April 12, 2013
I made a new friend. His name is Jose Luis. I knew he was my friend as soon as he said "Hello, my friend."
Jose Luis helped me move my bed, kitchen table and love seat into my new apartment down the hall from where I used to live. He also mounted my TV. My girlfriend led the moving process by performing laundry, cleaning, organizing closets, and putting away my seasoning salts. She was jealous that I gave Jose Luis all the credit on Twitter. It's no slight on her part, but he is my friend.
Jose Luis is a contractor and handy man for my building. He is 61 years old and has two boys. "I've worked here many years. Everyone I work with is for a long time. They trust me. I don't steal. I work hard." He told me.
Before moving in pink wall paper lined the walls, brown carpet touched the floors, and "Mad Men" era appliances occupied the kitchen.Then in came Jose Luis ripping the carpet, laying down hardwood floors, sanding cabinets, installing new tiles. The old apartment died along with the tenant who once called it home. Jose Luis was the executioner.
"I respect your talent," I told Jose Luis. "I don't have the skills you have."
"It comes easy," he said drilling his power tool into the wall. "I love what I do. I put my heart into it."
I visited my old apartment where I still needed to remove the mirrors that became stuck on my wall. I walked in and the mirrors sat on the floor.
"Jose Luis, how'd you do it?"
"I used a spatula." he said.
"That's amazing. I didn't think I would be able to get them down."
I told Jose Luis the story about when I first moved in and my mom stayed the night. The mirrors were not sticking and in the middle of the night one of the mirrors above the bed fell straight down and nearly sliced my mom's head open. Jose Luis recalled the time he almost fell into a fireplace during the Northridge earthquake.
Settling into the new apartment I made a list of small repairs for Jose Luis. I needed a deadbolt and new drain in the bathtub. Jose Luis installed a new ceiling fan and patched one of the tiles. He fixed things I didn't even think needed a fix. He's a fixer.
His wife, Ruth who is also a carpenter and did most of the work with him, does not speak as good of English. She came into my apartment when I was in the bathtub. My girlfriend told her to come back another time. When she came back I told her how impressed I was with the work of Jose Luis.
"How long have you been married?" I asked.
"We're not married." she said.
I wanted to see who makes the repairs in their house. Now I didn't know what to say. I didn't want to break the news to my friend that he is not married to his wife.
"He's my boyfriend," she said.
"Okay, good." I replied. I was glad because I saw him touch her butt.
I asked my girlfriend if I should write Jose Luis a thank you note for all his help. "It's his job," she explained.
It wasn't his job to be my amigo.