I don’t actually want anything, I can only stay a minute, I am dirty and I stink. That’s okay, he says I am just laying on the couch watching TV in my underwear, come on over. I walk in his open door, I do not knock, just as I am about to sit down, he yells hey is that paint wet. Nah I say not anymore. I am of course covered in it. Have you ever tried to paint basement stairs, you have to paint them kind of upside down, backwards and ahead of yourself. I have a plain white stripe as a “tramp stamp” on my lower back, I show him. I don’t intend to stay, but then a show about the white sturgeon of the Pacific Northwest is on, I am fascinated by the Native people’s conservation efforts, by the giant fight a huge fish gives the reporter. One river damages the habitat with a dam, killing the eggs of the fish. The other river is basically untouched, that fish looks to be eight feet long. They catch, measure, weigh, tag and release. We are both calling out, holy cow look at the size of that fish, and wow what a fight that is to pull in.
As I leave he stands on the edge of his driveway. His face shining at me. I raise my hand and give him a little cute wave, his hand twitches, I know he almost waved too.
This morning I text him, can I borrow a ladder that is lighter weight and easier for me to carry. For the price of breakfast he loans it to me, and furthermore scrapes all but a small section of the upper back clapboards of my house. I did the rest. After he leaves for work, I scrape for another three hours, smelling my neighbor’s barbeque of venison steaks. He has never made them before and lets me test the doneness, he gives me two beautiful steaks for dinner, and would have given me more, if I had let him.
Keep up the good work B. says. You are working so hard, you are doing an amazing job. Thanks I say, you are the only one who has said that to me. Everyone else is bitching at me, calling me and bugging me; be done now! But you aren’t ready yet, say’s J. You cannot even walk through the house without tripping over something. I know I say. It is so much pressure I say, so many changes, and so much to do. I need this I tell B. I need people to cheer me on. That’s what I am here for he says.
I cannot even move my arms anymore I say to the neighbor. Time to take a break, if it hurts now imagine what it will be later. I am taking the fourth off, I say, so I wanted to get as much done as I could. I clean up all the paint off the ground and weed around the flagstone, putting my two ladders in the shed. Just as the rain begins to fall. You will sleep good tonight, says my neighbor. You know it I say. I look up at my house, at what my man did, at what I did.
It feels good to have this in my life, after all these years of not.