After being married for 7 1/2 years and living with my husband two years before that, I had gotten used to a man around the house. A man to screw things, nail things, you know… good with his hands. No, no. Not that. I mean actually screw and nail. With tools. Manly tasks, involving dangerous things like drills, hammers and the like. Okay, well maybe my husband wasn’t that great at those things. There was that one time he assured me he could run the cable into the next room by drilling through the wall, only to drill through the actual cable itself, leaving us cable-less over a long holiday weekend. Needless to say, after that I hid the drill. In the garbage.
When I began living on my own with my son, I realized I needed a man around the house to do things like hang heavy mirrors, change lights in fixtures I couldn’t reach, mount TVs on the wall and cook for me. Well, that last part is just a bonus. I guess that’s what food delivery services are for, no? That is when he came into my life. Fernando. He was the head handyman in my building who I would pay a little extra on the side to do odd jobs. I got used to having Fernando around the house. Well, at least in my building. I would shop with ease buying furniture that needed to be assembled, extra-large pictures that needed to be hung… really, whatever my heart desired because I had Fernando to do it for me. Until he found another job being the super in a building a couple of blocks away.
When I received this news from my doorman one day I didn’t take it well. It was as though my husband was being deployed.
“Nooooooooooooo!” I envisioned myself screaming, clinging to Fernando’s leg as he walked off into the sunset, or at least into the subway with his tool kit.
“Why are you leaving?” I asked, after I took the elevator to the basement and found him (or stalked him) in the boiler room.
“It’s a better job.”
“But you’ve been here for years!”
“Exactly. Now I am going to be the super. It’s a lot more money.”
“I understand.” I said. I may have even copped an attitude. Which I realize wasn’t fair. It’s not that I didn’t want Fernando to have a better job. I did. Really. But I also didn’t want to lose my house husband.
“You’ll be fine. John can take care of the same things for you.”
John was the other handyman. And by other, I mean the one I didn’t like. He wasn’t as good. He was also smaller than me, so if I couldn’t lift something, why would I ask him to?
I rode back up in the elevator to my apartment, sulking. I sat on the couch looking at everything Fernando had done for me. Freshly painted hallway, check. Perfectly mounted flat screen TV in my apartment, check. I would never have such a well-maintained home again.
Suddenly everything in my apartment seemed like something that needed fixing and there was no one there to do it.
A week later Fernando was at his new job. I knew it was a couple of blocks away. I had decided to have new shades installed in my bathroom and there was no way I was asking skinny John.
“Hey, Frankie?” I asked my doorman as I was leaving to take my son to school, “What building did Fernando go to?”
This is sad, but I had visions of walking there, boom box in hand, and standing outside the front door holding it over my head like LLoyd Dobler in “Say Anything.” Frankie blessed me with the coveted information, but I never went over there. Even though I wanted to.
A year later I moved. My new apartment needed everything. And I needed help. With nowhere to turn, I picked up my phone and quickly pulled up Fernando’s number. It rang a few times before he picked up.
“Hi! Fernando? It’s me. Jena. From your old building? (A couple of years ago? Awkward.) Yes. Hi! Oh, everything’s fine. It’s just that, well, I moved. Yes. Into a new building. And there are a lot of things I need done and I am looking to hire someone. Would you be interested?”
I let the question linger and it was met with semi-silence on the other end. Like one of the Bachelorettes waiting for their rose at the most dramatic rose ceremony yet, I silently begged in my head. Please say yes. Please choose me. I may have even made that awkward squinty smile.
“Oh. I have a friend who would probably do it. Should I give him your number?” Fernando said, completely uninterested.
What? Passing me off to his friend? Was Fernando turning me down?
“Oh. You mean, you can’t do it?”
At this point it was becoming embarrassing for all parties involved. I was basically pleading. Music may or may not have started to play. You know, the kind where they try to get people off the stage when their speeches were too long.
“I am just so busy with this new job. I don’t have any time.”
“Oh. Okay. Well if you change your mind, just let me know.” Apparently, taking no for an answer wasn’t part of my plan.
I hung up the phone and realized: Fernando had moved on. And I had to as well. I did what I always do with guys I am no longer involved with so I don’t ever feel tempted to contact them again. I deleted his number from my phone. I had to come to the realization that there were other men, with other drills in the sea.
Oh, and guess what? Coincidentally, in my new building, the supers name is also Fernando. He may not be the same as my old Fernando, but they have the same name. So for now it will do, or at least it will have to.