Knock Knock


A painter, a plumber, and an electrician walk into my house in Nicaragua.

The first arrives around 10 a.m. and catches me just as I am making a quick stop back at home to brew coffee (ours at the office is the day-old watered down sort). He has a baseball cap and a small backpack and has already tried to come by four times, he says. To take measurements of the rooms for painting. I try to tell him that I have to go back to work, that I'm not my roommate who speaks much better Spanish and handles household matters like these. She sent me, I think he says. In the chaos that has been our past weekend, moving 15 of our staff into two different houses across town, this does not seem far-fetched.

A painter who is actually a thief walks into my house and tape measures every room although he does not write the numbers down. More likely he finds that, as poor nonprofit employees living only on stipends, we own little of value and he'd perhaps earn more money actually painting our house a color from the palette he shows me. He leaves on his bike, saying he'll return later. He never does, because a house only needs to be cased once.

A plumber and electrician stroll in an hour later. They ask me what they should work on, even though my roommate (the Spanish speaker) has just presented them with a two-bullet point list: one sink, one shower head. There's a list, I say, and they seem to understand.

The electrician asks me my name and then calls me “Samadra.” Spanish is quite difficult, Samadra, he says, when my minimal command of the language becomes clear. He assures me that in two years, I'll be able to speak it well — even his grandchildren in the States can't remember some words when they visit. Their English is much better. I decide that I like him more than the painter, and I consider using my new Spanish name exclusively. It has an exotic authority to it.

The plumber steps away from the sink while the electrician is out buying a replacement showerhead. Are you a doctor, he asks, and I reply that I am not. His daughter does not want to eat, he confides to the white girl who doesn't share his language or hold his trust. We have doctors at our office, I answer feebly, attempting to offer hope in the place of advice.

The electrician escorts his boss through my front door. His boss is young — maybe younger than me, but Nicaraguans age well. The electrician wants to present him to me, although he forgets the Spanish name he gave me earlier. El jefe smells strongly of pleasant cologne and asks what his employees are working on. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure why they're here, I say, but they seem to be doing a great job.

At 4:24 pm, the plumber and the electrician leave my house in Nicaragua. Our two showerheads now have steady streams of water, and our three sinks flow freely. The pila outside works better now, too, but I should wait a little — the glue still needs to dry.

I will see the electrician at our office at some point tomorrow. My Spanish is good enough for him to learn about my job, that even though I'm 26 I don't have children, that the majority of my co-workers just moved, which explains the 10 bags of trash in front of our house. He lives on a big lot, he says. He'll pick up all the trash and keep it there until Friday.

At some point my mom texts me asking if I'm okay. Momotombo, the volcano not far away has erupted for the first time in over 100 years, and she has found out before me. I reply that I'm fine and then see the electrician and the plumber out. They're laughing because the old man across the street, who always sits in his large window shirtless, smiling and waving, is drunk. Wasted. He drinks. He's asking, will they buy something so he can get high?

I say goodbye and thank you as I lock the gate (double-locked now to keep out any painter-robbers).

The painter, the plumber, and the electrician are gone, and I laugh at a joke with no punch line.

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