My apartment is melting. I’ve written about the problem intermittently in recent posts. The situation has gotten critical. I know I have a knee-jerk tendency to complain about my wife Jina on this blog, and I apologize for being preternaturally monotonous. I bow with relentlessly rapid dexterous deferentiality, vehemently enough to knock my head against my kneecaps, but not so hard as to fall over, and that despite having a prodigious gut and a bad back to boot.
Not that she hasn’t gone out of her way to drive me mad in the meantime, but she has done a yeoman’s service–or a yeowoman’s–in bailing out our sinking ship, while I’ve largely stood idly by like a gelded Irish setter, gazing at her dumbly, too idle to even wag my tail. That’s the reason she laid into me the other night, when we came home to find a series of puddles on the floor.
The problem began about six weeks ago–maybe even two months–with a few drips coming from the frame in the middle of our dining kitchen ceiling. It actually started in one of the light fixtures, so we had to take out the compact fluorescent bulb and use the glass cover to collect water that we periodically emptied out. Then it gradually spread to spots along the surrounding frame, which is about a ten by ten square feet.
Jina, who’s far more resourceful than I am about such matters, devised a system of plastic containers, poking holes in them with scissor blades, threading twist-ties through the holes, and attaching the loops to S-shaped hooks made from snipped pieces of coat hangers roughly four inches long. Finally, she secured the containers with pieces of green masking tape, taking care only to use enough to make it convenient to remove them regularly. She did all this stoically and uncomplainingly, with an admirable single-mindedness that I normally lack in such endeavors, having the attention span of a DDT-stricken gnat.
For the first few weeks, we made do with a few containers (mainly Tupperware–excuse the product plug- and plastic cups), until they numbered around fourteen. At least once a day we would empty the containers into a bucket, which we’d pour down the drain in the bathroom floor. Jina would stand on a chair to do this, while I usually did it while standing on the floor, though we both had to crane our necks. She injured hers enough to require treatment with a hot pad and some mentholated patches which I applied for her, trying to navigate her frantic and fascistic directions about where exactly to attach them.
(My own neck and left shoulder are now in sorry shape, but that’s probably also because I usually have to sleep on my left side; I went to an acupuncturist a couple of times last week, but his treatment proved only a palliative.)
The last time I wrote about the situation, about a week ago, we had twenty-three containers on the ceiling. At the time of the big spill mentioned above, we were up to forty. (These included the two halves of a pink plastic egg carton and a water bottle sawed lengthwise in half.)
The time of our argument–it was a Saturday night–was when I’d finally started to pull my weight and take the issue with appropriate seriousness. Jina was rightly outraged that I hadn’t been more helpful before. I’d been childishly resentful that we have to move out of our apartment into a smaller space, and her criticism of me as being passive was fair, I have to admit. Pardon me while I enjoy another helping of deliciously concocted crow on a spit.
Earlier that evening we’d gone clothes shopping at a department store. Jina had insisted I buy a new suit since I had a job interview coming up, and the trousers in my other suit have a hole in the crotch (hey, at least it’s convenient). (A few months ago after work, while I was bending over to pick up a pen I’d dropped on the sidewalk, I felt and heard a distinct ripping sound, then realized I’d torn a foot-long gash in the seat of my pants; luckily I was wearing an overcoat at the time, so I was able to laugh at it instead of weeping like a mortified fool).
The salesman at the clothing shop was helpful, despite having bad breath. Unfortunately, the trousers from the suit we bought turned out to be too tight in the backside, even though they’d seemed okay when I tried them on. Since the guy already adjusted them for length, it’s too late to get a refund. Jina decreed with Old Testament finality that I’d just have to lose weight.
After we bought the suit, we went to another department store intending to get a late dinner, but since it was after nine pm, the doorman in the first floor lobby told us the food court up on the eleventh floor of the building was closed. I saw a sign outside saying it was supposed to be open till nine-thirty, so I asked Jina to confirm with him that his report was true. He shrugged and told her the sign referred to summertime hours (thanks, sign!), but Jina seemed to think I was determined that we investigate. I assured her that doing so was fruitless, but she insisted that we take the elevator up to the eleventh floor and see for ourselves.
When we got there, lo and behold, the cooks were cleaning up and the cashiers were closing down the registers. I already knew this would be the case and made for the elevators to descend to the earth. Jina said we should check the tenth floor, which also featured an array of restaurants, just in case, so we boarded the escalator and had a look, but alas, to no avail.
By the time we got back down to the first floor, my blood was starting to percolate, as I felt that Jina had needlessly wasted our time. She didn’t see matters that way, as you’ll find out in a moment.
We looked around for another restaurant, but most of the places around were too pricey. We went into a small Chinese joint and were about to order when Jina got up and said we had to go. I was starving and wanted to stay, but when we got outside she said the place looked too dodgy to her and she didn’t think the food would be safe to eat.
The weather was freezing, by the way, as it has been for the past week or so, after a warm spell full of contaminated air. At least the air is finally cleanish, not that there’s any incentive to spend any length of time outside unless you’re fond of shivering.
At the bus stop, I simply lost it.
“Why the fuck did you make us go all the way up to see if the food court was open when we both knew it would be closed!”
I raised my voice to a fever pitch, drawing the attention of curious passers by.
Jina was humiliated by my display, along with its timing.
She threw the suit bag on the ground and said, “You don’t trust me! That’s why we had to go and check!”
“What do you mean?” I said. “I told you we shouldn’t waste our time!”
She stormed off, but re-appeared a moment later after I got on the bus, following suit. We bickered briefly for a few sentences thereafter, then I let her lay into me when we got off at our stop in order to clear the air.
Having said her piece, she cooled down and we went and had some dinner at a noodle shop.
(The reason, by the way, I was ungrateful for the purchase of the suit is that it makes me feel like a thoroughbred race horse at the Kentucky Derby. I know as soon as I fall and break my leg, she’s just going to shoot me anyway.)
Back to our story about the incontinent apartment ceiling: now that I finally perceived the urgency of the matter, I was as pissed off about it as she was. That’s what precipitated our second spat of the evening.
We spent hours trying to catch spreading leaks, replacing wet strips of tape. I got a lot of cursing done. Swearing is my hobby.
Finally, Jina had the brilliant idea (she actually got it from a friend of hers who’d had an experience similar to ours) of taping together the plastic covers for the suit we’d bought and the overcoat (I wasn’t going to mention it before, but there you have it), cutting out the top part so they’d fit together as one loose, floppy cylinder. We had another sheet from the dry cleaners so we could add a third, assembling them with the green masking tape. We replaced the overstressed plastic containers with this new rig and let everything trickle down into a giant bucket Jina bought for taking baths in (something she’s yet to use it for).
By now it was around midnight. Jina took the opportunity to bewail her lost ring, a family heirloom that had a ruby in it. I placated her but she was inconsolable. She thought she must have left it in a public rest room somewhere, or that someone from the church had taken it (Jesus Christ, what’s the world coming to!).
I really needed to get some sleep, but didn’t want to appear callous, so I did my best to comfort her.
The next day, she seemed to have gotten over the loss well enough. The main reason she was upset was that she thought she could have traded the ring in for cash.
Jina ended up staying up all night Saturday and again Sunday and even most of last night (Monday) addressing the soupy ceiling. I helped her fashion a larger cellophane tube for the leaks deluging the kitchen table, and she also made one to catch the drips farther along the frame from the first one, which led into a small bucket she placed atop Dios, the name of our refrigerator. We laughed about the appearance of the ghostly tubes. The two adjacent ones looked like an enormous pair of transparent trousers worn by a running man, while the one hanging over the dining room table looked like a three-dimensional map of Korea.
We’re moving out in twelve days. Now all we have to do is pack and try not to drown.
Incidentally, Jina woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me in a jubilant tone that she’d found her ring in the pocket of one of her coats (although she contended it hadn’t been there when she’d checked it before–hmmm, mysterious. . .). I congratulated her and celebrated by going to the bathroom and taking a piss. Gotta love those “benignly” enlarged prostate glands.