Sunday, May 30, 2010
Lunchtime in Seizure Village
“I don’t really know how to say that, grandpa,” I squint my eyes and hold up the phone to my mouth. I’m driving, so it’s on speaker, and his English accent sounds distant.
“Well maybe you can just tell her, ok?”
I frown. “Yeah, okay.” Apparently I can do anything.
When I arrive to their apartment in Leisure Village, or what was recently disclosed to me as “Seizure Village” by the locals in Camarillo, grandpa points to the bedroom and practically yells. “What’s her name?” He’s talking about the housekeeper. How should I know?
“I don’t know, grandpa.”
“Well tell her about my shirts, eh?” He looks up at me from the couch, his large glasses struggling for footing on the edge of his nose.
I pad quietly into the bedroom where my grandparents’ short haired, slightly overweight, and surprisingly tall cleaning lady is mopping up the bathroom floor. I smile.
“Hola. Uh…” I pause, searching for the words. “Cuando tu lavas los, um,” I forget how to say ‘shirt’ and point to my purple tee. She stares down at where I’m pointing on my stomach, we both notice a grease stain, and then she looks back up at my face.
“Los caminitos?” she asks.
“Si, los caminitos.” I smile. “Cuando tu lavas los caminitos, no necesitas, um…” I’m tripped up again, and can’t remember how to say ‘dry’ in Spanish. She has no idea where this sentence is going, so I pick up a hanger from the closet and hold it up. Her eyes go from my shirt to the hanger. I smile. She smiles back. We’re getting nowhere.
She holds up her pointer finger, like, ‘I got it,’ and walks over to the phone. “Mi hermano,” she says, dialing. This word I remember; she’s calling her brother.
The phone rings a few times and then she frowns again. He didn’t pick up, and we stare blankly at each other again for a moment before deciding how to tackle the situation.
Next I hold up my pointer finger, and motion her out to the garage. We walk past my grandparents on their couches, and my grandmother eyes us suspiciously. Out in the garage I show my new friend to the washing machine. I point at the machine and then at my shirt. “Si, los caminitos.” Yes, the shirts. I then point at the dryer. “Y no necesario.” And not necessary. I point at the hanger. “Solomente esto.” Just this.
She nods her head and I sigh relief. We’ve figured this out. “Gracias,” I say, before walking out of the garage.
I pull my grandpa up off the couch, and secure my grandmother’s hat on her head.
“Grandma thinks you ignored her,” grandpa says while I pull grandma’s jacket over her shoulders.
“Huh? I did?” I quickly go back in time and watch myself enter the house, kiss my grandpa, and go find the housekeeper. I suppose I did forget about her.
“Oh, sorry, grandma.” I look down at her and smile, and she looks up at me with hurt, childlike eyes. “I love you,” she moans, almost accusatory. “I love you forever, since you were baby.” My grandmother is Greek and barely speaks a word of English, but this part I get. I feel a little guilty, and hug her small frame close to my body. “I love you too, grandma.” She nods, and we all head outside, into the too bright sun, the howling breeze, the heavy car doors—the many pieces of daily life that have become almost unbearable for these two creatures.