It’s been raining for a month.
This morning it has stopped mostly.
There’s an old man outside my office building, flannel coat and window-washing squeegee on a long pole. I watch him for a minute. He is meticulous and has a system, rhythm. He shakes the stick at the soapy pavement and turns to see me standing there smoking a cigarette.
“Looks good,” I tell him.
He nods and begins changing the pole to a sponge ending.
He’s not wearing gloves, and his fingers are red and raw. “Don’t your hands get cold?” I ask him.
He shrugs. “You get used to it.”
He doesn’t know that I ask him this because I like the idea of stacking sponges and poles on a bike that I ride job to job, and then home. That I would be able to look at a shining pane of glass and know that I made this corner of the world a better place.
I guess there’s things all of us hate about our jobs but get used to.
Mine is that washing a window would benefit society more than what I’m paid to do all day.
So on my lunch hour I try to string together some words that are in some way useful, if not to anyone else, than at least to myself.
I didn’t sleep last night. My nightmares were disturbed by the quarter horses that have moved in upstairs. My landlord, who is a brilliant man, installed hardwood floors in the un-insulated empty apartment above mine and then rented it out to three students that apparently keep several polo ponies up there and host seven-chukker matches beginning at 10:00 PM. I would think that they are all obese and wear wooden clogs as well, but I have met them, and they are quite small. They use the stairs, which pass within five feet of my bed, quite frequently and with gusto. The plaster from the ceiling dusts my face all night.
Another problem is that I bought a humidifier on Saturday. I decided to invest in a hot water industrial strength one, because the air in my apartment is dry. I turned it on high, and woke up in the middle of the night strangling from nightmares about being lost in the rainforest, plaster covering my face. I turned down the relative humidity so it wasn’t raining in my room, and saw the dew on the walls. This does not help the plaster situation.
My landlord is either going to kick me out or kill me, I haven’t decided which. I don’t dare complain about the plaster, or the broken toilet, or the loud stairs, or the fact that my room doesn’t have its own heat vent, or that the wallpaper in the bathroom was exquisitely tasteful in 1974. The rent is half what I’d pay next door, and he hasn’t evicted me yet. I forgot to pay rent in October and he left me a note a month later asking me if I’d considered doing so.
He and I have a hearty list of complaints against one another that normally keeps our agitated and confrontational relationship balanced. But I think I’m tipping the scales this week.
Two summers ago I dug up a large border in the yard and planted bulbs for flowers. I tended to them carefully and watered them daily. As they began to sprout, and then grow, said landlord decided to mow the lawn, and mow the tender shoots, yanking the bulbs from their beds. And leave me a note asking why I dug up the whole front yard, and when was I going to replace it with grass? There are still dirt piles along the perimeter where weeds have begun to trail down the cement wall.
Landlord wasn’t enthusiastic about our porch makeover this past summer either, when we dragged half of the living room furniture out there and strung up lights. He kept asking when we were going to finish moving. We put him off for a while, before he proclaimed it a fire hazard. And further, he insisted, an “eyesore.” To which my roommate countered, “More so than the filthy gray vinyl siding?”
I put a finishing touch on the bathroom last night while dying my hair and frantically trying to answer the phone. The porcelain toilet and bathtub are now flaming fuchsia.
And under the no-pets rule, I currently house a fish tank, a snake, and a bunny. I thought I was getting away with having the ferrets for a year, but when I called to ask him if I could get a cat, he said, “Don’t you already have ferrets?” And I denied this, like a fat kid with chocolate all over its face denies cookie jar thievery. I think “pets” actually refers to cats and dogs, so I could argue that case.
Im sure the pantry we converted into a darkroom violates some Massachusetts Blue Law. And I suppose I should peel the rotting pumpkins off the doorstoop.
But with the fifteen different roommates I’ve had in the past four years, I’m the only one legally listed on the lease. Not sure if that works for or against me.
Anyway, the kids upstairs are going to have to chill out with the tap dancing hippos if I’m going to get anything done around here. No sleep and my mental health suffers. As well as my writing.
Which you can clearly see.