I saw him for the first time in a long time the other day. He stopped by for a few minutes. We laughed and joked and just for a moment it felt like old times. But it didn't last long. I could tell he was thinking of her; the latest in his succession of women; I even know her name--it's Martha, a good friend who lives in the neighborhood. He always has them lined up like that --one right after another. Sometimes he even juggles two or three at a time. He's very organized that way plus he has Oscar and Alberto to help him with the heavy lifting.
I'm talking about my contractor of course, what did you think I meant!
Yes, my contractor, Michael. He stopped by to look at a leak in my bathroom ceiling. He's the guy who added on two baths, a sunroom and an expanded kitchen for us in the summer of '03. We saw each other every day back then, that golden summer, huddled over grout samples, discussing the placement of outlets and waste water pipes. Those were heady days.
I remember running into my friend Carrie in the grocery store during that time. "How's the construction going?" she asked me.
"Great!" I said, "I love my contractor."
"Oh that's good," she said, "That makes such a difference."
"No, I mean, I LOVE my contractor."
She nodded knowingly. "That's very common. Like falling for your shrink or your doctor. They're the perfect man. They do anything you tell them to."
"I know!" I said, relieved that I was not the only one. "And he knows what I want."
"Totally!" she said.
Oh yes my friend, Michael knows what a woman wants. He should--he's been pleasing them for years. He knows we want lockers for the kids' stuff, double-hung closets, and a counter to fold our laundry. Those are just the little things he remembers. He knows about the big stuff too like making sure the workers are there on time every day and having them clean up after themselves.
Yes, we spent a glorious summer together as he knocked out walls and built my dream house. And then one day when an autumn wind blew through, and the counters finally arrived, he finished installing the garbage disposal, hooked his thumbs in his tool belt, cocked his head and declared the job to be done. And he walked out of my life for good. (Except for last year when he came and redid the basement.)
It was good to see him the other day but I could tell his mind wasn't on my leaky ceiling. No, it was on Martha's drywalling that was going up that day. I could see that. It's okay. I know, that's just how it goes. Right now it's all about Martha and that's how it should be.
I saw Martha at a neighborhood party Saturday. I couldn't help but ask her how it was going.
"It's great. It's like having a second husband!" she enthused. "When he comes in every morning I call out, 'Hi honey!'"
Damn her! I never thought to call him honey. Maybe if I did he'd still be here, fixing that leak in my ceiling. Adding shelves to the laundry room. Re-doing the old bathroom that's causing the leak.
My only consolation is that this won't last. No, my dear Martha, when the counters go in and the garbage disposal is all hooked up he'll do the same to you that he did to me. He'll move on. Who knows where. Maybe an addition in Highland Park. Could be a teardown in Arlington Heights. But make no mistake, a man like Michael is always looking for the next job, moving forward, moving on. And then you'll be just like me and the rest of the women he's left behind--just another former client.
But take heart, you'll always have the summer of '09 --and that fabulous double-hung walk-in closet. No one can take that away from you.