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Single In The Suburbs, Installment 118


Our writer’s moving on with her life; will Ethan, the Craigslist handyman, be a part of it?

By Sara Susannah Katz

To read the entire series of articles from the beginning, click here.

n our last installment, our writer, Sara, was riding high on all the male attention she’d gotten throughout the week. She’d just gotten a response to her Craigslist posting from potential handyman, Ethan, and caught the eye of half of Barnes & Noble. Is there more in store for Ethan than just lasagna and gratitude?


Thursday morning, continued
I introduce myself by telling him I’m the woman who’s willing to trade lasagna for home repair. He
I quite enjoyed capitalism back when I actually had money.
says that he loved my ad on Craigslist and that he’s always looking for opportunities to barter. “I guess I’m an old hippie at heart,” he says. “I’m definitely not cut out for capitalism.”

I want to tell him that I quite enjoyed capitalism back when I actually had money, but now that I’m divorced, I’m starting to warm to the idea of living on a commune. There actually used to be a big ashram here in town back in the late 60s and 70s. After the guru moved to Colorado, the group dissolved. Many of the ashram’s members found “real” jobs in real estate, investment banking and the restaurant business; ironically, they’re among the wealthiest people in our town.

“Too bad the ashram’s gone, eh?” I say, just making conversation.

“I know it,” says Ethan. “I lived in the ashram back in the day. It was a lifetime ago.”

We arrange for him to stop by my house tomorrow. He’ll walk through the house while I point out everything that needs fixing. I’m not really sure how this is going to work but I guess we’ll figure it out after he gets here. In the meantime I start making a mental list: clogged drain in the guest bathroom, windows that won’t stay up in the dining room, loose deck railing out back, a ceiling fan in my bedroom that makes the most irritating clicking sound. That should be enough keep Ethan busy for awhile.

“I’ve got one last question,” I say. “Meat or meatless?”

I guess he finds that amusing because I hear a little chuckle. He tells me that if I’d asked him 30 years ago, the answer would have been an indignant “Meatless, of course.” But he’s not with the ashram anymore and he’s a full-fledged carnivore. As he’s talking I realize I want to keep him on the phone, keep the conversation going. I wonder what he looks like. I wonder if he’s single.

Friday, 8:45 a.m.
I just got the second big work announcement of the week: Christina Spencer — the person I recommended to Sasha for the position Steve was sure he’d get — has been named Director of International Relations. Amazing! I have one heartfelt conversation with the capo di tutti capos and within days, Steve is fired and Christina gets the promotion he was angling to win. I feel ridiculously powerful right now, like the mouse that roared.

I just remembered that Ethan, the handyman, is coming to the house tonight and I forgot to buy ingredients for lasagna. Crap. I’m going to have to cut out of here early and go food shopping.
I’m pleased to report that he is neither scary nor foul-smelling.
Now that life is back to normal at work and I don’t have to log my hours, I can come and go as I please.

The lasagna is in the oven and Ethan should be here any minute. It suddenly occurs to me that I’m going to be eating dinner with a total stranger who might turn out to be a) scary, b) foul-smelling or c) both. I suppose I could wrap up the lasagna and have him take it to go.

Friday, 6 p.m.
OK. He’s here. And I’m pleased to report that he is neither scary nor foul-smelling. Ethan is a couple of inches taller than me, about my age and pleasantly stocky with a gray ponytail and great smile. He reminds me a little of my favorite cousin, Aaron. Right away I feel comfortable with him. Now I’m going to show him around the house.

Ethan has a suggestion. He wants to know if I might like to shadow him while he’s working. “Not that I want to put myself out of business here, but I can teach you what I know and then you’ll be able to do some of these repairs yourself,” Ethan says. “What do you think?”

What do I think? I think this is a dream come true. I don’t tell him this, but even though I’m paid for my intellectual skills, I’ve always wanted to be able to work with my hands. My secret dream jobs are: woodworker, upholsterer and electrician. I think it would be more fun than being rooted to my computer and I’d probably make more money.

Friday, 6:40 p.m.
Now we’re working side by side, Ethan on one window, me on the other. We start talking and discover we have a few mutual friends. That’s something I appreciate about living in a small town: the fewer-than-six degrees of separation making strangers a little less, well, strange. His daughter played in the high school band with my son. His ex-wife’s sister works in the accounting department at my company.

I’m excited about the idea of learning from him. I wonder if he’ll teach me anything beyond basic repairs. Wouldn’t it be great to learn something really useful, like woodworking or installing dry wall or plumbing? Maybe I could put a little half-bath in the basement. Who knows?

Ethan’s working on the deck while I get supper on the table. I am feeling rather pleased with myself for having the nerve to barter a home-cooked meal for handyman services and having the guts to go through with it. This could not have turned out better. Ethan’s a sweet guy and a great teacher, and I expect he’ll be charming company as we devour my delicious lasagna. (He also looks pretty good in a tool belt.) Perfect!

Friday, 10:30 p.m.
I’m in bed now, watching Property Virgins. As predicted, dinner with Ethan was thoroughly enjoyable. He insisted on helping with the dishes but I told him that he already fulfilled his end of the deal. We agreed that I’d call him again if I had any other repairs. Now I’m tempted to go around the house and break some things just to get him back here.

There goes my cell phone. I don’t usually get calls after 9 p.m. Who could this be?


Sara Susannah Katz is a writer in the Midwest.

Read Single In The Suburbs, Part 119


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