I’m not usually one to kiss and tell, but there are times when the telling is so epic, I have to cross that line. This is most definitely one of those times. Single friends, take notes.
Handy J has been working at the flat across the hall from me for the past week. He is installing a central heating system, that is when he isn’t busy chatting me up in the hallway (and you wonder why the repairman is always late!)
J is tall, dark, handsome and has an enormous toolbox. Literally. That’s not a euphemism or anything.
Upon meeting J, I told him not to hesitate to let me know if he needed anything. He held me to that and hasn’t been shy. J seems to always need something: water for the kettle, a phone charger, a kind and sympathetic ear…
The other day, he quite literally knocked on my door 3 times within an hour. Each time he was asking for more water for the kettle. Handing him his 3rd litre of water that morning I said, “Wow, you sure do drink a lot of tea.” He laughed and explained that he was using the water to clean things in the flat. Still skeptical, I told him to let me know if he needed anything else as I was going to be home revising for my exam. J said, “Oh, well maybe I’ll come by for lunch.”
I was caught off guard and said, “Oh. Lunch? Well, since it’s revision week, I don’t really have lunch. I have half a sweet potato and some brussels sprouts and was going to just eat that.” J laughed and told me not to worry.
And I did eat exactly that:
Still, I felt a bit bad I couldn’t invite J in for lunch. I don’t know the first thing about installing boilers and stuff, but it seems like the type of work that would leave you very hungry. So, I decided to bake him a cake. A vegan lemon cake as I was completely out of eggs and butter also (ref. eating brussels sprouts and sweet potato for lunch) and I really couldn’t be bothered to go to the shop and buy lunch or eggs and butter.
The next time J knocked for a kettle refill, I answered the door and said, “Hi-I-baked-you-a-cake.” He didn’t respond right away, so I said it again, a little louder, “I BAKED YOU A CAKE.”
J just looked at me. Probably processing these strange words said in my strange accent. The silence felt uncomfortable, so I kept talking:
“Well, since I said to let me know if you needed anything and then you said you needed lunch, but I didn’t really have lunch…”
“Oh I was just kidding about that…”
“Well, I BAKED YOU A CAKE!”
The third time I told him I’d baked a cake must have come off as a bit aggressive because J gave me an appeasing smile and said, “Thanks. I’ve only got about half an hour left of work.”
I threw my hands up and said, “Well, just knock on my door when you are getting ready to go and I’ll cut you a slice of cake to take away with you.”
J smiled and nodded. About half an hour later, he knocks again and says, “That’s me done.”
I nod and say, “Ok great. Let me go get you some cake.”
As I turn to leave, J takes a step into my flat and says, “Or, you could invite us in for a cup of tea?”
I say, “ok,” and turn and walk away, leaving the door open. J must have understood that as an invitation to come in, because that’s exactly what he did. He followed me into the kitchen and I say, “Welp, there’s the cake.”
I flip on the kettle and ask, “How do you take your tea?” He asks for milk and sugar.
Damn. I’d put all the sugar in the cake. I tell him, “I put all the sugar in the cake. I have honey. I’ll put honey in your tea.”
I hand him the mug, realizing I’d forgotten to take out the tea bag. With the swiftness of a ninja, I grab a spoon from the counter and reach into his mug to remove the tea bag, spilling tea all over his arm, “Sorry about that, Americans really are not that good with tea, ya know?”
J takes his tea to the table and I sit across from him. He smiles, “This is like a proper dinner date.”
“Yup. Sure is.”
I’m wishing the cake tasted better (I’d run out of sugar making the cake, and decided it would just be a lower calorie vegan lemon cake – it was quite tart). I’m wishing I had enough icing sugar to make frosting instead of a glaze. I’m wondering what the heck I am doing feeding this guy I don’t even know a slice of cake. I’m wishing I had a gin and tonic…
I ask J a little bit more about what he does, and when he starts talking about plumbing, I remember that I pulled the plug out of the bathroom sink while trying to flush a few large chunks of dried henna down the drain and haven’t been able to get it to go back in correctly. I ask him if he wouldn’t mind taking a look at it. And guess what, HE FIXES IT – WITH HIS TOOLS!
I thank him for fixing my sink and we return to THE CAKE.
J asks me if I have a flatmate. I say no.
He continues, “And no boyfriend, husband back in the US?”
“Not exactly,” I respond. Realizing how that must have sounded, I laugh and then (for some unknown reason) say it again, “Yea, not exactly.”
What J can not possibly understand here is that “not exactly” has just somehow become Erin-code for, “I haven’t even dated anyone in 4 years…” and that’s why it’s so funny.
I ask him if he has a girlfriend. He says, “Not exactly.”
Hmmm. I’m thinking “not exactly” possibly means something a little different for J – either that or he is “mirroring” in an attempt to get closer to me and build trust. All primates do it.
J finishes his cake, and tells me it was “braw,” but his parking is expiring and he has another job to get to. He takes the plates into the kitchen.
I walk J to the door. He thanks me for the cake and I thank him for fixing my sink. He gives me a hug and a kiss on the cheek and turns to the door. Then, with one hand on the doorknob, J turns back to me, looks in my eyes, and in one painfully halting and spasmodic motion, leans in and starts kissing me.
I’m taken off guard, but I kiss back. Then, I start thinking about how I am kissing Handy J from the flat across the hall in the middle of the day because I baked him a cake and I am overcome with the desire to laugh my head off. Fortunately, I learned when I was 17 that guys HATE it when they are kissing you and you start laughing (they REALLY, REALLY hate it), so I was able to repress the giggles and just smile and keep kissing back. However, with all the effort I had to put into not laughing and with the awkwardness of it all, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what to do with my hands while making out with a dude. So, I held them out to my sides, kinda like a penguin holds it’s flippers when it’s balancing on an ice float.
J pulls away from the kiss and says, “So, I guess I should go?”
Still wearing my incredibly literal hat from revision week, I respond, “Yeah, you should, your parking is expiring, remember?”
J walks out the door and spills his toolbox. I tell him to have a great afternoon and close the door.
Then, I go sit down on my futon with my flash cards and laugh my head off for the whole afternoon. I daydreamed about future me, aged 58 walking around my beautiful Southern California outdoor swimming pool on a Thursday morning. I see my 20-something year old pool boy cleaning out the filter, lower my Ray-bands and winking, say, “Hey cutie, want a Piña Colada?”
Dear future me, if Handy J is the start of a trend, I think we’re going to be ok…
I didn’t get much revision done that day, but I did find a vintage cake advertisement on pintrest that really captured the moment: