After a five day long weekend during which the largest difficulty I had to overcome was getting the lid off the cocktail shaker after it had been encrusted with sugar and mint leaves from mojitos, I returned to my apartment Sunday night and immediately fell asleep, wasted by endless hours of volleyball, drinking in the sun and laughing heartily at the notion of people working while I played volleyball and drank in the sun. I didn’t unpack, I didn’t straighten up the apartment, I hardly even brushed my teeth. I just collapsed.
Flash forward to the next morning when I stumble out of bed about 20 minutes after The Girlfriend has left for work. Because she has a “real” job, this is our usual schedule. And because I have the apartment all to myself for those 40 minutes I spend getting ready, I don’t mind doing things I wouldn’t normally do while wearing just my underwear, such as stretch and eat a bowl of cereal. Usually, I don’t even bother closing the shades, because our apartment is in the back of the building and there is a rather large gap between us and the buildings behind us. So while often times I can see in the windows of those buildings, without the telephoto lens on my camera I can’t discern if they are fully clothed, just wearing underwear, or rolling around on the floor completely naked with their dog. Hence I feel secure, using the time tested “If I can’t see them, they can’t see me” logic, going about my business unashamed by original sin.
So when I found myself naked in the bathroom, just about to step in the shower, but suddenly realizing that I had left my unpacked toiletry case in the bedroom, I didn’t think twice about just walking out of the bathroom completely unclothed and going to the bedroom to fetch it.
Five steps out of the bathroom, though, something happened, the memory of which causes me to shudder and make that audible noise you make to distract yourself from a horrendously embarrassing moment.
(Side story: Back in college during my junior year, I met a girl in one of my English classes and we started to date. As we were leaving class one day, we ran into one of her friends in the hallway, a small, Asian guy I had recognized from another English class we shared. This was how our introduction went. I’ve changed his name to protect him from me:
Girl: “Dan, this is Tim. Tim, this is Dan.”
(Something feels weird as we shake hands.)
Me: “Whoa, what’s with the secret handshake?”
(Time pulls up his extra long sleeves to reveal two deformed hands, each with only three fingers.)
WHAT’S WITH THE SECRET HANDSHAKE?!
Point being, I have forever thought that would be the most embarrassing moment of my life. I might have been wrong.)
Perhaps now is a good time to inform you that there has been construction going on at the building next to ours for a few months. They are gut renovating the entire townhouse, and everyday there are between 10 and 15 workers filing in and out of the front door with hard hats, tools and dirty facial hair. Perhaps my foreshadowing skills have slipped since college, but I think you see where this is headed . . .
Standing in the middle of the kitchen, halfway between the bathroom and the bedroom door, I look up and see, right outside the window on the balcony of the adjacent building, a construction worker leaning on the railing having a cigarette. I have drawn this handy diagram to help you understand the gravity of the situation:
It is a clear, direct visual path from where I was standing to where the construction worker was standing. No more than 40 feet between us. He had on a blue flannel shirt, work jeans and a brown belt. He had short, dirty blond hair. I could have said in a normal voice, “How’re things going over there?” and, despite the operation of heavy machinery nearby, he would have heard me fine. WE LOOKED INTO EACH OTHER’S EYES FOR CHRIST’S SAKE. The best I can describe it is to say that both of us, not knowing how to react, looked away quickly, as though one might do when checking out someone at a bar and they catch you staring. It was probably the most intimate moment I have ever shared with a man, including the time I spooned a friend for warmth in a twin bed in Montreal. (Seriously, is there anything in this post that wouldn’t get me fired from my job?) I can’t even say I was a like a deer in headlights, because even a deer expresses some sort of emotion and eventually moves. I, instead, was so shocked that I just stood there, as normal as possible, like the Earth had stopped and I had all the time in the world to contemplate my many fears and problems, although inexplicably the construction worker standing outside my window LOOKING AT MY NAKED FACE IN MY EYE wasn’t one of them.
Finally, after blacking out for a few moments, I made it to the bedroom and assessed the situation: A strange guy had just seen me buck naked in my kitchen. Assessment: Poor situation.
I put pants on, waited a full minute and then peeked out the door. In hindsight, this probably wasn’t the best idea, because, if for some reason he was still out there looking in, the absolute hilarity of my face peeking out my bedroom door to see if he was still there would probably have been too much for me to handle. Luckily, he was gone, and I made my way back to the bathroom and washed myself clean of the whole event.
Until, of course, I had to leave my building and was forced to walk past the group of construction workers loitering outside. I think this is the closest I will ever come to knowing the feeling a girl gets when she is trapped in a closet at a party and taken advantage of by an entire fraternity, and then has to fix her hair and pull her cardigan tight as she leaves the party and can’t tell anyone because no one would believe her anyway, even after she sees one of them in school that Monday and he smiles to her across the class and makes a kissy face and she starts crying and runs out of the room. And all I could think while finishing my lonely walk to the subway station was that the days when the lid to the cocktail shaker was my biggest problem seemed so far, far away.
Again, not me. Although Scott won the hair-do battle.