I honestly don’t know how to tell you this, but, well…I sprung a leak in my apartment.
I hear you all, the collective thwack! of your jaws hitting your tables. “What?” you’re asking. “Another leak?” I know. I know! But you see, I live with a water fairy, and as it turns out, she’s a b*tch.
It was heaven. But two weeks in, I started to notice a faint smell of mold coming from behind my brand new washer/dryer. But why? The wall was dry and the plumbing connection was sound, so thinking there might be a problem with the machine itself, I made an appointment with the Darty repairman.
A few nights before the repairman was due to arrive, my downstairs neighbor knocked at my door. “I think you might have a leak.”
I laughed. “Well, yeah. From upstairs, for about 2 years.”
She explained that, no, this was an active leak, and it was “quite bad.” Sure enough, water was dripping steadily through the lighting fixtures in her bathroom’s drop ceiling. Two places: directly into the toilet bowl, and another just above the sink. “That’s lucky, at least,” she said about the perfect aim of the leak.
Lucky? I was thinking “luck” was the one thing I had none of. Somewhere in my bathroom something had sprung a leak—the shower, the toilet, a pipe in the wall. Who knew?
I shut off my main water valve and the leaking stopped, so the good news was the leak was my problem, which meant that, this time, it would be fixed—pronto. My plumber said he’d come over first thing in the morning to check it out, and if they found the source of the leak, they’d fix it same day.
The bad news? My brand new, solid oak parquet flooring was starting to buckle. Apparently, water was sheeting from the bathroom under the new flooring, drenching the foam padding beneath and making the floor spongy and wavy—much like how my neighbor’s leak had done to the flooring I’d just replaced. And what’s more, the mold spores that took two years to get rid off? Yup, like the spirits in Poltergeist II, they’re baaaack.
Did I mention I have a water fairy living with me? Really. I’m pretty sure I do. Or maybe I’m the water fairy. I mean, Paris did have a flood the moment I returned in June.
“You need to have the place smudged, or blessed by a priest, or something,” a friend said. Well, actually, several friends said that. But, I don’t know, you’d think all that water would have baptized the place by now.
As you can imagine, I’m completely emotionally spent after the last fiasco, so there were no tears. I couldn’t muster anything more than resigned shrugging. “Whatever,” I kept saying, like a mantra. Whatever. Whatever. “Whatever,” I said as the plumber and his assistant smashed through my bathroom tile and opened my walls to search for the source of the leak. “Whatever,” I said as they pulled out my defective leaking toilet, forcing me leave my apartment again and stay with a friend. Whatever. What can a girl do? This is life in Paris, where things are old, and decaying, and leaky.
Turns out that my problem might have had a lot to do with the fact that I was unable to live in my place for two years thanks to my neighbor’s leak, a leak he refused to repair until I got a lawyer. Disuse is death for plumbing, apparently. Washers dry up, calcium builds up—and pop! You’re mopping up a flood. Or in my case, piling heavy books on top of your bowing parquet floor.
I had so many plans for my time in Paris: writing and blogging, planning events for my book, visiting museums, spending time with friends. Instead, I was shopping for tile and toilets, visiting my insurance agent, and dealing with construction in a water-logged home…again.
“Nothing is perfect,” my downstairs neighbor said when I lamented my floor, and her ceiling. “Nothing is meant to be perfect.”
That’s hard to take for a perfectionist like me. Why can’t it be perfect? I paid for perfect. I worked hard to make it perfect. I suffered for perfection!
Or am I suffering because of perfection, that ever-illusive perfection?
Once again, Paris is kicking my expectations to the curb. Perfection doesn’t exist; my neighbor is right. There is never a time when everything will be “just so,” and you can begin living for real. When I tipped my world on its ear, buying an apartment across an ocean and then leaving a steady job for an unknown future as a freelance writer, I made a tacit commitment to being in a constant state of change. And as if Paris knows when I need a reminder, it shook things up just when I started to settle in to my old self, the me who creates expectations of perfection.
We can become prisoners of our need for things to be “just so.” But “just so” is an excuse, a barrier we create between ourselves and the full experience of life, conditions we impose on our happiness. When you put conditions on life, you’re not allowing the universe to bestow all it has for you, in whatever form it might come.
Is it crappy that my brand new floor is spongy? Yup, but it’ll dry out. The bathroom is dried out already, and the moldy smell is fading. And, hey, I now have a swanky new Jacob Delafon toilet (who’d have thought I’d be excited about a toilet?). And I’m going to take this opportunity to upgrade the tiles in my bathroom, too. So, by the time all is said and done, my entire place will be renovated like new. The best part? I met a new neighbor, and we’ve really hit it off.
Water is a transformative element, one that nourishes even as it can destroy. Maybe my water fairy isn’t a b*tch, but instead a guide who teaches with tough love. And she hasn’t left my side yet because my transformation isn’t quite finished. I’m still being prepared for my next phase, being made whole and strong by all these challenges.
Maybe it’s not my apartment being baptized by all this water, maybe it’s meant for me, my initiation into my new life.
Learn more about the journey that led to My (Part-Time) Paris Life my memoir.
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