Saturday, 15 October 2011

Housemaids Won't Sing the Blues

She was short and she was wide and she wore a perm in her hair. She looked Spanish, but that was often expected of her because she was a maid. Her mother was from Norway and her father somewhere else. She always suspected he was Irish, but she never knew for sure and she never asked. She’d move around the house she cleaned, whistling every song she ever heard played on the radio. She didn’t get to listen to music often, but she picked up melodies quickly. She’d dress in a pastel-coloured blouse and an apron splattered with small flowers. Tulips, roses, whatever. It was cream behind the plants and always covered in a thin film of dirt. She kept whistling and she kept cleaning. Dusting, polishing, whatever. Her mind would wander back to her past but she would never dwell, not for too long. She had killed a man. No court had convicted her. No evidence was ever found. Nobody who knew enough about the situation to form an opinion blamed her, but deep in her heart she knew she killed a man and her conscience would never let it go. She just scrubbed the dried urine off the toilet seat and continued with her life. She had a job and a roof over her head. She had enough to get drunk on a Tuesday afternoon when she was afforded a day off. And she had recently managed to save a little up for a week away by the sea. It was fast approaching and she’d smile at the thought of the sand between her toes. She imagined the waves breaking into foam. And she’d stand there and watch and rejoice the fact that she was free. But forever mourn for her soul. She’d look to her God and pray to his tender side. She was a murderer. A killer. It played on her mind continually, but she fought against it. She could only hope that as the sea caressed the sand beneath her feet, she’d finally forget.

More than once her ability to cope with her thoughts had pushed her to her very limit. The first time it happened, she was crossing the footbridge that she passed over on her way home when she stopped and peered over the edge. She stared longingly at the cars that drove beneath and tried to pick her moment. She was seduced. She wanted to land as the wheels hit her spine. No time to brake. No time for the driver to be blamed. She couldn’t trust the tarmac to finish her off and she didn’t want a car to miss. She had to time it right. Car after car passed on by, but that railing was just too damn difficult to get a leg over with ease. She thought she had it when a collection of school kids, 8-10 year olds, stepped on to the bridge. She let go of the railing and walked home. No kid needed to see this.

The second time around came when she found the cord for his dressing gown sitting loose on the bed.  When she picked it up she was drawn to how soft it felt between her fingertips. The cotton was thick yet silk-like. She raised it to her cheek and closed her eyes tight, breathing deep and letting out a groan. She wanted this feeling on her forever, nothing else mattered. She could escape with it and go in comfort. She wandered from room to room, looking for a location, with the cord trailing on the floor behind her. The bedroom would do. It had a view from the window that she found romantic and so began tying her knots. She looped the cord around her neck and fastened it as best she could to the hook on the back of the door. She had yanked on that hook several times to see if it would hold her weight and it did, it was strong and it would suffice.  She made her peace with her lord and let go. The world turned to black and she was gone. She was crumpled on the floor with her neck free of the cord when she finally reopened her eyes. The hook held. The knot did not.

So she found hope in the beach. She had aimed for it for a long time and knew she’d make it okay. The ocean could cleanse anything and so no doubt it could cleanse her soul. Her pride was withered and her conscience filthy and she needed this trip to make things bearable again. Her boss had treated her alright and now she had this extra time off work, too. She had earned it. She’d worked overtime for him and it had left her apron stained and dried and stiff and her conscience filthier than before, but like her apron her conscience had hardened. It had provided her with the cash that was necessary to escape. She finally had her getaway and she would feel pure again. Her God was forgiving. She flushed the chain and looked for her vacuum cleaner.