Maria cleans my bedroom and Maria doesn’t judge. Maria watches Judge Joe Brown reruns while ironing, but if I want to watch something, Maria hands me the remote. I bet Maria would be the coolest mom.
Maria puts Windex on an old cloth she pulled from the plastic basket she keeps in the trunk of her car. I wonder how often Maria cleans these rags and if she uses the laundromat next to that Italian ice place near the west side.
Her daughter is Lauren. I think she was named for the purpose of conformity, otherwise her name would be Flor or Consuela. Her daughter is smaller than me. I know that because Maria took home a bag of my old clothes for her once. Maria no habla English and I’ve never seen her house, but I could probably guess where it is. Maybe her husband works for my uncle. He’s a contractor.
Maria uses Pine Sol and Maria put the bottles of wine stashed under my bed into recycling. I made lemonade for Maria once. She didn’t drink it.
Maria calls me Miss. I told her my real name once, slowly, punctuating each syllable so she could understand. Maria smiled and walked away. Maria doesn’t show her teeth when she smiles. She still calls me Miss.
We pay Maria in cash. 100 for her services every other Thursday. Maybe I should clean houses. Maria doesn’t steal. If I cleaned houses, I might steal. One time I left a joint on my desk. It was still there after Maria left, but the lighter was in the third drawer to the left. We gave Maria a candle for Christmas, a fifty dollar bonus, and Lauren got my pretty sweater that Maria shrunk in the wash. She didn’t mean to. It was an accident.
Maria has a round figure and kankles. The copper highlights in her hair don’t make her look younger, but I think that’s what she’s going for. I want to tell Maria to embrace her age, but maybe that’s not something her culture does. I want to ask her if they have cleaning ladies where she comes from and if that would be her profession if she was still there. I want to ask her what she would’ve been if she had the opportunity but that seems inappropriate and also I don’t speak her language. Someone once told me that love has no language barrier. I think that applies to hate, too.
Does Maria stash bottles of wine under her bed or put them in recycling?
Maria wasn’t our first cleaning lady. Before her was Olga. That wasn’t her real name, but she looked like an Olga. Olga liked talking on the phone too much so we let her go. Olga didn’t steal either but she seemed like the type. Maybe that’s the real reason we let her go.
There are no cleaning men. I don’t know anyone who has a cleaning man. If I were an artist and I drew my mind’s image of a cleaning man, he would be very muscular. He would lift the couch with one hand and vacuum underneath with the other. He wouldn’t shrink my pretty sweater. He would cost more. We wouldn’t be able to afford a cleaning man.
I hope Maria’s house is clean, otherwise that doesn’t seem fair. We recommended Maria to our neighbors. We said to our neighbors, “Oh! She’s such a big help. We love Maria. ”
But I think this is an unrequited love.