I have long been wary of the great American tradition of getting Something for Nothing. It seems no sooner do you Buy One, Get One Free, then you discover that they are both rotten or broken or harboring some rare South American parasite. Such experiences have a way of sticking in your memory. You become cynical. I suppose these occurrences could be considered the precursor to Lorenzo. One could say that without these capitalism-based insults, he would not have existed.
Admittedly I was somewhat cynical. I fear my housemates, too, were of the cynical bent. Aided by a house in various stages of decrepitude, we were enjoying the high renaissance of cynicism. Then our landlady mentioned the name which was to change our lives forever: Lorenzo. He was the handyman sent to cater to our every whim. Suddenly it seemed remuneration for all previous capitalism-based wrongs.
Lorenzo. The name itself was enough to send us into lemon Pledge-scented ecstasy. Lo. Ren. Zo. The name dripped over the tongue like a strand of linguine. Upon his coming, all our doors would have doorknobs, large, map-like stains on our ceilings would disappear and we would finally have someone to confront the hobbit living in our basement.
Would he wear overalls? Underalls? Or would he wear a rumpled-linen workshirt, slightly damp with sweat, brown leather sandals and speak longingly of treks upon Mediterranean beaches and his passion for Lolita?
But our relationship was star-crossed from its inception. Regarding Lorenzo (his likes, his dislikes, his aptitude with various tools) we were destined to live in ignorance, which is not, as many ignorant people claim, bliss.
For weeks he simply did not materialize and upon questioning our landlady would only murmur, “Ah yes, Lorenzo…” and her voice would trail off and the connection would be mysteriously broken.
Weeks turned into a month and every time I stubbed my toe while attempting to kick open the front door a tear would come to my eye and I would picture Lorenzo, lovingly attaching shiny new doorknobs in all the appropriate places. When I heard odd rustlings in the basement I imagined a Rocky-like scenario, with Lorenzo, biceps flexing, definitively dispatching the hobbit, yet in a non-violent, bloodless sort of manner. We located a boot-like formation on the brown stain on our ceiling. Sometimes at night we gathered underneath it and speculated as to where on the boot someone named Lorenzo would be from. Every time the wind whipped our screen door off its hinge and sent it crashing down our front steps, we held our breath, listening for the tread of Italian leather sandals.
Then there began amongst us muffled rumors. Rumors that Lorenzo did not exist. I scoffed.
How could someone named Lorenzo not exist? Those more learned in the wiles of philosophy explained to me that Lorenzo was more of an abstract notion than a person.
When our landlady spoke of “Lorenzo” she was actually referring to the concept of ultimate earthly perfection.
By constantly promising his arrival, but denying us that which we were promised, she was teaching us the valuable lesson that earthly perfection is unattainable.
I felt so foolish.
Time has lessened the pain, and I can discuss “Lorenzo” in class and on the street without seeing an image of a tanned Italian hero. “Lorenzo” completely changed my perspective. Various, semi-essential parts of our house fall off and disintegrate into the earth, never to be replaced, but my faith in humanity has been restored.
All the times I thought I was getting something for nothing I was quickly disillusioned. This time was different. Technically we may have gotten nothing, but it turned out to be really something.