I’m developing a friendship with M., the Salvadoran woman who cleans my house. M. also works as a server in one of the restaurants where YaYa, Ben and I go for breakfast.
M. is much younger than I am, in her 30’s. She reminds me of Gloria in her struggle to come to terms with our class differences and the cultural expectation of how someone like her is expected to related to someone like me. The first time M. was here to clean, I made sandwiches and invited her to sit and eat lunch with me. Her response, “me da pena“, means roughly “I feel awkward“. I nodded and said that if she preferred, she could take the sandwich home with her, but that it was lunch time and I was hungry and planned to eat. She thought for a few moments, then sat down. Some kind of ice was broken in that moment.
We speak Spanish, and little by little she is telling me about her family. She is asking me questions, which is a sign to me that she is feeling bolder and more empowered to be herself. On that ground, a friendship can begin.
“You live in a big house, all by yourself. You are retired, you don’t go out to work. Aren’t you bored?”
It’s a question that any of the Panamanians might have asked me, and indeed some have. Culturally, Latinos are used to being around a lot of people. Being alone is profoundly uncomfortable for them.
Being an introvert is a rather significant benefit during this time of aging. The answer to M’s question is no, I’m never bored. I read a lot. I write my blog. I exercise. I reach out to friends. I see my kids, and my grandkids. Sara’s house is a comfortable amount of space for me — I don’t feel as if I’m rattling around. Life, for the moment — and the moment is all we really have for certain — life is good.
I’ll be happy if the friendship with M. continues. I would love it if, over time, she invites me to her home to meet her family and eat pupusas. It’s a poignant budding friendship though, because I know that in 2019, they are apt to be deported and there will be nothing I can do. The dark energy of Trump and his supporters will still be with us.