I really liked Maria. Not only for her unparalleled cleaning skills, but for the animated chat she provided every Wednesdays, over a big, warm, sugary couple of coffee. Maria was big but agile, had this bushy curly red hair and dark freckles all over her face. I imagine she was pretty years back. I bet her exotic looks had turned some heads through the years. I had no idea how old she was, I’ve never asked, in fact, I’ve never been one to inquire people about anything personal. But Maria liked to talk, and I liked to hear her.
Being that way, I know she has one full grown son, and two teenage daughters. Therefore, I guess she was about forty something and got pregnant really young. I never asked her about that either.
I liked Maria because she was funny, really funny, full of energy and joy. She never looked sad, or afraid of anything. She was never tired, or late for work. Even living far from downtown and knowing that I didn’t care if she was late or not. I didn’t want her to wake up before the break of down to catch a crowded bus and ride for hours to arrive at my apartment, right after I woke up late for work, in the pick of the morning.
I loved how brave Maria was. She wasn’t one to complain about anything, except her good for nothing alcoholic husband.
_ He hits you?
_ Hell no! The one time he tried, I’ve broken three ribs on that scumbag. Look at me, I’m huge! He’s a small old man, can’t handle me!
_ Girl, you’re my hero. But you should throw him out, it’s your house, you pay the bills.
And we’d laugh a lot.
And then March arrived. I watched the news, everyone was scared, people started wearing masks in public and my boss had forbidden us to take the bus to work. It didn’t take long until he closed the office. After all, he was over sixty and had diabetes. I loved working from home, not that as an international manager I had much to do since January, but still, I could find ways to keep myself busy.
I liked being alone. It was quiet, peaceful, I had time to myself. To do what, I wasn’t quite sure yet.
_ Sugar, do you need me to go tomorrow?
_ No Maria! Please, stay home for now, don’t worry about it. I can clean the house myself, and you’ll still be getting paid, of course.
_ Thank you honey, you’re the best. But if you need me, I’ll go, ok? Just call me.
What kind of monster would I be if I had made an obese woman with high blood pressure take a bus travel through the city to come clean my house in middle of a pandemic?
I kept paying Maria to stay home once a week for the next three months, until I lost my job and with that, my monthly check pay. We kept texting thou, she was concerned about me, if I was eating, using masks, staying at the house and all of that. And I was concerned about her bills, and if her other clients had dismissed her services and kept payment. Amazingly, that was the case, most of her clients were able to make some sacrifice on their own finances and Maria could stay home, safe and sound.
There was this guy that use to sit at the sidewalk in front of the supermarket and ask for a Coke every time someone enters the shop. He was always shaved, except for the thick mustache, relatively clean and well dressed, except for the occasionally barefoot, and never asked for money. But he always wanted a Coke, sometimes a chocolate bar, or things like that. I always got him something after my weekly grocery shopping. And every day he gave me a sweet smile from his spot at the sidewalk, seeing me walk by on my way to the gym. But he was never so happy as when I walked the dog and always gave him some time cuddling my furry baby he liked so much.
And then came the day that people were wearing masks in the street and he probably didn’t understand what was that about. We were still at the point that was impossible to find hand sanitizer and masks as the stores little reserves had been sold out on the first panicking days and they hadn’t enough time to refill shelves yet.
Luckly, I still had two intact packages of chirurgic masks I used to spray paint my house furniture. I took one for myself and the other to the supermarket corner.
_ Here, you have to use this ok? Use one each day, next week I’ll bring you another package.
He took the package from my hand with a slightly smile but didn’t tank me or asked me why. I wasn’t sure he knew enough about what was going on, or even if he cared. On the same afternoon, when I was walking the dog, there he was with that big smile he used to flash every time he saw me walking Bobby in his direction, he really liked my dog.
_ Use the mask dude, you have to use it all the time.
_ Yeah, yeah.
Either he bothered to use the masks or not, I returned on the fowling week with a new package. But how surprised I was to found out he wasn’t there as usual. Instead, as the supermarket’s cashier told me, he was taken home by his older son. Well, one more good surprise in the midst of a worldwide panic attack. Perhaps, people are better than I used to think after all.
I never saw that guy again, never heard of him either, but I’m sure he’s fine. He’s with his family, maybe for the first time in I don’t know how many years. I never saw Maria again either, but we keep texting regularly. The most amazing thing? She and some girlfriends got together to open a small homemade meals delivery business at their neighborhood. And they’re going really fine, she’s making more money than ever thought possible. I couldn’t be happier for her.
After I lost my job, life in the big city was just too expensive for me, so for the first time in almost a decade, I found myself going back home for good. If you asked me ten months ago if I had any intention of moving back with mom, I’d laugh right at your face. Now? After more than six months with her, I have to say, not that bad. Actually, not bad at all. I even risk to say that our relationship was never as good as now, not even in my childhood, as far as I remember at least. There’s something about living with you parents as a grownup, how we’re able to understand and appreciate them better. And I’m so grateful to have been given this chance soon enough.
They say the world will soon return to normal, and everything will be fine. I actually hope we never return to what it used to be. We are getting better each day, we’re getting stronger, resilient. We are learning to appreciate life in different forms, and I hope we keep it that way.