It began with a single drip. Then another. Drip. Drip. Drip. It was Thursday afternoon and I had my feet kicked up while watching an old episode of Arrested Development, the one where Tobias paints himself as a member of Blue Man Group, explaining he just blue himself, when it happened.
My bag was packed and I was ready to make for the bus as soon as the episode ended. To meet my girlfriend at the airport Friday morning, I would have to make the train that night from Konstantinovka to Kiev, which meant taking one of two buses from Artemovsk that afternoon. Unsure of where the drip is coming from, I check the faucets. Bathroom – good. Kitchen – good. Then, making my way back into the living room, I slip on some water, nearly loosing my balance. Looking around I see that water has covered most of my living room floor. Where had it come from? I look up and see a foot-wide wet streak across my ceiling stretching from the bedroom to the balcony and down the wall. Positioned along that wet-streak are four decent-size bubbles filled with water, each one now with its own consistent drip.
The first thing I do is grab buckets. As it turns out, I have exactly four of them. But when I return to the living room with the last bucket I see that water is bubbling up from the space between the cut linoleum and the kitchen door jam. When I push down on the peeled-back corner of the linoleum it sort of squishes, and I realize there is water under at least half the kitchen floor. My problem has significantly escalated. Code Red. I grab my mobile having no idea who to call. I run to my neighbor’s door and begin shouting for help, “POMOGITYE, PAZHALUSTA!” When I turn and glance at my living room through the doorway, I see the drips are now steady streams of water, filling up fast.
My neighbor calls for help, she shouts something at her husband and then rushes with me to my apartment. When she gets to the living room she shakes her head and tells me we need to move quickly, where are your towels? For the next twenty minutes the two of us are on our knees soaking up water from the floor of my living room with my bath towels, carrying the water-soaked towels to the bathtub and ringing them out. All the while we are cursing in Russian, the buckets are filling and I am wondering how much longer this will keep up.
Just then the plumber arrives. It’s my old pal with the tattoos on his hands and scar across his cheek. He’s a friendly guy, and since he first helped me with the hot water heater in my apartment when I moved in, we chat quite a bit when we run into each other on the street. But that first time in my apartment, while we were alone in the kitchen, he told me he’d spent some time in prison, that that’s where he’d gotten these tattoos, see here, and where he learned valuable trades, like plumbing, and even a bit of English, Hello Chris, how are you? I was taken off guard then. Now, we’re cool, and I’m very happy he’s here.
He takes one look inside my apartment, shakes my hand and asks how I am – in Ukraine, there’s always time for a handshake between men – then bolts downstairs to find a ladder. Back up on my landing, he climbs into the dark space above my apartment. A few minutes later, the water stops coming up from the floor, leaking through the ceiling. Drips from the bubbled areas continue until I prick them with a knife point so they’ll empty quicker. My neighbor and I continue to wipe down the floors with the towels, ring out and repeat. About thirty minutes after it all started, it’s fixed.
I thank everyone and they tell me no problem. Glancing at my watch, I see that I have 10 minutes before the last bus leaves for Konstantinovka. Somehow I make the 25-minute walk to the bus station in 10 minutes, board and am on my way.