Celenilda is my family’s housekeeper. She is 18 years old and sleeps in a tiny room off of the kitchen that doubles as a food pantry. There is a bunk bed and she sleeps on the bottom because the top is stacked high with boxes of natural granola cupuacu and cacao products. Until very recently our exchanges only revolved around food. With a smile to try and make it mean more I would say, “Thank you very much” and “this looks really good.”
But one day when I was finishing my lunch and she was washing dishes, the only sound was fork and knife clicking against plate, water swishing around in a soapy skillet, she turned around and asked me if I had a boyfriend. Eu nao tem. Ce tem? Sim. Her boyfriend’s name is Barril and he sings in a band.
I asked her if she had a picture and she showed me. She proceeded to play with my hair and take a video of me on her cell phone, then invited me to sit on her bed as she ironed and folded clothes procured from what seemed to be a bottomless basket. Since then I have learned that she likes to be called Inha best, even though everyone in my house calls her Josie. She dreams about getting married to Barril and having a house in Salvador, she wants to learn English one day and become a nurse. She likes watching the novella Ti-Ti-Ti and dancing. She has promised me that when I return to Brazil I can stay with her and meet her family in the interior. I’ve promised her when she comes to Seattle I will show her around and we can practice English and Portuguese together. She says she’s going to Las Vegas first. I have become more and more comfortable lingering after breakfast and asking “posso ajudar?” and folding clothes with her, or burning myself after touching the hot spoon she advised me to pick up with a dish towel but I didn’t understand. She has the patience to talk to me, which means a lot, as my Portuguese remains hilariously choppy and incoherent.
I’ve been anxious about knowing what will come next for me for awhile now. I guess I tend to favor thinking about what things might be like and dreaming about what will happen in the future, rather than resting and appreciating the moment that I’m in. Waiting has never been easy for me, although I feel as though I spent much of my time in high school waiting. But then a few nights ago I helped Inha create an email account and facebook. When it came to her status and the little box said: “No que voce esta pensando agora?” What are you thinking right now? I told her it could be anything. As I watched her pointer finger scan the keyboard slowly to seek out each letter and spell out “casar,” marry, I wondered about where her patience comes from. Yet in that moment I felt strangely connected with her. I am not thinking about marriage at all right now, and I can’t imagine feeling as though that was the next step for me. I learned how to type when I was in second grade. I’ve never thought about being fortunate to know how to type. But it was just being with her in that moment and feeling so grateful for her that made me feel connected. We think about different things and in a different language, and we’re both waiting.