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Work a welcome respite -- like the friendship that brought it


September 01, 2017

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When we first moved to Statesboro, we rented the house next door to the one we live in now, and after we moved, a friendly couple, Hope and Scott, bought it, regularly bringing us baked goods right out of the oven, oftentimes with their two kids in tow. It was a relief to have kind, nonjudgmental neighbors, and when they announced they were moving out of state for a new job, we panicked a bit.

 

We were nervous about who might move in, and how they might react to our odd little queer ecosystem. We spend a lot of time in the yard between the two houses. We are obviously unorthodox and have both encountered harassment in previous living situations.

 

Last month, our friend Amanda bought the house. She has been known to literally lend us a cup of sugar when we ran out, and the drive to her house to retrieve it was never long, but the path between us now is as short as paths were between dorms in college.

 

For us, having someone we trust next door is obviously the best part of Amanda’s home purchase, but there are other perks, as well. The sale went through pretty soon after our beloved greyhound died, and we have really enjoyed having a project to concentrate on in our directionless time of grieving.

 

We know the house well, each grease stain on the kitchen wall, the curling linoleum, the beer cans some renter left beneath the back porch, which is slippery as banana peel on dewy mornings or rainy days. It has been a joy to help her move and settle in, and a joy to run back and forth from house to house to retrieve things we forgot to give back, or to trade food or tools or coupons that come in the mail.

 

On moving day, we donned gloves and masks and ripped up carpet, removed tack board. On hands and knees, we removed each staple and nail from the subfloors. There was some cursing involved, and some puncture wounds.

 

After that, we visited the dump, which was both as depressing and not at all as depressing as I assumed. It smelled terrible and was strange to see a mountain of Statesboro’s detritus, especially because some items — framed art, pristine velvet sofas — gave me the impression of someone having died, and their home cleared out by people who did not value those particular belongings.

 

We have also been learning to lay floating floors. Amanda picked a mottled recycled cork, and she and Nikki spent a lot of time watching videos about installation before the time came to begin. The tongue-and-groove tiles are supposed to “click” into one another, and we imagined we’d have it done as quickly as we’d taken care of the old carpeting. That had taken only a couple of days of hard, sweaty work, ripping to the sounds of Whitney Houston, Hall & Oates and Selena Gomez.

 

The cork tiles rarely click together, but in the moments when they do so without the need for hammers or mallets, it is extremely satisfying. Most of the tiling is tedious and requires brute strength, at least two people, special tools and a lot of terrible, repetitive noises.

 

But for me, the focus of manual labor and the pleasure of watching change take place have been immensely helpful during this listless, emotional period. The company has been paramount, and the progress has proven uplifting.

 

There is also a sense of pride, recognizing our capabilities, which I haven’t felt since my days of working on the Colorado farm, leading cattle from pasture to pasture under a cloudless sky, heaving hay, planting hundreds of feet of basil, building a mobile chicken house that we pulled by tractor. I loved that work, and did it eagerly.

 

These days, my body is recalling the rewards of toil: both my own strength and complete exhaustion, which has helped me to sleep in a time when sleep is hard to come by.


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