I’ve never really fixed anything in my life. I am a breaker, a shatterer, a clumsy girl spinning into the obvious; I knock blatant treasures over and fail to see the pieces on the floor. Or, if I do see it on the floor, I burst into tears because whatever precious bowl I had been carrying is now in pink triangles on the kitchen tile. And you can’t take breaking something back; even glue carries a scar. I’ve always hated that I am a little bit of an idiot that way, clueless in my constant frenzy.
Some boyfriends have found it endearing. My parents have probably condemned it; they are patient, but I know the amount of times I have ruined something once perfect has not escaped them.
I am a professional maker of messes, and never before had I learned to fix them. That is, not until I almost started a fire in my apartment (my first place on my own, for the record) when I forgot a plastic spatula on the stove. It melted, smoking and potent, sticking to the round burner that had been heating pasta. I panicked, to no one’s surprise, and frantically shoved the spatula in the sink but forgot that the burner was still on, cooking the remaining plastic — and also producing a lot of smoke clearly heading for the fire alarm. If I set the fire alarm off in my new apartment building and had to explain to the men in red that I accidentally melted a spatula, that would possibly be the most embarrassing moment of my life. Although I have a few others that could be a close second.
I turned the vent on over the stove but the smoke wasn’t being sucked up enough, still dangerously hovering by the detector a few feet away. I ran for the storage closet where the mini window fan sat, waiting for humidity or heat or for chaos in the kitchen. I set it up so that it blew the smoke perfectly towards the vent, therefore salvaging my pride and the peaceful evenings of neighbors. Relieved, I turned to the dishes — but of course, within seconds the “perfectly placed” window fan crashed to the floor. I jumped and picked it up, noticing that the blade was broken.
“Of course,” I thought. “Now I have to buy a new fan.”
I stuck it back in the closet, making a mental note to find a cheap replacement the next time I was at Wal-Mart (oh, the horror of that store…). But a couple of days later, I took the fan back out and looked at it. Maybe this was fixable. Maybe I hadn’t broken something beyond repair this time.
I sat down cross-legged on the floor and inspected the fan. Yup, you could unscrew the back — and it looked like the blade just needed to stuck on the little round knob that held it. I found my plastic box that held a cup of nails and a Marshall’s clearance kit including a screwdriver, measuring tape, and small hammer. A rudimentary tool box, but nonetheless, it contained tools.
I unscrewed each screw, annoyed when they weren’t catching, but there was no one else to do it for me. So I kept unscrewing and eventually took the back off. I cleaned the blade and put it back on. I fixed the knob that had come loose. I screwed it all back together and plugged it in. And…it worked. Me, the maker of messes, had un-made a mess. It was a twisted, satisfied feeling, to be twenty-three and realize you’ve only ever broken things; never fixed them. Fixing things is good. Fixing things makes you realize you might be a maker of solutions, not just problems.
Sometimes, unscrewing is what puts you back together.