HUDL (humans of DeLand)

“Do you mind if I take your picture and get a quote for this?”

He hesitates, then as I prompt him to be honest with me, he agrees.

“I just don’t know if I’ll be the most attractive for the photograph,” he admits as he strikes a pose.

“Look! You’re already falling right into the model look,” I tell him. I catch a smile when he laughs affably, seeming more at ease.

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“I’m going to need a miracle to finish all my work. I haven’t been able to sit down and finish today because of the maintenance men. They’re working on the air conditioning. But you know what my biggest problem is? Is with the wiring in this house.”

He flips a switch and four recessed lights in the ceiling across two rooms turn on.

“That’s too many. The plugs are not updated. Maintenance is in every other week. I also can’t go to the library to work because I need to stay here to let them in.”

Like clockwork, like life imitating the perfect timing of cinema, there’s a knock on the door. He crosses to open it and two maintenance workers come in wielding a flat, squarish piece of plywood. They go into his room–which has an old, unused fireplace against one wall–and attempt to bar up the hearth opening.

“You’re losing too much cold air up the chimney,” one explains, trying to fit the piece into place. “We’ll leave you alone in about five minutes.”

The other man chimes in. “He said that to me about fifteen years ago and he still hasn’t left me alone.”

We watch them at work for a moment, then I edge closer and ask my reluctant model how he spells his name.

“J-A-D. Jad.”

“Oh, so just Chad but with a J. Is it short for anything?”

He smiles mysteriously. “That’s a question I have to field every day. I just tell people to call me Jad. In my classes they all ask.” And then I’m not actually sure how I finagle it–I just ask again earnestly, but he pulls out his wallet and shows me the bottom half of his social security card. Jadrien.

“Do you know Guam? Next to it. Micronesia, that’s where I’m from.”

I ask him if it’s pronounced like Adrian, or if the pronunciation of his common name carries over.

“Yeah, like Jad. Jad-drien.”

The maintenance men can’t jam the plywood into the fireplace, and go outside to sand down the edges. Jad gives me a look as if he thinks it might actually be fifteen years until they are finished.

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