The first time I met him, he gave me $20 to go on a beer run for him. I forget why he couldn't go to the store and get it himself, but out of bad habit, I answer questions before they fully process in my head, and that's how I found myself at the drive-thru picking up a six-pack of beer.
Then, about a year ago, I saw him hanging out in the yard, telling me how his apartment had a case of the bed bugs. I cringed my way through that conversation and then spent the next 4 hours deep cleaning my apartment out of fear of having bed bugs. I've never fully recovered from this story but I'm happy to announce my apartment has never had bed bugs, and a week later, Paul informed me that his apartment didn't have them either.
So, when he asked me the other day if I would clean his apartment and I answered "yes" while freaking out in my head about bed bugs, I had no idea what to expect of the condition of his apartment. I went to the store and purchased gloves and told myself to walk away if I saw any bugs, no matter if it was a paying job or not. Bed bugs in my apartment wouldn't be worth a couple bucks of cleaning a lonely, old man's apartment.
Acting braver than I felt, I knocked on the door of apartment 8 on an early Friday afternoon, and asked him if it was a good time for me to clean now. Did I mention he opened the door shirtless? Ugh!
Much to my relief, he left the door to the hallway completely open the whole time I was inside cleaning his apartment. His place wasn't overly dirty, then again, he didn't have much stuff to clean either. His apartment was more furnished than my neighbor in apartment 24, but it was still the minimal.
(Again, I realized how much STUFF I really have, and how unnecessary most of it is. Though I've been trying to cut back on waste and purchases over the years, I still have crap everywhere!)
He slept on the couch while I scrubbed the kitchen and searched for bugs. I didn't even see a spider, which was a great relief....
MINI BREAK FOR A SIDE STORY:
The night before, I was just about to drift off to dream land when I felt something tickling my arm, and then my shoulder, and then I felt it on my face, going near my mouth! I opened my eyes and saw a daddy-long-leg spider on my face! I brushed it off my face and realized it was now somewhere in my bed... in the dark! I jumped out of my bed, turned on the light, and told my cat to find the **** spider! My cat looked at me and then curled back up and closed her eyes. I spotted the spider crawling on my pillows and shoved them out of the way, in which the spider fell down between the wall and my bed frame. I grabbed a tissue and smashed the spider but it got away. I smashed it again, and it kept walking. I screamed out to the heavens, "WHY WON'T YOU JUST DIE!!!!" and trust me when I say I sounded like a total villain! And at that exact second, the spider stopped moving and just curled up and died. I was relieved, shocked, and a little skeptical that it might be playing dead and get me as I picked it up with my tissue, but it didn't, and I smashed it one more time just to be sure. I threw the tissue in the trash and went back to bed, keeping the lights on. It took me a long time to fall asleep...
Back to Paul....
I was cleaning away, moving from room to room, with the brand new bottles of cleaning supplies. I'd told him he could pay me $10 an hour and because I really wasn't comfortable doing this job, it was my goal to get everything done within an hour. As I was scrubbing, my phone went off and it was my boss farmer telling me he didn't have any work for me to do today but to come on Monday. Dang it! I went from making $25 bucks to day to making $10ish, based on how long it took me to clean. I thought to myself, while still on the serious look out for any bug that might resemble a bed bug. I cleaned his whole apartment in an hour and a half, and this included mopping, sweeping, dusting, changing sheets, making beds, and the bathroom.
Yes, I broke a sweat.
He had pictures all over his apartment of whom I assumed to be family members, though the pictures were very out dated because the fashion statements in the pictures was early 90's. I had sympathy for him, realizing he's just a lonely old man, and did my best to make small talk with my neighbor.
"Are you okay?" I asked after a long ten seconds of silence and not hearing him breathe.
"Oh yeah, just have a bit of trouble breathing from time to time." He said between breaths and with his faded West Virginian accent.
I was lecturing myself on the need to learn to tell people no and stop putting myself in awkward situations as I got into the car with him. About a half mile down the road, the already awkward situation got more awkward.
"How's your love life?" He asked me.
"Currently non-existent." I answered without thinking. I quickly thought of a way to cover up my reply though it didn't help the situation out at all, "I got dumped two months ago." I blurted out.
"Well, I'm single." He responded.
I laughed to cover up my natural gagging reflex, a habit created after years of getting hit on by old creepers. Side note frustration....honestly, I'm a decent looking woman... yet I only get hit on by men much older than me, men who look like they are on the verge of death, and homeless men. What the what! Can't I at least get hit on by creepers who are my age? Or am I pushing my luck asking if I can get hit on by a gorgeous 6' tall, dark hair, dark eyes, Christian? "Thanks but I'm good." I causally slip out.
We make it to the bank and he gets a bit of cash, and hands me $25. "I only worked for an hour and a half. You only owe me $15". I tell him to let him know I am an honest person.
"Well, I gave you $25." He said matter-of-factly. I realize I now have the total amount of money I was going to make if I would have gone out to the farm to work.
"Thank you so much, I greatly appreciate you helping me out like this." I word-vomit more gratitude because if I've learned anything at all over the last few months, is that gratitude is like paying it forward.
We drive down the road a little further and he asks me if I've thought about his offer to date him. I let out another awkward laugh and tell him, "Thanks, I'm good, I prefer to date someone my age."
Either I offended him or shocked him because he gave me a double take of a facial expression. "Just how old do you think I am?!?!?!"
I hate guessing ages. He looks about 60, moves like he's 80, but I generously suggested, "mid-fifties?" along with a ditzy shrug.
"What? Really? I'm 46 years old." He said as I picked my jaw up off the floor. I HAD dated guys his age and that was when I was younger!
After a moment of uneasy silence, he asked me how old I was and I really wanted to lie because I have been told I still look like I'm in my late-20's, but the honest person I am, told him the truth. "34 so you're still a little too old for me." I said, trying to smooth things over, while holding down the vomit that was churning in my stomach and about to rise up and out. We rode in silence the rest of the drive back the the apartment complex and I got out of the car, thanked him one more time for the extra cash, and told him I would see him around. He mentioned he wants me to clean out his car, shampoo his couch, and other various jobs but I have no interest in spending any more time with Paul from apartment 8. Mostly because I start itching all over when I think about him and his apartment.