Sleeping in bed, still recovering from the overnight bus, dreaming the retainer I haven’t used in eight years is falling apart in my mouth in a million little pieces and I can’t spit them out, suddenly wake, not sure why, hear it again.
That dull buzzing, the doorbell.
To the living room. Melissa on the ponge, she looks at me. I hate that fucking doorbell.
Ignore it. Thank you, landlords, for fixing that before move in. Who needs unclogged pipes, or working faucets, or cupboards cleared of rubble, long as anyone can buzz you, early morning to midnight? Probably a beggar. A couple more rings and it stops. Back to bed and try to close my eyes.
Someone drilling our wall, followed by hammering. I should investigate. Open our door, then the window in the stairwell. A man in the dirt courtyard on a ladder messing with the internet cable. My payment is four days late because we’ve been out of town. Are they physically removing everything because of this? Is that what they do here?
Back to the living room. Is the internet working?
Open the window in our bedroom, the one the cable runs through, for a different view, greeted by another man on a ladder, looking in his pockets, doesn’t notice me. Don’t say hi and scare him and cause him to fall and die. Dress, down stairwell, out main door, into courtyard.
Huya, internet dyali. Maxdmsh?
[French]. Points to the worker around the corner.
Over to the other worker. Pardon? Dar dyali. Internet maxdmsh?
Mafhmtsh France. (I don’t understand French.) Xssk mshiu f dar dyali?
Gather the cables are being replaced, relief, not being cut off, wave him to the front door. Sandals in the stairwell aren’t mine. One of the workers? Don’t remember them there. Inside our apartment. Go, I point Melissa to the other room. Shorts and a t-shirt. She runs inside and closes the door. Worker comes upstairs. To the bedroom, move things around, hammering, shower comes on in the bathroom. Would Melissa use that now? To the bathroom. Light off, door open, small man hunched over turk, shower running above him. The other worker came in and used the bathroom? Is that what they do here? Why didn’t he close the door?
Back to bedroom. Huya, rajl ahor f toilette?
[French]. A confused look.
Aji, eafek. Wave him to the hall, point in the darkness of the bathroom.
He turns around. [French].
Maerfsh huwa. (I don’t know that man.) I know nothing. We go closer and look inside. The man takes no notice. Wearing only a t-shirt, or he’s lifting his djellaba. Bare legs. Can’t make out much in the darkness. Don’t want to. Two plastic bags full of god knows what on the floor.
[Fast Arabic]. The worker speaks sternly.
Seer! (Go! Get the fuck out! The fuck are you doing in my house you crazy bastard?) Crazy bathes, repeatedly fills turk bucket and dumps water down the drain, shower running, no speaking.
The worker turns, twists his hand next to his head. Hamak. He walks back to the bedroom, hammering. Crazy in the bathroom. I stay in the hallway, out of sight. Wait it out. A couple minutes.
Bedroom worker comes back to the hall. [French].
Courtyard worker comes upstairs with nails, sees bathroom open, looks confused.
Smiles, chuckles. Bedroom worker picks up mystery bags, puts them outside door, yells at crazy, grabs his arm and pulls him to hallway. Crazy has no pants or shoes. I realize where his sandals are. Workers return to work.Crazy stands in hall and looks at me.
Yalla, eafek. (Let’s go, please.) If you step near me I will knock you over. I point down the stairs. He walks away. From the stairwell window I see him wander bare ass into the courtyard. A couple minutes later, from the bedroom window, I see him in the desert, djellabaed up, bags in hand.
The worker approaches me. [French].
Mafhmtsh walo, walo France.
[French] numra [French]?