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Hired Help

HIRED HELP  

by  RAYMOND J. BARRY 

  originally published in The St. Andrew’s Review – CAIRN – 48

Barbara’s leg hurts. She feels her way along the hallway and enters the kitchen, her bent torso shuffling across the floor’s accumulation of dust and dirt, past the textured, peeled-paint walls of the living room that reveal gray-flecked blotches of the original plaster beneath, past signs of neglect and subtle hints of resigned defeat: a fallen, broken jar here, a filled ashtray there, a worn shoe lying on the rug without its mate, and a mess of crumbs on the scarred wooden coffee table not wiped off for days. Mountains of garbage bags and litter surround her on all sides: piles of old newspapers, dirty dishes on the floor, clothing thrown in heaps, furniture, pillows, cups with pencils in them, plastic pill containers, a hairbrush left in its wrapper, coins dropped on the floor, nondescript papers, a clock, a dirty towel, a piece of cloth strewn onto the pile haphazardly, an empty cardboard box, a vacuum cleaner that hasn’t served its purpose for years, and paper bags whose contents have either been eaten or left in their flimsy containers.

Her apartment reeks of apathy, sending an ominous message of imminent death, its owner’s lack of concern obvious to anyone privy to its view. This is not a habitat for the living, but rather a hovel designed for that moment of expiration, that last breath when all chaos will end and a new adventure commence. The air is gone from her life and a forest of garbage has taken its place, complete with valleys overlaid by the stench of death. This room is a coffin and not a living space, an environment that describes the final moments of life longing for an exit. The word suicide has entered Barbara’s thoughts so often that its meaning has become palpable by the mere sight of the pigsty in which she exists, one discordant piece of throwaway upon another, one wrinkled pair of dirty underwear after another dropped onto the floor to collect layers of dust. She has lived in this swill for twenty-nine years, but the end is near. Hope is gone. The burden of her weight has become her prison. A few meager connections with the world remain—weekly sessions with her therapist, telephone calls to her best friend Faxi, and the prospect of another back surgery that promises a future in an otherwise uneventful existence. Walking more than a few steps under the burden of her alleged injured leg is impossible, let alone cleaning or lifting piles of debris from her floor. At fifty-eight, she is too old to care, too old to heal. A point of no return has arrived when life has buried a woman old before her time, slowly suffocating the oxygen from her soul.

Barbara sidles into the kitchen, where under more normal circumstances, the lady of the house might be fetching a harmless glass of water to quench her thirst, an innocent enough purpose for a trip to the kitchen in the presence of a spying maid or her vigilant son who might be visiting. She hid that vial behind the refrigerator, ostensibly to test her resolve to rid herself of her addiction. But now choice is out of the question. Barbara must have her pills before Maria returns from her errand—this one last time, one last dosage, for recreational purposes only.

Maneuvering toward the kitchen with the aid of the wall, two pills will do and the faucet turned on—a glass, this one dirty, having not washed the dishes for months on end, filling it with water from the tap, sipping a taste, and back to the couch with the vial of painkillers to which she is enslaved: those dear little pills that give her life purpose, encouraging her through her loneliness, eating up the hours of the day. Finally on the couch, swallowing her pills and a sip of water. Imagined voices celebrate her consumption of pills, applauding her common sense to swallow those little capsules, anything to feel better, anything to numb the pain of her leg, the pain of her heart, the pain of how useless her life has become, and the burden of her weight.

“I do not know,” she answers a question that hasn’t been asked. Barbara keeps her own company with answers to unasked questions. The other party is her “other self,” her addicted self. Which self is in charge vacillates day and night. Always on the couch, inundated by the effects of painkillers, the hours are indistinguishable. Her activity amounts to nothing. Not that the need for action is absent, but desperation for another pill when the last one loses its effect is the whole of it.

Meanwhile, it is done. The ache of her leg will be soothed soon enough, and oh, yes, her back, a fine excuse and not a matter of choice. Pain is pain and must be dealt with humanely. Medicine for pain is a modern day comfort available to anyone in a world too complex for sustained sobriety, especially with a sore leg and an aching back; mustn’t forget her back.

Reclining now on two pillows laid on the arm of the couch, Barbara permits herself full view of her thighs and enlarged belly: her legs similar to rhinoceros legs, top-heavy and laden with layers of fat. Her calves are those of a rhino as well, thick and muscular from years of carrying excessive flesh above her knees. It is an unwieldy form she supports upon these pillars, awkward in its presentation, devoid of feminine charm. On the other hand, she has a mind, astute and perceptive, bold and innovative, often cunning in its approach to the financial obligations she so skillfully avoids. Barbara is a wily fox when it comes to rendering her share. She hasn’t paid her taxes in years, some forty thousand dollars. Oliver will pay it: such a good boy to his mother.

An odd smell in the living room.

“Damn her!”

The cap has been left off the cleaning fluid bottle on the dining room table. For years, Barbara has left caps off bottles, but when the maid commits the same offense, it infuriates her. “Stupid, dumb woman.” The inconvenience of having to walk with her sore leg to the bottle, fasten the cap securely, and walk again into the kitchen to place it on its proper shelf, all the time mumbling, “Stupid woman, too dumb to know better.” Toxic fumes, a cancer-producing carcinogen, no less. What is the stupid immi- grant attempting to do, compromise Barbara’s health? Wait until she returns. A good scolding will set Maria straight. Fumes could poison both Barbara and her cat, giving her a legitimate reason to fire Maria.

Barbara’s eyes close. Her head nods downward in her euphoric state: familiar relaxation, ease of mind that makes her decision justified. Sure of her power within the boundaries of her apartment where her wishes must be obeyed, her solitude must be maintained. A maid is not required. Barbara will do the cleaning, but only when necessary. Maria will be let go, sent on her miserable way, followed by Oliver’s inevitable scolding.

Meanwhile, Barbara must have her pills. Her son will understand in time; no need for a spy in her home, watching her every move.

The front door opens and Maria enters after a successful outing. “I buy your pens and notebooks, ma’am,” she says. “A few stores didn’t have them, but I find a place that did.” She is proud, smiling, expecting to be thanked for her efforts.

From beneath drooped eyelids, Barbara prepares to let the axe drop.

Silence overlays the room. Maria has seen that expression before from past employers, that contemptuous look that smacks of imbalanced power in the hands of the rich. Class warfare has begun. Barbara, who for the most part has lost touch with her strengths, suddenly has insurmountable re- sources of intelligence and education, so useful for controlling a servant who can barely speak the language. Her helper shrinks before her gaze, judged by a white woman who doesn’t lift a finger to clean the daily mess she leaves behind. Barbara waits before announcing Maria’s termination, watching a servant groveling in a white woman’s home.

“I hope these are what you need,” Maria states, shifting her body while waiting for a response. Tension is thick in the room. Barbara enjoys her effect on the humble woman. She hasn’t felt such power over another person since she was slim and attractive during her thirties when her womanly charms and curvaceous body melted the wills of men. She often had her way during those years, before she gained one hundred pounds of fat. The strength of her youth returns while this helpless housemaid stands before her, hoping for a response to an errand well done.

Maria recognizes immediately a familiar plight that all immigrants must endure: integration into an unforgiving, foreign society that offers her children a better life. This woman is her boss, her lifeline to having a barely sustainable income that will allow a roof over her head and food for her children. This white woman, who is incapable of picking up her leftovers after stuffing her stomach with free microwave dinners provided by a social service, plays a nasty power game that Maria cannot win. Maria has seen the power of the white race at play. Her strategy is to remain silent and wait for the inevitable. Meanwhile, she will do her work. Fear is in the air, predator and prey in a game of survival.

“Put them on the table, would you?” Barbara says.

“Yes, ma’am,” Maria replies and does as instructed. She is close to shedding tears, a condition common to both of them. Barbara too has cried often. Tears are a universal symbol of sadness that characterizes both of their lives. Maria returns to her duties: hands busy now, shuffling plastic bottles and old letters into a garbage bag. A piece of cloth and a pile of magazines have overused their stay—into the plastic bag, as well. Work is Maria’s justification for being here. Her strength lies in the fresh appearance of spanking clean floors, sheets, pillowcases, and clothing worn by the woman who dominates her life. These are the fruits of her labor that are easily noticed by her overseer who provides a pittance every week.

Maria’s dedication to her work is what matters. Fearful of being accused of laziness, anxious about doing nothing, her compulsion is to earn her keep. Her distrust of Barbara’s sudden transformation urges her to clean something. Her eyes search for an article misplaced, a dirty dish, anything that might satisfy her need for tidying. Talk is not required, nor is rest. There is no rest. There never will be rest and Maria’s life will be better for it. Barbara is an example of what happens to a person who spends her time resting.

Hours pass, during which time bags of garbage are removed, the kitchen washed, and bathroom floors scrubbed. Maria places everything in its proper place: books on shelves, cleaned dishes in cupboards, bath-utensils in the medicine cabinet, pillows in their proper locations, coffee table sponged, and piles of refuse removed from the apartment. After tend- ing to the living room, Maria moves toward the bedroom to straighten out Barbara’s unmade bed. Barbara does not make her bed. That is left to the hired help. Allow Maria to make the bed and then fire her seems like the best plan. A few more moments pass. The bed must be made by now; time to lower the boom, time to tell her to go. Maria passes through the living room. Barbara sits on her couch, longing to be alone.

“Maria,” Barbara calls.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“You left the cap off the cleaning fluid. The fumes have made me very ill. I won’t need your service anymore. You may go. You will be paid by my son for the entire day.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Maria says, mumbling something in Spanish under her breath. She distances herself when Barbara seems too close, two socio-economic classes, the brown worker and the white, wealthy boss woman, suspended in time. Barbara is hesitant. Guilt is prevalent. Barbara wants her privacy without hurting Maria’s feelings. Touching her maid’s shoulder as a sign of support is risky. Maria is a hired hand paid to do Barbara’s bidding; an uneducated woman at that, an immigrant barely able to speak English. Mustn’t be too familiar or the essence of the relationship will be threatened, a bond analogous to slavery, considering the meager wage her servant is paid.

The mother of two gathers her things and leaves the apartment.

Barbara’s bed is made, the apartment cleaned. Her old strength returns after firing her maid. She is boss within these four walls. That will always be the case. Supporting her habit is really the issue and not the cap left off the cleaning fluid bottle. The maid is an imposition upon a drug addict’s privacy. Barbara is the addict—Maria the spy, checking on Barbara’s sobriety to report to her son. They play their roles well. But Barbara will have her way and Oliver will understand in time.

How barren the apartment appears, so clean, stark and vacant: every- thing in its proper location, chairs, table, vases symmetrically placed on the bookshelf in the dining room. Before Maria cleaned, the apartment’s inordinate mess had disguised Barbara’s lack of concern for beauty. Once, long ago, she cared about the appearance of things. Aesthetics meant something then, the difference between ugliness and beauty, when she studied law and her mind was capable of thinking clearly. Law involved intricate, logical thought that defended the common man from injustice.

The science of law was beautiful in its way, a study of ethical choice among men, who need rules to live. Her involvement with law conditioned her to be fair during those years and generous toward her fellow man. Barbara lost connection with the generous, more forgiving part of herself along the way. She lubricated relationships with kindness when she was a lawyer, fighting for the rights of the weak.

The phone rings. It is Oliver, scolding her for firing the maid. The agency must have called. He is furious.

“If you’re serious about losing weight and getting better, really serious, you can’t fire people who are there to help you! Do you understand that, Mom?”

“Yes, Oliver.”

“Maria came recommended from the agency and Medicare also recommended her. These people are difficult to find. You can’t fire them and think they can be replaced, because they can’t. Do you get it?”

“Yes, Oliver.”

“You’re in trouble. Don’t you see that? You don’t keep your apartment dean. You don’t have sense enough to change the kitty litter when it’s dirty, for God’s sake! Why did you fire her?”

“She left the cap off the cleaning fluid and the fumes permeated the entire apartment!” Barbara yells back. “I got sick.”

“That’s it?”

“Well, wouldn’t you get rid of her?”

“Look, I’m going to rehire the maid and I don’t want you to interfere with that. That’s all there is to it. Take stock of yourself, for God’s sake. Look at yourself and ask what you see. You could work again if you would only take initiative. Don’t be so lazy. It’s killing you.”

Barbara closes her eyes for a moment: too lazy to be productive, too frightened to work at her profession, visualizing herself as a professor at New York Law School, speaking to a room of students, too fat for public view, imagining her obese body waddling across a classroom floor. The class would surely ridicule her ungainly walk. Maybe her leg will recover— perhaps in the next few days. But, no, her leg is too severely damaged. Something refuses to heal, a tendon or a damaged muscle; it hurts when- ever she puts weight on it—restricted to the apartment day after day, lying on her couch week after week, month after month. Surely her sore leg is the cause of her sedentary existence, along with her unattractiveness to men who once found her so appealing. Shame is part of it too.

Eyelids drop to half-mast. What is happening? Where is she? Of course, this ocean of debris is her apartment, providing a safe cocoon to shield her from the world. Writing might provide hope for the future, the act of writing, some hope. Hope is enough to survive, along with the property her father gave her, providing income with its rental fee, and, oh yes, this leather couch that has been her nest for the last dozen years. Her leg hurts. Her heart is palpitating, sign of an imminent heart attack: shortness of breath and a slight pain in her heart, possibly dying and afraid to take action.

Barbara’s reflection in a distant mirror: the horror of what she sees— turning away from her image, followed by the wish to throw her oversized body off the balcony. Yes, the balcony is a likely place to venture, to lean over its rail too far and to splatter upon the cement pavement below; yes, a viable temptation. The balcony looms before her outside the terrace door. “I could,” she says, as the door to the balcony is opened, releasing a waft of fresh air into the living room, cutting through the thick smell.

Breath comes in short pants. How important life is. Or is it important? Why is she on this balcony? Violent outbursts are common in this apartment, throwing objects against walls and such, but this time hurling herself off the balcony is a foreboding possibility, like a piece of human garbage thrown to the street, the finality of such an act, the courage it would take. Her cat responds with an expectant look, as if the ceiling is falling. Barbara’s lids almost close. Voices tell her not to jump. There are numerous useless things to do: telephone calls to make, voices to hear, television to watch, food to eat, a c.ouch upon which to rest, a vile array of advertisements to observe. The couch transforms into a bundle of moving reptiles, shiny and wet with their jaws open, hungry for their next meal. They smell Barbara. They will devour her, tear her round, fleshy body to shreds, leaving nothing but her head, lying on the street below and calling for her son. A head severed from its body and a few bones is enough to show for a life destroyed by reptiles. The building’s weight drags her down- ward, her body pinned by brick and mortar. No, people must not see her body, her disgusting, overweight body. Voices from the television; chills again. ‘Why is she cold? It’s warm but she has chills; a person to communicate now, today. She needs someone. Someone! The telephone, to call someone!

Dial the number and wait. God, she is hungry for Oreos with the creamy fillings, but she will not eat. She refuses to break her promise for the sake of a new life. Otherwise, she might die. Fat people die before their time. No, death will take a back seat to a healthy life, regardless of the odds of her winning this battle. But Barbara will not think about odds. Her dignity is at stake, her dignity above all else. Speaking of dignity, who is she kidding? Hers has been a life absent of dignity, twenty-four hours of television every day while lying prone on an old leather couch, a routine of absolute nothingness. Nothingness, she calls it, a euphemism if there ever was one, but, no, Faxi must hear all about it. Faxi can relate, true friend that she is.

The telephone is ringing. Dear telephone – Dear connection to the world at large – Dear contact with Faxi. . .

“Please, answer, Faxi. Please be home.”

“Hello,” on the other end of the line.

“Thank God, you’re home. I was afraid you wouldn’t be home, afraid

I wouldn’t be able to contact you, but you are home and that is wonderful. I have so much to tell you. Oliver hired a maid to clean my place and I just had to talk to you. She was only here fora few hours. I couldn’t stand her puttering in my apartment. I fired her, and now Oliver is going to hire her back. What’s that? Oh, yes, well, it’s a question of privacy; you know, having another person in my space, you know. It drove me crazy. What’s that? Oh, but I’ve never been a boss, never thought of myself as a boss, telling a maid what she must do. But that’s what I was, a boss who orders a woman to clean. Oh, I know most people have no difficulty. Bosses are everywhere, in every situation. I realize that, but I became part of that employer-employee dynamic, and I didn’t like it, Fax. I couldn’t help it, though. Oliver insists on having that woman in my space, constantly making noise, constantly interrupting. But I must remember to thank Maria if she comes back. She might continue her job if Oliver has his way. I hope so. My attitude toward Maria has softened. She’s plainly stupid, no education and probably lives in some ghetto somewhere; a stranger in my home, tending to my business. At least I had sense enough to call you. I know. I know. Oliver hired her. No, I wasn’t consulted. Oh, yes, of course, she is a kind lady, I suppose, but her idiotic questions about where I should put this and where I should put that enrage me. Tut it anywhere,’ was my response, which sounds harsh, Fax, but, my God,. I couldn’t help being impatient when she asked me questions that could so easily be answered by using common sense. And the clatter of dishes cascading from the kitchen, cupboards slammed, my God, constant noise. It drove me crazy. Thank God for privacy What was that? I do sympathize with the poor, Fax, but I don’t want the poor in my home. My privacy means everything to me. You know that. No, Fax, I’m not writing yet, but today I will and I must have privacy for that. What’s that? Oh, I’m going to start as soon as I finish talking to you. I’ll even write with Maria here, if she comes back. At least my place is clean. She did a good job cleaning. You saw what a mess my place was. You don’t care? No, that’s not true. You care. You’re just saying that, but you care. Admit it, Fax. My cleaned apartment is a tacky reminder of how blind I’ve been to the way things look. The woman who lives in this uninspired environment is that same person who once studied law. So much more can be accomplished during my journey to health: kindness for one, possibly beginning with my treatment of the hired help.

“What’s that, honey? No, I told you that. I haven’t paid my taxes. I told you how much. Oliver will pay it. He’s a good boy. I’m feeling better now. I’m alone, thank God Almighty. I’m going to start writing. When I stop talking to you, right after I hang up I’m going to begin. I promised myself and I’ll do it, too. Maybe I’ll even publish. You never know. I have a lot to say. You know that of all people; all the conversations we’ve had. What’s that? Oh, yes, I’m dieting too. I’m dieting today. I haven’t touched a mouthful all day and I won’t. My writing will block out thoughts of food. I’ll keep you up to date on that front. Yes. And what’s new with you? Everything—right. Anything unusual going on? Jim? Oh, yes, Jim. You saw him? Where did you see him? Really? I can’t stand the man really. He’s so trailer-park. I just can’t stand him. He used to smoke dope in front of my son and claimed to be in the program. What an ass he was. Oliver finally told him so. But you saw him in the park? How did he look? I bet he gained weight, didn’t he? He was so sedentary. We used to hole up here in my apartment for months without going out, getting stoned out of our minds. I shouldn’t have been with him. He was beneath me, such a vacuous jerk. What’s that? Oh, yes, my writing? Don’t worry. It can wait. Once I start, they’ll be no way to stop me. I might write all night. I have nothing but time, so I might as well write until I drop. This is a very exciting time for me, really—to begin what I have always wanted to do, to be a writer. Up to now I’ve just been doodling. But now I’m serious. I’m so excited, so exhilarated. I must record what’s been happening. God, what a life. The things I get myself into. Maybe it’s good I gained so much weight. I can’t move around much anymore, so I can’t get myself into as many negative situations. Oh, yes, you have to go? Oh, sure that’s fine, dear. I’m going to write anyway. I just wanted to tell you the latest. Right. Goodbye, Fax. Love you.”

Barbara places the phone on its stand and stares at the tidied room. Maybe she should call Maria now to thank her for the nice job she did and ask her to return, but no, she must not procrastinate her writing. She must begin without delay, first by turning off her television, but then the apartment will be silent and she’ll be left with her thoughts, left with nothing but her writing. Yes, that is the point, and no more television, no more phone calls. No, she will call later and begin to write, but where is that lined notebook that lay on the table before Maria cleaned her apartment? And her pens? She must have a pen. Where did the maid hide her note- book and pen? They were put away somewhere, probably in one of her drawers. Yes, she must search through her drawers. She must rise to her feet with a sore leg and move through the apartment to find her pen and notebook.

Standing upright, she supports her weight on the empty coffee table that used to carry everything at her fingertips before that damned maid put things in their proper place. At least the space is clear of clutter, and she doesn’t really mind searching for writing utensils, not much anyway; a little effort for a good cause. That’s what a real writer would do. Nothing would stop a professional writer from working; nothing would obstruct a writer’s drive. She is a writer and she will pursue her craft at all costs. Nothing will stop her this time. The other alternative would be the geriatric ward at Roosevelt Hospital after endless hours of television, phone calls, and eating microwave dinners that taste like airline food. No, that mustn’t be; no geriatric ward for her, and above all, no more inactivity Her note- book and pens? Where are they? Where could that damned maid have placed them?

She slowly ambles toward her bedroom, where her desk has stood for a decade, leans upon a wall. Spotting the desk, she guides herself in its direction, and upon arrival reaches for its top drawer; nothing of use in it, a few papers and a pencil that won’t do. She must write with a pen. Reach- ing lower now to open a middle drawer, her eye spots another pile of papers topped by a dirty sock. That too must be remedied. Dirty wash must be placed in the dirty wash bin when her immediate need is fulfilled. A pen and her lined notebook. Where are they? The bottom drawer next, containing letters and random bills, beneath which lies a ballpoint pen wait- ing for use. One mission accomplished, a glorious pen found.

Her notebook? What about her notebook? Where could it be? Where has that good intentioned cleaning woman placed it? Damn her.

With the support of the wall, her search continues. She ambles into Oliver’s old bedroom. Her notebook must be somewhere in this clean apartment. Everything is too damned much in its place. She must familiarize herself with healthy compartmentalization of her belongings. Continuing her search with an undercurrent of resentment—her damned notebook. That idiot woman hid the one thing necessary for writing: a notebook, damn it—something to write. Who ever heard of a writer with- out a writing book? Looking now in another drawer but to no avail, finally entering the dining room—its wooden cabinet—piles of papers and neatly stacked books, all read in the past twenty years; lots of books consumed, but now, Barbara must write her own book for someone else to read.

Yes, she should have guessed; her notebook at last, hidden in a drawer. Relieved she has found it: the conduit toward a fulfilled life, or at the very least a busy life, or day, depending upon how it goes. She’ll begin her creative venture, independent of telephone and television. First return to the couch—no, an upright dining room chair would be better to guarantee alertness. But the hardness of that wooden chair—no, its brittleness more of a distraction than a cushioned chair might be. The comfortable easy chair will also hold her body upright, guaranteeing she’ll stay awake during her labors. But she must begin.

Must be selective; not acceptable to jot down anything that comes to mind and call it writing. Demands have to be made as to what is a worthy subject to catch the eye of the reader. Selection of subject matter becomes a bit of a chore, the mere thought of someone reading her words a source of embarrassment; how exposing that might be, a stranger reading her thoughts. Foolish, already imagining someone might read her words, writer’s block all too familiar. Forget other people and be courageous. Her hand tightens upon her ballpoint pen.

What is she thinking and feeling? What thoughts prevail? But are those enough? Continuous flow of ideas runs through her mind, but as unique as they may be, they do not amount to a story, which by definition has a beginning, middle, and end. What would the beginning be? Or maybe she shouldn’t push so very hard to produce a story. She should write anything and leave it at that. Writing is enough, or at least it was enough a minute ago. Why has her definition of writing changed all of a sudden? Where did the pressure to succeed come from? To legitimize her writing by giving birth to a story or maybe something as grand as a novel is a new ambition in this journey to health. It is too soon to expect so much. Writ- ing must not become a burden, after all. She needs writing to live and that is enough. There, she said it: “needs writing to live,” but not writing itself—more importantly the focus writing brings to counter-balance her otherwise meandering mind. Yes, she will write; not a novel, not a story even, and certainly not a poem for which she has neither the talent nor the skill, but rather that for which she is best suited: a letter to her son. That is enough ambition for now.

New York City, April 23, 2011; 4:52 pm.

My darling Oliver,

A man asked me to smile. I did so. At first with a forced muscular contraction of my lips, but after a few seconds the smile became genuine and factually felt better. The fellow offered some peanuts that I refused as I was not hungry. However, so he could not possibly misinterpret my refusal I thanked him and told him I appreciated his offering. I turned away, preparing to leave. Shortly before I arrived at the exit door, I passed a woman who was grimacing and told her to smile. She did so and enjoyed the effect it had upon her. She continued to smile, ear to ear, as I left the room.

The day that followed was a happy one.

I see through the window a sudden gust of rain, pouring as if the gods were watering their flowerbeds and we are their seeds. I become poetic when I am writing to you, my dear son. The reason I write is not only because of the love I feel for you but because the record of my thoughts gives me peace in your absence. I speak only to you, my special child, in such a private manner. It is only you whom I trust so my much.

The rain shines the world and I drink its nectar. I am replenished by it and have become self-respecting through its balm.

The fountain from which our current runs…

For years, my son, I’ve been immersed in a wave of debilitating fright, until today when I find myself day-dreaming, as the rain falls against my balcony door. My logical mind fortunately has fallen dead by now, beheaded by a blade of anxiety. The incessant cycle of repetitive thoughts that I couldn’t shake for the life of me is suspended during this glorious storm. The healing process has begun. For the first time I’ve left my thoughts untended rather than forcing them to respond to my wishes. This is a breakthrough for me, dear son. Choices toward the ‘good” gradually bare themselves at the end of this dark period. Balance reinstates itself but upon embarking on my flight back to reality, I haven’t found my wings yet that might allow me not only to fly, but also to navigate once in the air.

But enough; I must end this. I wonder what you are feeling at this very moment. I’m sorry I shall never mail this letter; but now a record of me exists somewhere in case I don’t make it through.

As always, I love you, Mom

“Hello, this is Maria.” Her voice is cold, detached, expecting the worst.

“Oh, Maria, I am so happy you called,” Barbara begins. “I’m so sorry. I hope you’ll forgive me.”

“Your son ask me to start working again.”

“Yes, I know about that. He spoke to me. I do want you to return, Maria.” “Your son want me to begin today,” Maria says.

“Of course, please come back today.

“I near your building. I come.”