I run into Aaron, my downstairs neighbor. “Do you happen to have a ladder?” I ask. “I need to change a light bulb.”
“Sure,” he replies enthusiastically. “I’ll come upstairs with you and help you.”
“Thanks, but I don’t need help. I’ll take the ladder and bring it right back.”
He insists on schlepping it upstairs.
Arriving at my apartment’s front door, he says, “I’ll change the light bulb for you.”
I laugh. “I’m perfectly capable of changing the light bulb by myself.”
He must really want to come in.
I’ve read that messy people are creative geniuses. Since then I revere my chaos, waiting for the spark of genius to ignite. But I’m still uncomfortable with unexpected guests.
I unlock the front door, and he walks in with me. Happily. Then I leave the door wide open. That way, I block from view a pile of stuff that belongs in the recycling bin. It will get there. Eventually. I have an outstanding capacity to tell my inner parent’s voice, “Later,” when it comes to doing my chores. I’d rather write.
Aaron keeps staring at me, and he doesn’t seem to take in the mess. I’m glad I’ve cleaned a bit today, but I still need to clean the kitchen — where the dead light bulb is.
“Why don’t you sit here?” I say, pointing at the armchair near my computer and entertaining the idea of turning him into my beta reader. Surely he could read my manuscript while I change the light bulb (and write a blog post, and start a new novel, and clean the kitchen…later).
Finally, he seems to get the message. “I’ll leave now. Tell me when you’re done. I’ll take the ladder downstairs.”
I don’t tell him, of course. Bringing the ladder back, I learn that he is forty three. “You look twenty eight,” I say. I never know how old people are.
“That’s the story of single men in my family,” he pauses dramatically, “until they get married.”
He then exchanges phone numbers with me. “If you need the ladder again, and I’m not at home.” And he looks extremely happy.
Back at my apartment, writing, I hear a baby crying somewhere near the stairwell. It must be sweet Angel, my lovely upstairs neighbors’ eighteen-month-old daughter. I decide to trust that either one of her parents can handle the situation, and I don’t follow my rescuing instincts.
I don’t like to give mothers the feeling that they should keep their young ones quiet.
I don’t like to give fathers the feeling that they can’t take care of their kids because only women can be caretakers.
I don’t like to give anyone the feeling that they must keep quiet/must not express their feelings.
So I keep writing. Then I realize that some time has passed. And Angel is still crying. I run downstairs, following her voice, and then witness a tragic sight: Angel is sitting in her stroller next to the building’s front glass door. Only the door is closed. Her mother is on the other side of the door, practically gluing herself to it.
Their eyes are locked in horror.
I open the door immediately. The mother rushes over to Angel. She had forgotten the keys on the inside and had gotten stuck outside. Thanking me, she holds Angel, who stops crying at once and looks at me as if I were her hero. A slow one but still a hero.
Then I go to Movieing café to write. There, two guys I chat with seem too enthused about me. Usually, only drunk guys are unaffected by my “nun-ness.” But these two don’t look drunk. Neither did Aaron.
That’s when I start to suspect that something is rotten in the state of Denmark — that my nun-like shield is cracking. Although this feels more like a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream than from Hamlet.
Like a James Bond, I’ll have to use my spy skills, even if they exist only in my friend Frank’s mind. Fairies or not, I’ll find out who is behind this. Or what.