Sunday, March 14, 2010

God Disguised as a Cleaning Lady

I walked for two hours yesterday through the Beverly Hills neighborhoods--every single home demanded a second look. Steel, grape-vine gates protecting warm yellow stucco walls, steep lawns with red brick stairs zigzagging through them, leading to white wooden-planked homes with french shuttered windows. You get the picture--they were beautiful.
"I want this," I thought, "I can't wait to have this." I became intoxicated with ambition, picturing myself clicking heels down the halls of a fast-paced office, poking my head into rooms to spurt out a few, short words of office jargon that i don't even understand because i made them up. I was picturing all this, with one of these lovely homes as the background to my fantasy--a smile on my face knowing i got to come home to that.
At the peak of my daydream, I was affronted. There was a smoker--a SMOKER! in the middle of chirping birds and kids learning how to bike in their driveways full of bmw's and range rovers. A woman, in a red, over-sized Tommy Hilfiger t-shirt, washed out looking jeans and sneakers. A whole outfit from target or walmart i would imagine. Her skin and teeth were a little yellow (i would know because she gave me a tired smile) and her figure was lumpy, awkward. Not the trim toned mothers you would expect in this neighborhood. And puffing out her smoke--something a little grungy in this clean, clean place.
A trim, toned woman poked her head out a window and yelled "Manuela! Las ventanas en la cocina, por favor!" and my smoker flicked out her cigarette and rushed inside.
She was a housekeeper. In this picturesque scene, in the middle of my daydreaming, i couldn't help but feel suprised, a little off even, about her presence in the middle of it all. And I was ashamed. I was ashamed that I needed traces of other kinds of lives out of the picture in order for me to enjoy my picture. And I remembered a very, very different account of a housekeeper I wrote just a year ago, when I wasn't daydreaming about Beverly Hill homes yet. Here:

There is a cleaning lady sitting on the swing set behind me. I saw her in the library bathroom today, and very early this morning right outside my dorm. Just cleaning. But now she is thinking and she is alone and she deserves it. Maybe it’s cliché, I shouldn’t make assumptions. She could be a bitch, a hard-ass mother, or narrowminded, or completely intolerant. But I cant help but feel complete warmth towards her. I always feel that way towards cleaning ladies. We run around thinking all our tasks are so important. So important that cleaning is just an inconvenient frivolity.
Now she is humming. She is back there swinging and humming and I want to go sit in the sand in front of her and lay my head back in her lap and have her stroke my hair. Does she feel the position we impose on her? Doe she really look at us as the gods we think we are and have faith that we are doing great, important things and cant be bothered with cleaning?
Or does she feel bad for us? I feel like she has a wisdom that knows that all my fears, and ambitions, an silly goals are so small in the scheme of things. We are like a bunch of chickens running around with our heads cut off. We are like busy little ants, frantically running around, running, running until we die. And she is god, disguised as a cleaning lady. Keeping things simple. Watching us. Pitying us. Knowing us. Oh god the humming. This is one of those moments worth living for. I don’t deserve to be so close to this intimate moment of hers. Just within earshot of her solitude. Probably her first god damn moment of solitude all day. Maybe if she could read this she would be like “damn, this girl thinks way too much, I’m just swinging and waiting for my ride!” Some maintenance men just arrived and are speaking to her vividly in Spanish. She is walking away with them. Good. They should take her. It was too good to be true to have her back there, all to myself. But I will never forget that humming.

1 comment:

  1. You have the gift. What insight and empathy. I love the way you weave your words.