’t you, it’s me.
“Yeah, I got it.” This time his response sounded a bit more rejected.
“But hey, you know where I live. If you get the reckless urge to stand under my balcony and serenade me, who am I to stop you?”
“You live on the first floor.”
“Okay, good point. But for what it’s worth, it’s nice to be asked.”
“Thanks, but you’re missing out. I give great pussy.” He whispered the end of his sentence and licked his lips.
And suddenly, with one word, I wanted him out of my house. Now. And quite possibly ruled out the BrewHouse as an establishment I should try. More than a load of laundry tumbling in my dryer, I now wanted to shower.
“Thank you so much for getting my dryer running. I appreciate it.” There would be absolutely no handshake experiment conducted on him. All I could think about was where his mouth had been and how quickly I could get it out of my kitchen.
He found his way to the door, and I locked it behind him. He better not be earning overtime.
NEXT: The Handshake – Part 6