A recent day found me at the top of the staircase and before I could even get used to the heady air up there, I came crashing right back down. Metaphorically speaking. (Because I’ve written about this literally happening once before.) I got great news in the morning email. I’d been assigned a new editor! I was asked about signing a series contract! I’d always planned this series, but writing everything down made it real.
And then a strange person came into my house and set me off. I knew he was coming, so technically, I had already been wound up. Am I mixing metaphors? Sorry. I’m still flustered. I don’t like strangers in my house. Especially male strangers. Especially big hairy strangers who can’t fix what’s broken. Especially if they insist on engaging in long conversations that keep them in my house way too long and seem very friendly. I like the curt, competent type of repair guy. Okay, I don’t like him, but he’s incrementally better than the too-friendly sort.
I’m not sure why this is so, maybe I have a stranger phobia, but anyway, by the time he left, I was stressed. I disinfected every square inch of the space he might have touched. (His fingerprints were smuged big and ugly all over everything. It was creepy, I tell you!) I washed all the towels in the powder room, even though from my office I had not heard a toilet flush.
So he was gone and still I found it impossible to leave my house even though I had to grocery shop. I had planned to grocery shop. I couldn’t make dinner. I always make dinner. I had planned to make dinner. But I was frozen. I realize that it’s a high-class problem, this being frozen business. In a war zone, that would get me killed.
I gave myself a stern talking to. “You are not some neurotic mess. You have handled far worse than this, which by the way was nothing, what is wrong with you?” Then I called my husband Al to bring pizza and watched television for three hours. I took a pill to ward off the migraine that had begun the minute my stress spiked. But other than that, I didn’t move until the pizza got home.
Since this person who had invaded my home was a repairman, I had to go over events with Al. He is really the one who should handle these things, but it’s hard for him to arrange with work. So I am his poor substitute. I had to listen to a few “why didn’t you” and “what the hell” sort of things. My nerves started to shred again, so I tried to explain how I felt inside. I love Al but he’s not good with panic and nerves and so forth.
I know it’s irrational to not file a complaint because I think the repairman might get angry, become homicidal and come after me. I understand this is unlikely to happen. I understand repairmen are nice people and very few if any are murderers. And yet. I forced a promise from Al that he would not call and complain. Then Al lost it. Well, as far as he can lose it. Al is the king of cool. He simply looked at me with complete disdain, which, of course, made me feel worse.
Al insists on complaining about shoddy work and here I was tying his hands. He was not a happy man. We decided to table the entire discussion. I shoved two slices of pizza down my throat, not even tasting them, and opened a bottle of wine. As I savored a glass, I thought about how days can go like that, from good to bad, from bad to worse. And those days are the ones when what is needed is a good mattress at the foot of the staircase.