A dear friend who is also a neighbor announced quite unexpectedly last night that he had decided to sell his beautiful new condo and move into a home built in the mid-1800s 20 miles away. “Be happy for me!” he pleaded, seeing the anticipated loss of his frequent visits painted plainly on my face.
Of course I will always want the best for him. That’s not the point. Somewhere between my sorrow for the potential loss of our sweet proximity (not a trivial issue in relationships) and an increasing wariness about complexifying my own life in any unnecessary fashion, I am left with a quiet sigh of resignation. One must do what one must. But who the hell knows what that is? I’ve given up thinking I had any clue long ago.
However. The next morning the account below arrived from our mutual friend Andrew about a recent saga from his own version of the Herculean Older Home Ownership Manual. Is it coincidence or prescience? And of course, as is Andrew’s gift, a ceiling in need of a face lift is never just about house repairs. It expands quite naturally to include the deep territories of our bodies and our souls.
Walking downstairs [I] heard a soggy drip in the dark. I switched on the living room light and found the ceiling at the far end had pooped a pasty white plaster onto our area carpet, spattered the upholstered sitting chairs, effectively re-classified several of my color-coded books, and water-damaged the old upright piano a turn of the screw further into junk. The ceiling was stained and dripping, with yellowish fault lines, and jagged plaster edges where, like a burst adult diaper, it still excreted a slow drip of chalky goop.
I hauled Dukee’s step ladder from our garage and out back through the snow in a tingle of urgency, but found the rear roof dry. I checked the attic — also dry. In the end I noticed a pool of water under the toilet tank in our upstairs bathroom, fed by a steady drip from a loose nut at a pipe joint. I shut off the feed and began the scooping and sponging, even as discolored water dripped for another 12 hours into our living room.
Every homeowner must master the grim physics of entropy. Shutters weather with time; coats of paint which once fit like ballroom gloves, now wrinkle, chip and flake; and the architecture sags like an aging midriff. The physics of house and body both point to loss of order and disassembly. The doctors can tighten my nuts and dredge a few pipes but all things end…
I am the watcher and the watched. Usually the natural man dominates, the cartoon personality, donut crumbs on his chin, snoozing at the levers of the Springfield nuclear power plant which is showing signs of my 60 years. Other times, I am the last of Hirohito’s foot soldiers, still hiding in a filthy cave on some once contested Pacific isle, surviving on roots and nuts, oblivious that the rising sun set long since. Unchecked the body profoundly isolates. I am the solitary keeper in a lighthouse beat by unstopping sea waves, visited once a month by the supply packet. I’m not sure even whether I am indeed the keeper or merely some feedback loop of the lighthouse itself. I feel like Pinocchio putting carpenter’s saw to limb and watching astonished as sawdust pours from the veins.
Khrushchev at the U.N. crudely jested that “Gagarin flew into space, but didn’t see any God there.” Similarly, medical technicians spelunking up rectum for a colonoscopy, up urethra into the bladder, down throat in an upper endoscopy, even a snaky camera tube up my nose, catch nary a glimpse of spirit, not even a shadow of something eavesdropping from behind the arras. Occam’s razor shaves away the stubble of soul, but the great super-growth of consciousness remains untouched.