Your Hose and Faucet
I am standing outside my apartment on a glorious Sunday afternoon, planning on a long walk to Fillmore Street to do some window shopping and go to Smith & Hawken, specifically. Not because I am dying to buy a $160 “Victorian Copper Terrarium” but because I know they have the decorative stone there I can buy by the pound that will hopefully cover up the soil in my new house plants so my cat will stop digging out the soil so she can throw it on the carpet, which is, I believe, what cats are supposed to do. And what cat owners are supposed to do is try to prevent them from doing that.
Anyhoo, I have run into the owner of my building and we are standing on the sidewalk having a chit-chat about what the neighborhood was like when he first moved here with his lover, how he bought all the buildings on the block for cheap and fixed them up and turned them around, how his friend was showing off on his Harley one afternoon coming down off Mt. Tam and rode his hog off a cliff, and the generally nice weather we are having when a woman stops in the middle of the street in front of a large Cadillac parked before my apartment and makes a vocal exclamation that leads me to believe she has either just found an abandoned baby in front of the bumper or someone dropped the Hope Diamond right there on the street and, oh my sweet Jesus, she found it!
Instead, she straightens up holding a half-eaten apple. I turn away, since there is no drama, unaware that the real drama had yet to unfold.
First of all, she looks like anyone and no one. Clearly not a street person, she is wearing a summer top in peach and cut-off jeans. A black leather purse, large enough to hold a good heavy book and a bottle of water or a small dog hangs off one shoulder, a bag of Ruffles potato chips clutched under the other arm. Her hair, dark brown, brushed back, unstyled, Sunday relaxed. Nothing about her face or person suggests she is in any way insane. In her hand, as mentioned, a half-eaten apple, now dusted with road grit along the wet bite marks. She holds it gingerly in her out-stretched hand as she approached us and says, overloudly I think, “I really need to have my fruit. Can you use your hose and faucet to wash this for me?”
Number one, what hose and faucet? Number two, wash your apple off? Number three, what the fuck?
I literally stare at her from behind my mirrored sunglasses and try to process what she has said, which for some reason seems incongruous and illogical. She repeats herself, then, just as loudly as before, coming closer now to where we stand on the sidewalk looking at her, this woman who has just screamed as if someone stabbed her in the back. “Can you use your hose and faucet to wash off my apple? I really need my fruit.”
This still does not compute. I look at her more closely because now I am getting a whiff of weird off her. I think, “I live right here and I could take her apple and go upstairs and wash it off, but what if she wants to come in with me? Like, to supervise or something? And what’s with that particular apple, anyway? It’s golden, but there’s nothing special about it that I can see. She looks like she could afford another apple. And why did she refer to it as ‘fruit,’ like she needs her generic fruit. Or what? She’ll die? No fruit and she explodes? Plus, there’s that huge bag of Ruffles under her arm. How healthy could she be, really? Potato chips are like cancer.”
I’m contemplating all this while picturing her going Postal, pulling out a shiv and plunging into my back, between my shoulders, as I stand at my kitchen sink trying feverishly to wash her fruit off while she screams “No! No! With your hose and faucet! Use your hose and faucet!” and I am sweating and shaking and say, quietly, “Is that a euphemism for something? Is this sexual?” “Your hose and faucet! Your hose and faucet!”
A small voice draws me from my reverie. “What is she saying?” My landlord is elderly and hard of hearing. He doesn’t know why this woman is standing here accosting us with her fruit.
“She wants to know,” I say as loudly as she did, “whether you would be willing to use your hose and faucet to wash her fruit.”
He is looking at me as I should be looking at her now, as if I am crazy insane batshit freakout weirdo. But this drives her over the edge and suddenly, her mood and demeanor change entirely. “Fuck you! All men are rude bastards! All I want is to use your hose and faucet to clean off my apple! Fuck you! Motherfuckers!” She starts backing away now, thrusting her filthy fruit at us, spittle forming on her lips, the bag of Ruffles turning into potato dust. “Fuckers! You’re both fuckers!”
I realize now that through the entire interaction, I never said a single word to her, lost as I was inside my own real-time reenactment of what was happening right in front of me, separated from it as if observing from a distance, trying to fathom what she really meant when she demanded the use of my hose and faucet. The landlord looks at me as she retreats backwards down our street, still using the F-word over and over, railing at us and the world of men in general, perhaps unaware that we are both gay and subjugated in some sense as well.
He shrugs as he turns away, pointing now at the building on the corner. “I used to live in that one,” he said. “When I bought it, I fixed all the gas lighting so it all worked. Even replaced the lamps and shades.”
“Motherfuckers! All I wanted was a little kindness, a little compassion! Fuck you!”
“Really? Wasn’t that a fire hazard?”
“Couldn’t take the time to use your hose and faucet, fuckers!”
“Not really, but they tore it all out anyway, the next owners. I had it all fixed up…”
“…really pretty, really nice. But you know how it is, anything to make an extra dollar.”
“…hose and faucet!”
“Have a nice day!”
August 30, 2005