March 29, 2018
I am a freelance copywriter and rarely leave my Brooklyn apartment during the day. Today was no exception. My neighbor went up to the roof at 7 a.m. I could hear his footsteps. He began growing herbs and tomatoes shortly after his retirement—I googled him, and he used to work in a big bank that stole money from the American people, that collapsed in 2008—and he goes up there to check on them as often as three times a day. He knows I’m usually home, and I know he knows. I wonder if he knows I work from home? I do my best to tap my keyboard very audibly whenever I hear him in the hallway.
Around 10 a.m., my mom called. She’d had a bad first date with a former intelligence officer and was a little surprised, because he’d just invited her to join him at a top-secret party next week. If she agreed to attend, she would have to send a copy of her driver’s license to his secretary and answer a number of security questions. I advised her to ignore this man’s messages. She said I knew nothing about relationships and asked, once again, when I was having children. My neighbor could probably hear our conversation because I raised my voice. Now he knows not only that I don’t want to freeze my eggs, but also that I don’t want to discuss it.
I went out to the farmer’s market around noon. There was my neighbor, outside my door, fiddling with that broken light fixture. The wires had been exposed forever, so the fixture had hung from the wall in a gravity-defying manner I admired. Now its battle with the forces of nature was nearing its end, and I felt a little sad.
“Good morning,” I said, hoping my body language indicated I was determined to keep moving.
“I’m going to fix this guy,” my neighbor said.
“Thank you,” I replied.
At the farmer’s market, I bought apples, broccoli, carrots, and parsley. While making my way back home, I tried to calculate the amount of time required to reinstall a wobbly light fixture but realized I had no idea what factors should be taken into account.
My neighbor was still there when I returned to my apartment, standing on an old plastic stool. I thanked him again.
My mom called again to tell me she had decided against a second date with the former intelligence officer. This time she wanted to talk about Donald Trump. I agreed with her that the American embassy ought to stay in Tel Aviv. Jerusalem was such a complicated place. I wondered whether my neighbor would agree.
I had to finish editing a client’s academic article by 5 p.m. This client is a German doctor who works with Israeli startup companies. His article was full of long sentences in the passive voice, and I had to work hard to de-Germanize it. I get paid by the word, so every passive sentence was in fact a blessing.
At 5 p.m., a new potential client called. He introduced himself as an independent purveyor of organic oils in need of an editor. “I usually edit academic articles,” I clarified. He didn’t care. Instead, he raised his voice and asked: “Do I hear an accent?” I replied yes, but didn’t elaborate. From that moment on, he spoke to me as if I were a child, or mentally disabled. At 5:25, he sent me materials: reviews of his oils that he himself had authored and intended to post on relevant websites using different nicknames. My job was to make each review sound as if a different person had written it. I read the reviews to myself out loud, wondering if my neighbor was enjoying them.
At 7 p.m, I realized I had to meet a friend for dinner at 7:30 and hadn’t showered all day. I showered quickly and left the apartment. My neighbor wasn’t in the hallway. The lighting fixture seemed firmly attached to the wall.