I knew Ramsey from the early days, before all the hullabaloo of the last few years. He was a worker from the start, one of the men who took a job at a local garage, while the rest of us were putting in shifts at McDonalds before fleeing back to college every fall. Ramsey embraced his new life and immediately set about trying to make it better.
Myself, I majored in English Literature and went on to become a teacher. By the time I'd graduated and found a job back home, Ramsey had established a reputation as an expert mechanic, one of the best in town. He worked at the Sunoco on Seventh, and stayed late one autumn evening to fix my old Civic when the water pump went out.
While I was trying to figure out how to start paying back my college loans and still manage to live on my meager teacher's salary, he was working overtime and investing his money in real estate.
It was, perhaps, a coincidence that I ended up renting my first apartment from Ramsey, a small one bedroom condo in the top of an old duplex that he'd bought as an investment the year before. I'd rarely see him, unless my dishwasher stopped working or my furnace quit. Then he'd be over that evening or the next, with his screwdrivers and wrenches, fixing whatever it was that went wrong. The man could fix anything.
In time, I got married and moved out to the west coast to be with my husband, a programmer I'd dated in college who'd gotten on with a small start-up in Seattle. I didn't get back home until years later, after my husband's company had gone ballistic and we'd become rich from the stock options almost overnight. I flew home to see my mother and ran into Ramsey coming out of a Starbucks.
"I didn't know you were the cappuccino type," I joked.
"I'm not, really," Ramsey said. "But Joe was having trouble with his espresso machine so I told him I'd have a look."
I lived in Seattle another couple of years, and watched my husband's life change from the adrenalin-driven life of a leading edge programmer to adrenalin-driven life of a late night partier. I tried to get him into counseling, but he wouldn't even consider it. He'd felt that he'd earned it, his Porsche, his drugs, his lifestyle, and in truth he had. He'd earned everything he'd ever gotten in life, so when the end came, it seemed inevitable if not preordained. He died in a high speed accident and the family of the man he killed sued us, leaving me almost nothing.
I took my two sons and moved back home. We lived at my mom's house and I waitressed until I got a job teaching at the middle school my sons were attending. Then I called Ramsey and he rented us a small house on the outskirts of town.
It was tough those first couple of years. As hard as it was on me, it was worse on my sons. They became moody, angry, and often acted out in school. I tried talking with them and got them into counseling, but nothing seemed to help. Nothing, until the day our garbage disposal broke down. When Ramsey came to fix it, my oldest was in rare form.
"I'll do it later."
"When I get to it!"
"You're not going out tonight until your homework's done."
"Fine. It's done. Are you happy?"
"It's not done. Sit down and get started."
"I'm out of here."
Ramsey didn't say a word, but the following Saturday morning, he knocked on my door at seven in the morning. I answered it in my robe.
"I'm going out on the lake today. Might do a little fishing. I'm wondering if your sons would like to join me."
I won't lie. Ramsey's not much of a looker and, honestly, my heart still aches for my husband. And sometimes I find myself missing my old life in Seattle, with the black tie parties, the glamorous fundraisers and the evening gowns; sometimes, but not often. Mostly, I enjoy sitting on my porch swing, watching Ramsey playing football or repairing a car with my sons.
Ramsey seems to understand. He's taking things slowly, gently, giving me a chance to heal. And I have no doubt I will someday.
I have no doubt at all.
The man can fix anything.
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