When asked if I’d watch her cats while she rode the race in Ireland, I agreed and asked if there was anything she wanted done in her apartment. “New paint?” Why not? I thought. That very morning I had seen a painter who needs the work. I don’t want to do it, and for once, I actually have the money to hire help. Sounded like a win-win situation.
Suddenly, instead of sleep-walking to the computer at dawn, having that first cup of coffee while I read what I’d written the day before, I was engaged in a non-stop rehashing of the job I thought we’d already discussed.
“You want a better color?” he asks. Better?
“You ready for a better haircut?” He laughs. “You painted your living room, (in a rented house!) dark purple because that was your preference. But most landlords go for more…neutral colors. I’m staying with the one she and I agreed upon.”
“Yeah, okay. Who’s going to move the furniture out?”
“You told her to pile it in the center of the rooms, which she did, and you’d drape it.” Why is this an issue? Oh yeah. I’d always done it when it was empty, between renters.
Audible sigh. “I’ll drag it out on the porch.”
“But the monsoons. It’ll probably rain every afternoon.”
“I’ll cover it with plastic.”
“But you can’t leave it outside overnight.”
“I left my wallet on the front seat of my car and no one took it.”
Yeah, dark wallet on dark seat inside a car under a tree looks different from a porch spot-lighted by the street light, full of furniture and personal belongings like TV, stereo, albums and expensive bicycle parts thinly veiled by plastic.
Finally I find my voice. “I can’t be responsible for her stuff being left outside. How many days you thinking?”
“Prep and paint–two days tops.”
I’ve always given myself at least five days for that apartment, but I didn’t spray it. My understanding of spray-painting is that it’s very fast–like maybe half a day at most. So if he actually shows up and works, then maybe he could do the job in 2-3 days.
“I can’t be responsible for her stuff being left outside.”
“Fine. I’ll be responsible,” he says.
“Just one of her bicycles costs more than your car.”
He laughs like I made a joke. “You’re gonna have to take those cats somewhere.”
“When I start spraying they’ll die if they’re still in here. I wear a mask.”
Spraying? Oh yeah. I’d always done it by hand–2 inch trim brush and rollers. Now he wants me to move the cats. But where? “I’ll see about bringing them upstairs,” I say and turn to leave.
“Wait up. You have to come with me to Home Depot.”
“Why? I already gave you the check for the estimate.”
“In case there’s a problem.”
Or something else you need.
“You gonna change out the vinyl?”
“Prep everything, Daniel. The light switches, the fan, windows, and the floors.”
“I’m just saying, what’s the point if you’re going to change them out?”
“You spill paint on those floors, you get to clean it up.”
“What about the cabinet hinges?”
“Prep everything, Daniel.”
“Lotta people switch out the hinges.”
“Prep everything, Daniel.”
Five days later, I started cleaning up after the painter who did not tape off the hinges. Ten cabinets, twenty doors, forty hinges. Took me five hours–working with a woman I paid $100 to help me.
Six days later, my hands have finally healed from the angry cat swipes incurred while relocating her cats. (And yes, I used cat carriers). I know they aren’t angry with me, because I have rescued them from the great outdoors when they’ve escaped. They’re pissed off because their life, which had been somewhat stable for five years, was turned upside down when she left. I totally understand.
I really didn’t mind renting the cat trap from the Humane Society when the little female flew across the room at my face, and they didn’t shred too many books and papers in my office. Still, I hadn’t actually expected them to stay for so long. He did say “Two days, tops.”
Now that the paint project is over, I’ve noticed how I have not had one moment to myself–for my writing or anything else–that I not only gained nothing by hiring him to do the job, but that I actually parted with more than a thousand dollars for that “nothing.”
So what life lessons were the cosmic cops trying to teach me this time?
In the two days of peace and quiet I’ve had to consider that question, I’ve come up with two possibilities: “Quit trying to save everyone because it only increases your load,” and “Girl, if you want to write, you better get out of the rental property business because it’s hard to follow your dream and do that, too.”
How about you? Are you laser-beam focused in absolute commitment, following your dream? Or are you, like me, still trying to do an old life, too, dragging that baggage like dead weights around your ankles?
Till next time, I’ll be skating with those thoughts toward a genuine commitment. Or not.