Seriously, I had no intention whatsoever of writing this week. I was seriously upset, and I’m firmly determined not to write about upsetting things anymore, as it makes me feel even worse. After all, real life had had us sufficiently on the hook.
But this morning I was abruptly awoken by our contractor at 8 o’clock… Alright, I know this sounds quite absurd, but in this dark cage where we’ve been living for ages now (I mean, two years), made even darker by these last days of daylight saving time, it was practically “the middle of the night.”
And I was dreaming, folks. I haven’t been sleeping a lot lately, not being yet completely integrated into the “Popping Pills Society of the United States of America.” Which will happen soon, God willing, as soon as I enter my 66th year. That is, if “so and so” gets elected and decides to preserve our Social Security and Medicare, plus our human and gun-carrier rights, among so many others. As I’d heard early on in a radio show, this would include “the right to have sex and have someone impregnate you, and to demand that this person is not ugly or undesirable,” and also the indisputable right to use the bathroom of your choice or have your doctor “perform a mandatory hysterectomy” in case you are too tired of being a woman in this men’s world, and more, “encouraged” to clean, to cook, to wash… … to make all the necessary money to support your household, and still look young and refreshed all the time. Moreover, able to speak perfect English in case you’re a foreigner like me, and perform like a genius at every enterprise you venture yourself in, including the building of a house… Enough. Give me that envied penis of yours and shut up already.
So I was dreaming. And in my dream, I met this writer whose book I’m now in the process of translating, a year later than expected. The man is a saint, let’s face it. Or almost. A pilgrim, at any rate, walking from Canterbury to Rome across stunning European landscapes, and valleys and mountains and ruins; last night, for instance, he was looking for a place to sleep late at night, as I was struggling to finish my “daily share.” I couldn’t get there; and neither did he, in his particularly inspiring stretch of text. When I met him in the dream he was not walking, though; he was riding a bike, and as he rushed past me, I told him in triumph, “Here it is! 25% ready at last!”
As the noisy phone rang, he was cycling away. I jumped out of bed and we drove up the hill, without even indulging in a cup of coffee, Alan and I. We did not wish to be late.
The present problem is, I’m not experienced with roofs, as you well know. Therefore, the day before, when I saw for the first time the recently erected roof under which I’m supposed to live for the rest of my life, I was truly surprised. And quite shocked, I must admit. It did not resemble my drawing at all.
During my precarious sleep, I have had another subliminal hunch, albeit closely connected to real life: Instead of the expected six clerestory windows, for unexplained reasons, there were seven up there, according to the subconscious mind. And lo and behold, when I got to the construction site this morning, I realized I was right.
“¡Oye! ¿Dónde están los planos?” asked the contractor in a broken Spanish.
I was ahead of him on that one, since my own broken Spanish is much better than his. And not only that: I had been discussing the whole matter with my Mexican framer the day before, in a broken Spanglish (with a Portuguese accent), and was proud of it. But it didn’t take me long to discover that this framer, in fact, was at the service of Marco, another Mexican contractor I would never have access to, who, for his part, responded to our American contractor — all this on cell phones, rarely or never onsite. So one minute after Rodolfo (the #3 in the construction chain) and I reached an agreement about the clerestory windows, and a few other crucial things, the primary bosses were furiously talking on their cell phone network, each in their own national language, while my puzzled “Bauhaus-Flat-Roof” mind was having serious trouble to fathom what the heck had happened to the “adapted” South-Carolinian Craftsman design, which I intended to make “as low-pitched as possible,” just enough to fool our demanding HOA.
The whole situation was going down the hill. Literally. Looking down the slope from the about-to-be living room picture window, one could see the steel poles — that, at some point, would sustain the floating back porch — painfully puncturing the rummaged dirt some 20-something feet below. Huge!
“Everything about this house is huge,” said the American contractor, trying to convince me that the very high ceiling was completely in order.
“We could as well hang a cross on the top,” said Alan, sardonically, making reference to the absurd “cathedral” height.
As the “person in charge,” I had been musing most of the night over my regrettable roofing shortcomings, and had quietly decided that I would take whatever came my way, and try to conform myself to it. After all, as a Brazilian flat-roofer, I didn’t know the first thing about the weight of the snow, or the thermal requirements and the window flanges, for that matter. Come on, give me some slack. I’m in desperate need of a break here.
But the contractor wouldn’t give up that easy. He was determined, not only to have it right, but to have me “satisfied.” And was fiercely working on it.
The morning meeting lasted more than two hours, during which he insistently tried to convince me of what I had already convinced myself during the previous sleepless night; notwithstanding the fact that I was sound asleep, and dreaming, when his early call had suddenly woken me up.
In the end, while I was struggling to justify myself in regard to the pitch of the roof, which had come out wrong, but right, according to my own wrong plans, he told me this:
“When I first saw your plans, I told myself this would be a tiny little house; although I managed to convince the bank that it was otherwise. But, curiously enough, when you enter the building everything feels great, majestic even: the high ceiling, the outstanding view, the huge windows and doors, everything works beautifully together. Therefore, while doing it wrong, you’ve done it perfectly right.”
“Well. Yeah. That’s the very definition of art,” I said, still stuck in defense mode. “It may be unintended, done sort of blindly, but it comes out perfectly beautiful in the end.”
And so will happen with our remarkable house, I hope. Meanwhile, as we were immersed in this highly philosophical debate, searching for an aesthetic quality of life, little did we know that the internet had been hacked, and the all-fragile house of cards of our marvelous technological civilization had been falling apart for at least a couple of hours, on a good percentage of U.S. territory.
The Russians are coming, they say. To finally take you away…