My contractor showed up at my doorstep when there was actually very little left of the house inside.
Literally. My walls were gone. A flood had torn through my home and destroyed most of its interior. I was a mess of a woman, comprised mostly of sweat and frustration, when Danny came to my house to tell me that he would take care of the water damage restoration before handing the job to another contractor for the rebuild.
I was glad he was there, but I hardly paid any attention to him. I was busy trying to keep my head above the proverbial water, and he was quiet, a little shy and easy enough to overlook while I was treading through my chaos. Day after day, though, he showed up when he said he would, called me to give me updates and was calm and caring when I burst into tears about the house repairs.
One day, I even found myself calling him to vent about an issue that wasn’t entirely related to the renovation.
“I appreciate your friendship,” he said, after I made him laugh about whatever nonsense was on my mind. “Something about you puts me at ease.”
I also laughed as we made the somewhat awkward transition from a professional relationship to a friendship. “Quit being such a weirdo, dude. I’ll call you later.”
I did call him later. It was probably to update him on more of my nonsense, like my need for a long overdue haircut or my problems with finding a place to do laundry. It was during that phone call, though, that he told me he would like to manage my home rebuild if I wanted to hire him for it. Normally he just dealt with demolition and water damage. I leapt at the chance to hire someone I knew I could trust.
And thus began several months of intermingling business and friendship. We spent entire days at the Home Depot, where I was able to see how patient and kind he was toward my daughter. He invited me to a Rosh Hashanah barbecue because his family still lives in Israel and he wanted to celebrate with a friend. We stayed up late looking at floor plans and paint colors, and he pretended the whole time that he was fascinated by the project.
During the fall, a neighbor of mine came by the house to see the progress when Danny and I were drinking a glass of wine together. She texted me later and said, “Oh my gosh, Mary. Do you know how he looks at you? He’s so in love with you.”
I laughed out loud. No way, I thought. Danny was a friend. He was a full five inches shorter than me. He was an Israeli Jew and I was a Christian from Texas. He was patient and kind and trustworthy and generous, and I’d always enjoyed men who were a little dangerous (ahem, abusive). I kept the text to myself, and looked at him. No way.
And then I started rambling about my dating problems and how I could find men who wanted to date me, but not men who wanted to be with me.
And then he looked at me with his big brown eyes and said, “Surely you know by now that I want to be with you.”
When I was in my early 20s, a similar scenario had played out with a friend of mine. We were buddies, until one night when he took me to get frozen yogurt and told me he was in love with me and had been since we were teenagers. At that time — when I didn’t know the value of a kind and generous man — I told him I was flattered but not interested. A week later, I met my emotionally abusive ex-husband and never talked to that friend again.
This time, I wanted to give a different answer — an answer that was seasoned by the experience of just how bad a relationship can be and just how important a good man is. I wanted to try a relationship with a trustworthy friend who was categorically not my type but perhaps exactly the kind of man I most desired.
So I did. And he’s good.