Yesterday Danny wanted a letter printed, because he's young and popular and has better things to do than make sure there's ink in his printer. Rachel wanted a photo of her cat scanned. It was a second in a series of favors for Anthony: first write up an affidavit saying his marriage to Mai Ling wasn't a citizenship scam, and then get it notarized. I asked if Tiffany, his lawyer/fiance, could do the latter, but he said she's way too busy.
Still, I drop everything when my neighbor David knocks. He announces he's getting a colonoscopy tomorrow, and though he made the appointment months ago, he didn't realize he should have prepared. The only thing he can eat today is Jello, and now he's too weak to go to the store.
You know, I nearly say, I'm weak too. I haven't eaten yet. It's a hundred degrees outside, and it's like walking through fire to get to the closest market. I get home and I'm too exhausted to do anything, so I haven't actually gotten anything done in a week or two. Sure, I'll go pick up Jello, but there's half the day shot because I'll need to spend three hours afterwards drinking water and mopping my head with a cold towel.
"Don't worry," I say. "I'll make you some Jello. I'll drop it off in an hour or so."
New Yorkers don't publicize one of the problems with living in the city: you just can't own a car. Insurance is crazy, parking is a nightmare, and there are literally two gas stations in the whole town. The subway is great for getting us into Manhattan, but since the grocery stores there sell bread for twelve dollars a pop, we confine ourselves to our neighborhood shops. Unfortunately, they're fifteen blocks away, and since we can only buy what we can carry, we end up shopping every other day.
So, I go to the store -- the same store I'll return to later this evening to scrounge something for my dinner. I buy David a box of lemon Jello, and half an hour later I'm only semi-exhausted as I start making it. I dump the powder into a bowl and boil the water. I get out the measuring cup: one cup of boiling water, one cup of cold water. Since David is already weak, I thoughtfully add a tray of ice to a pitcher of water so the Jello will set extra fast.
There's a knock at the door, and it's David again. I've done so much, he says; he can't just sit around idly. He'll finish making the Jello. In a flash fourteen previous afternoons with him deluge my brain: "I can barbecue chicken!" he announces right before turning my chipotle-marinated boneless breasts to charcoal. "I can transplant thyme!" he says as he rips the roots off my year-old plant.
Still, I appreciate his enthusiasm, and like a parent with a child, I cede the counter to him. Isn't it an even bigger favor if he actually learns something? Won't I eventually be left alone if I teach my friends autonomy? I watch as he measures a cup of boiling water and adds it to the Jello powder bowl. "Stir for two minutes," I say, and I set the timer. I head off to my work table to sort papers as I pat myself on the back. That wasn't so bad. I'd done a good deed. And had it really put me out that much? No! Sure, it'd sucked up an hour or so, but it's not even two o'clock and I can still get my stuff done.
I sort and file and notice the kitchen is suspiciously quiet. Just to reassure myself, I circle back and see David stirring a piss-yellow liquid in my eight-gallon punch bowl. "Are you sure that was only a cup of water in the pitcher?" he asks, and I grab my sunglasses and go back to the store.