Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Truth About Love: "Skunk Update and Roommate Stories"

Good news! Seth (my roommate, pictured right with our little friend) and I successfully caught and removed the little skunk last night. It was very cute and calm and reasonable throughout the process. I think everyone involved was deeply relieved when it ran off into the night.

One of the things I like most about Seth is his ability to step up. The day he was supposed to move in, was the day Calvin died. He showed up and found me on the stairs in my pajamas attempting to process the news. Rather than move in that day, he gave me the day to be alone with Calvin and Norman and Dan. He gave me room to cope and cry and grieve and bury Calvin in privacy, even though he had every right to move in and had already paid his rent. It made all the difference in the world and was a tremendous act of caring for someone who was a relative stranger.

The next day, he showed up with flowers. Lilies and impatiens, "because," he said, "I know you like to garden. And girls like flowers." Those flowers became the ones that circle Calvin's headstone, and I was so grateful to have them. Planting them kept me busy that first day without Cal, and it was a great relief to have a purpose.

During Seth's first weekend here, I came home from my first date with Nathanael, very sick. He was on the couch and I walked in with this guy he'd never met and said, "I'm going to go throw up. Make sure he gets home." And he did. He drove him home.

And the next morning, when I called Seth from my room (on my home phone) to his room (on his cell phone), he got up out of bed, and went out to get me the only food I felt I could stomach: Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee, a bagel with cream cheese, and Gatorade. He'd only gotten two hours of sleep, but he didn't tell me that until later. He just went out and got me what I needed.

The next weekend, I came home again with Nathanael, only this time I was on crutches having spent the evening in the emergency room. "I think you know the way," was all I said to Seth. We smiled at one another, and shook our heads, and he got up and drove Nathanael home again.

My knee injury was terrible. I was in pain. I was immobilized. A brutal heat wave hit. It was all just very discouraging. I was behind in my freelance work already because of moving and then my car dying and then Calvin dying...and I was applying for a job I really wanted, but it was impossible to sit at my desk. Whenever I did, my knee swelled up like a grapefruit, which was very uncomfortable and more than a little bit frightening.

So, I laid in bed with my leg up and tried to work from there. And Seth took care of me.

I tried to find others to help. I asked a few friends if they could come, but almost all of them had their own problems or prior commitments and couldn't (or wouldn't) come that first week, when I couldn't walk. But Seth, who had only known me for a few weeks, dropped everything and took care of me. He helped me up and down stairs. He brought me Tylenol and Advil and ice. He kept me company. And when I broke down in tears because I just felt so miserable and lonely and overwhelmed, he did the dishes and washed the floor because he knew it would make me feel less powerless and more okay if the house was clean. It was pretty wonderful, really.

Every day, he gets up, and he leaves the house so that I can work in peace and quiet. He is a Journeyman Ironworker and has been between placements during his time here, so he could just sit at home all day. But, he doesn't. He gets up and makes sure he's gone for the duration of my work day. He does this only because he knows I need it. It's incredibly selfless.

I was surprised when Seth didn't answer any of my phone calls yesterday about the skunk. I left him several messages but didn't hear anything back. He rolled in the door around 10pm and immediately smelled the skunk and saw the barricade i'd put up between the kitchen and the hall.

"What the deuce?" he said.

"Didn't you get my messages?!" I said.

He said he hadn't. His phone had died. So, he sat down and I explained about the skunk. He listened to all our options. The $400 professional removal. ("Fuck that," said Seth.) The possibility that the ACO would come back tomorrow with a trap. Or, we could do it ourselves.

"Can I kill it?" he said.

"Absolutely NOT," I said. "There will be no killing. NO killing. We are going to take care of this animal--no killing."

He smiled a smile made crooked by the lump of chewing tobacco nestled against his jaw.

"Let's go get it," he said.

There is something about Seth that makes him trustworthy. This was not the half-cocked, testosterone-induced notion of an irresponsible man. Seth is an Eagle Scout. He is pierced and tattooed and drinks like he's Irish (which, I think he is). He is also capable of handling just about anything. So, with complete confidence, I said, "yes." All of a sudden the idea of being face to face-or face to ass--with a skunk seemed totally reasonable. It was definitely what we should do.

Armed with an old blanket, a flashlight, and a whiffle ball bat, we located the beast. Well, Seth located the beast while I stood in the kitchen eating my dinner. But, once he'd found it, though, I was in. I went downstairs and together we worked like a well-oiled machine. It reminded me of something my brother and I would do together. My brother is a man like Seth is a man. He has a high tolerance for pain, a big love for his family, a wicked sense of humor, a desire to kill furry animals and occasionally torment me with stories about doing so, and the ability to fix just about anything.

With Seth at my side, I did not fear the skunk's perfume. Instead, I felt totally capable of solving the problem. It took us a while to move boxes out of the way, prod the little creature out of its hiding place, and wrap it in a blanket. But all along the way, we moved like a perfect duet, a daring duo. We could anticipate one another's moves and supply what was needed. The lifting of a box here, the shining of a light there, the application of the whiffle ball bat to prod the skunk in one direction or the other. It was a thing of beauty.

And, luckily, this time, he didn't have to drive anyone home when it was over. He just carried the skunk out to the yard, posed for some pictures, and set the little one free.

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