So, my earplugs are among my most prized possessions. Nothing is more important to a writer than a pair of earplugs when, for example, your neighbor develops musical ambitions, or someone starts blowing dust along the sidewalk with one of those damn leaf-blowers. My neighborhood isn’t quiet, and most days I put in the earplugs at some point. It helps me focus to be immune to audible distractions.
However, I now know, having conducted an involuntary experiment, that my earplugs do not mask the sound of my living room ceiling collapsing.
Here’s how I reacted. I looked up from my writing notebook and, with a sinking feeling of doom, said out loud, “What the f%#@ was that noise?” I put my notebook down, walked into the living room, and took a moment to understand what had happened, because, frankly, the whole room looked like it had exploded, and I didn’t get it. Then I looked up.
“Oh my F%#@ING GOD!” I yelled, twice, probably louder than I meant to, due to the earplugs. Then, instantly, this eerie calm came over me. There was water pouring from the hole onto the floor — well, onto the ceiling, really, which was now on the floor — and I turned around, walked to the laundry room, and fetched my bucket. I walked back and placed the bucket under the stream of water. I examined the (very large) hole in the ceiling and discovered that I could see the sky through a hole in the roof above it. Everything began to make sense: hole in the roof, rainy Florida summer…. I took out an earplug and called the landlord. Then, umm, I hung up my Alan Rickman poster. (It was in the way, you see, of all the men I expected were on their way to my apartment. I’d been flattening it on the living room floor under picture books when the event occurred. I had to dig the picture books and the poster out from under pieces of ceiling, but oddly, nothing was damaged.) I hung the poster up in my bedroom, calmly noting that my hands were shaking. The reason I’m dizzy and have a headache, I told myself, is because of adrenaline. NOT because all that fuzzy insulation stuff floating all over the living room is toxic. I hope. I went back to my armchair, sat down, and picked up my writing notebook.
I often write little comments in the margin under the day’s date, things like: “Gorgeous rainstorm today,” or, “Too much Pirate’s Booty: indigestion,” or, “What if I moved to Iceland?” That sort of thing. Now I picked up my pen and calmly wrote: “Ceiling on floor.” I thought about the irony for a few minutes; the collapse had taken place directly above my meditation corner. I’ve often sat in that very spot trying to maintain my own structural integrity, spine straight, shoulders slightly back, arms relaxed. How pleasant that my poor, weary ceiling waited until I was not meditating to drop.
A few minutes saw the arrival of a dude sent by my landlord, a shirtless roofer named Jesus (pronounced JEE-zus, just like God, Jr.). Jesus and his apostles tromped in and out and back and forth and up and over for some time, until the hole in the roof above the hole in my ceiling was patched. Before Jesus left, he informed me that a whole stretch of the roof was going to have to be rebuilt and that, in fact, there was another hole in the roof, not far from the first one, collecting water. Perhaps I’d consider moving any valuable items from under that spot, just for safety’s sake? “Where is it?” I asked Jesus. Jesus led me to my office and pointed to the spot directly above my brand new iMac.
I dragged my kitchen table into my bedroom and set my computer up on it, thanks be to Jesus. “You’ll be seeing me again,” he said as he left, which struck me as a very Jesus thing to say. Unfortunately, the apostle I’ve always most closely resembled is Doubting Thomas, particularly in manners relating to the maintenance of my apartment. Let’s just say, I’ll believe it when I see it.
I suppose if Jesus does return to rebuild the roof, it’ll be the truest test.
(Not of my faith. Of my earplugs.)