My maintenance man is having heart surgery tomorrow. He’s 81 years old and he told me this morning that if he doesn’t wake up it won’t be a big deal. He shrugs when he says this, like he’s mentioning dry wall. It’s sunny for the first time in days and he’s looking at the blue sky.
There are a couple things wrong in our apartment. Actually there are a dozen things wrong in our apartment, but only a few he can fix.
His name is Raul but everyone in the building calls him The Matador. Sixty years ago in Mexico he was a bullfighter. A dashing, sequined, sword–wielding beast killer.
He hunches over my grimy bathroom sink – here a whisker, there a whisker. We should have cleaned it, I think. It’s a tiny bathroom. I’m clogged in the corner as he goes to work. I look at his craggy hands. They quiver just slightly, not inelegantly, as he twists the filter back on the faucet.
The Matador chides me for not fixing this myself. One day, he says, you’re going to own a home of your own. You don’t want to have to call a plumber at $40/hour to fix something this simple. I’m embarrassed. He’s finished.
I say take care and it sounds hollow. He stops. My wife asked me why I was coming down here today, why with the surgery tomorrow. I told her someone called with a problem and I want to go take care of it. I can’t worry about tomorrow because it’s still today. I wonder if I’d be upset tomorrow if I found out he died. I wouldn’t, I decide, and there’s little I can do about that.
I look up and he’s gone. The sky is blue and I close the door.
Story by Matthew Bell
Art by Roy Hassett
Published in Book by Authors, 2006