“I feel like a deck hand,” I told Bo on Halloween night. I’d been battling a bathroom leak that began the size of a needle, just a little trickle of water from the ceiling. In two weeks time, after the appropriate phone calls were made to my super, Manuel, the little trickle became an on-the-hour rainstorm. I tried to explain the severity to him, but the language barrier kept me less assertive than I meant to be. I’ve lived in Washington Heights (Fort George, specifically) since last February, and have managed to get by without speaking Spanish. I’m quick to admit that if I could be better at two things, it would be to be more well-travelled and to speak more languages.
“It’s bad,” I said to Manuel over the phone.
“Big, big yes?” he said.
“Yeah, like, the water is running all the way down into a bucket. I have to change the bucket three times a day. I think you should come and look at it,” I said.
“I come next week,” Manuel kept saying.
“No, now,” I said.
“Monday,” Manuel said.
“No, now, it’s really bad.”
Finally, Saturday morning (November 1), Manuel came to the apartment and to witness this first hand. A heavy stream of yellow water emptied from a hole in the ceiling and into a bucket. By that point I was waking up at intervals to empty out the bucket. When the neighbors took a shower, I had to hang out in the bathroom the entire time, waiting for the bucket to fill.
“Plumber come Sunday, not today,” Manuel said. I sighed, embarrassed that I didn’t speak an inch of Spanish.
“OK,” I said.
“Good thing we didn’t go away to Ithaca like we’d planned,” Bo said. “This place would have been flooded.” He was right. The water began to make bubbles in the paint, large sacs along the ceiling bursting with water when they got too big.
We had a lot to do that same day: Bo and I met his father for lunch and then toured Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. It was raining, windy and cold, so we snuggled at a table eating cannoli’s and drinking coffee at a café in the neighborhood. Then we headed back to Manhattan for a surprise birthday party for N. (Philippa was in attendance). For an entire day and night my thoughts were far away from the trouble at home -- until Sunday when Bo and I settled in for a film and I noticed that the water sounded…continuous.
“I’m going to check on the ship,” I joked to Bo and opened the bathroom door to disaster. All the sacks of water had opened, allowing it to rain in the entire bathroom. The water was hot, so it steamed from the floors, nearly an inch deep.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” Bo said.
“You can’t go in there!” I screamed, partly embarrassed that it had gotten this far.
“But I have to go,” he started to say, and when he opened the door his mouth hung open in surprise.
I called Manuel, but had a similar conversation to the one the day before. He sent over the super from the adjacent building who opened the door to the bathroom and jumped backwards in shock. He raced upstairs where the neighbors were running a bath – oblivious to the storm downstairs. The ceiling was ruined but we were told that Manuel would be there to fix it up temporarily.
Then my phone rang. Manuel didn’t want to come, then Bo got on the phone to convince him. Then he said he was in the building, so Bo put on his shoes and raced downstairs.
“Where are you--?”
“We gotta find this guy, this is serious,” Bo said. “the ceiling is going to come down any second.” Then he disappeared, I heard his heavy boots trumping down the stairs. Bo’s proactive nature endeared me to him. In less than five minutes he dragged Manuel the super up to the floor.
We were promised that the plumber would come, but when I was at work and unable to let him in. Before I could say I couldn’t do it, Bo held up his hand.
“It’s my day off tomorrow,” he said. “I’ll be here.”
Despite my protests, Bo cleaned up the flooded bathroom, and oversaw the entire repair. When I came home that evening he had managed to clean and mop the place.
“You worked hard all day, you deserve it,” he said with a smile as if it were nothing. He wouldn’t allow me to repay him, and fanned away my “thank you’s”. In that instant, Bo became my hero.
We had dinner and laughed deep and hard about the flood; recounting it as if it happened years ago instead of the day before. Currently the bathroom is not completely fixed -- there’s a three foot long, two foot wide hole exposing the floor above and on occasion a large chunk of concrete or a bug with fly down from the ceiling. Normally something like that would make me cry, but now I can’t look at it without laughing and smiling.