The day the ceiling collapsed


I woke last Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m. to a huge crash in the bathroom.



My first thought was that Partner had fallen in the bathroom, and I leapt up to help him. (I did not notice that he was asleep in bed beside me. I am not very observant first thing in the morning.)



I opened the bathroom door and found that half of the ceiling had collapsed. There was moldy plaster everywhere: in the toilet, in the tub, in the sink, and all over the floor.



I thought about going upstairs to yell at our neighbors. Then I realized that I was naked and needed to put some clothes on. I put a pair of athletic shorts on, backwards. I went and looked at the damage again, and went in the bedroom to announce to Partner: “The bathroom ceiling fell in.” (He did not react. He sleeps with earplugs. I used to sleep with earplugs. I should start doing it again; it’s a good idea.)



It dimly dawned on me that our upstairs neighbors had not intentionally made our ceiling collapse. It then occurred to me that I ought to call the landlords and tell them what had happened. I closed my eyes to remember their phone number – I usually have an astounding memory – and couldn’t come up with a thing.



I need to pee, I thought.



Luckily, there’s a common bathroom in the basement of the apartment house, next to the laundry room. The trip downstairs did me good, and I finally noticed that my athletic shorts were on backwards, and rectified my earlier error.



I went back upstairs to the apartment. I looked at the damage again for a while, and then I looked up the landlords’ number and placed an emergency message.



I went back to stare at the damage again. The smell of wet plasterboard was beginning to get to me, and I was beginning to think about things like Stachybotrys. I have to get the bathroom door closed, I thought, and tried, but there was too much debris on the floor. I spun around in circles three or four times like a dog, and realized the only shovel-like thing in the house was our dustpan. So I started shoveling wet plaster with the dustpan.



At this point Partner awoke. He let out a little shriek when he saw what had happened. “Ceiling collapsed,” I said pointlessly.



“Oh my god!” he said. “What if we’d been in there when it happened? Can you imagine?”



“I’m picturing it,” I said.



Finally I got the bathroom door shut, containing the rancid moldy smell.



Think about it: no bath, no shower, no sink. No medicines from the medicine cabinet (Partner dashed into the bathroom to fetch his prescriptions, and I realized he’d had a good idea, and fetched mine also). My mouthwash bottle was floating in the toilet; we decided to leave it where it was.



But we made the best of it. The building superintendent, a bouncy talkative soul named Bob, came by a few hours later, and he and a morose little fellow named Angelo cleaned the plaster up and made some preliminary repairs. I ran to the health club for a shower, and later Partner and I picnicked on Subway sandwiches while waiting for the plumber. Plumber went upstairs, determined that the upstairs toilet was leaking, and fixed it in about ten seconds. By nightfall the bathroom was clean (if still stinking of wet plaster), the sink and toilet and bathtub were useable, and the gaping hole in the bathroom ceiling was covered with a blue tarp.



It was just like the London Blitz.



(Honestly: how we inflate these little daily problems. This was a small disaster, but the operative word here is “small.” Both of us survived. The worst moment (for me) was that initial moment of fear, when I thought Partner might have fallen in the bathroom. Everything after that was anticlimax.)



And we’re getting by.



So maybe it’s not World War II after all.



(Postscript, a few days later: the ceiling is fixed. We have a new vanity. Soon the painters will come over.)



(So I guess WWII is over.)



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

5 Responses to The day the ceiling collapsed

  1. starproms says:

    Well, thank goodness you weren’t in there when it happened! Worse still, sitting on the toilet. You have had a lucky escape (doesn’t sound too lucky does it though). My bathroom is going to look exactly the same in two week’s time because we’re having it refurbished with new lights in the ceiling. Looking at the mess in your apartment, I see my future!
    I do hope you get it cleared up and repaired soon.

    • The landlords were very quick, thank goodness. By the end of the first day, they’d cleaned up the mess and put a piece of plastic over the big hole in the ceiling, so the bathroom could be used (thought it still smelled terribly); by Monday evening, it was pretty much repaired. We’re still waiting for the painters, but it’s 95% done now.

      And, yes, I’m very glad I wasn’t in there when it happened.

      • starproms says:

        Thinking more about that, your upstairs neighbour could have paid you an unexpected visit? Was there a leak or something? What actually caused the collapse?

  2. kleeyaro says:

    Yikes! Not unlike the unexpected disaster I had in my bathroom a couple months ago. The giant wall mirror fell off the wall and smashed all over the place, ripping up parts of the wall, sinks and counters. Luckily we were out of town when it happened. Just finished doing my remodel. Looks great now. Mine is nothing compared to yours though!

    • We consider ourselves lucky that we weren’t in the bathroom when it happened. The mirror sounds pretty awful too, however; I can imagine finding bits of sharp glass for weeks afterward.

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