The Taxman Cometh
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of an onerous chore must be in want of a paid assistant. Or several.
The summer my ex-husband and I separated, I hired a guy to mow the lawn. I worried a lot about how lame I was for not mowing it myself, and then I finally tried to mow it myself, and the mower exploded (I kid you not) fifteen minutes after I finally managed to fire the damned thing up. So I gave up and made a scary phone call. Since then, the lawn guy has come at regular intervals. He’s very inexpensive and he rakes all the clippings and he deals with the leaves in the fall and the gutters in the spring. He’s also handsome. When I still lived in the old house, I used to objectify him shamelessly from my office window whenever he came to mow.
That same summer, on a roll, I called a tree guy (who’s even better looking than the lawn guy–my best friend from graduate school, before he got denied tenure, used to come over and help me objectify him while he climbed around with his giant manly chainsaw) to cope with all the overgrown limbs I couldn’t possibly cut down with on my own.
I engaged a shrink to comb through the snarls in my head. I got a lawyer, of course, to draft the divorce settlement (even though my ex-husband ordered one of those Nolo books and swore we could do it ourselves). I got, as I said, an accountant to help me figure out which end of my bank account was what.
I went to the bank and sat in a little chair and got the nice bank lady to help me set up online banking. God, I love online banking. It’s like having a secretary and a bookkeeper all at once. And a filing cabinet that follows me everywhere I go. What else? I bought a GPS, mainly to use getting home from places (I’m a failure at reading directions backwards). I have leaned heavily on all manner of domestic assistance from plumbers, handymen, roofers, electricians, and painters. Once you start farming stuff out, it’s addictive.
So why has it taken me years to hire help with my taxes?
The week before the accountant came was a total wash. The kids were sick, first in tandem and then together, which scuttled the work I needed to get done, and by Thursday I was frantic. I’d had big plans for Friday. A lovely friend I never see had gotten on a plane for the first time in eighteen years (she hates and fears flying–now that’s a legitimate phobia if you ask me) to come with her husband to a conference in my boyfriend’s city, mostly (she said) to spend a day with me. I’d planned to wrap up an assignment, farm the kids out to a friend (my ex-husband was out of town) and join her, with a song in my heart and a spring in my step. And now all bets were off. “Oh, just bring them along,” my boyfriend said. “They can be sick in my place just as well as yours.” Hooray! I threw a bunch of god-knows-what in a duffel bag and bolted for the car, dragging the feverish children behind me.
The day with my friend was everything I’d hoped, but by Sunday night I was a wreck. I should have spent the weekend working. I should have spent it sorting receipts. I should have spent it doing SOMEthing, the voices in my head chanted at three in the morning, as I tried to ignore the ominous tickle in my throat. The accountant was due to arrive in hours! I wasn’t ready! At dawn, after shooing the barely-recovered kids out the door to the bus stop, I called consoling-windows friend. “He’ll know all the questions to ask,” she said, trying to be helpful, and my heart sank. Sure, but I won’t have any of the answers, I thought miserably.
I got dressed. (It was a step in the right direction, I felt.) I waited. The phone rang. I’d told the poor guy to turn left when he should have turned right, and he was still a couple of miles away. This augured ill. We went back and forth on the phone, while I held my left hand before me in an “L” shape to make sure I was telling him the correct way to go. (I do not know my left from my right. Surely there is a name for this? There’s some character out of Beckett who doesn’t know his left from his right either–is it Molloy? He says left and right are just way too similar to keep track of…not like, say, front and back. The difference between those, he’s got down. I agree completely.)
Finally, the accountant made it. He came in. We sat down. My heart was in my mouth. He looked at me, smiled, booted up his laptop. Three hours later, my taxes were done.
“These were actually pretty confusing,” he said as he left. “The home office, the self-employment, converting your residence to a rental, the structural repairs, the depreciation–you’d have gone nuts trying to do this yourself.”
I smiled. I almost went nuts hiring you to do it, I wanted to say. Instead I shook his hand, and thanked him profusely, and watched from the porch as he drove away. Whitman may have contained multitudes–I, apparently, require them in order to function. I gargled with salt water to soothe my aching throat, tidied up, and napped until the children came home.