I write this at the great risk of sounding ungrateful.
Those of you who have cast more than a cursory glance over this blog will know that I deliberated over hiring a cleaner when I went back to work full time. Well, I did finally hire someone and she has transformed my life. I truly don’t know how I ever lived without her. I had much the same feeling when I discovered make-up at the age of 13. I can never go back. I will be applying mascara and lip gloss until the day I finally take to my death bed, and I can’t imagine ever scrubbing the bathroom floor again (although I suspect I will).
The woman responsible for my domestic bliss is Maria (not her real name), who comes from Bulgaria and has a degree in molecular science and can’t find a job in her field, so she cleans houses to make ends meet. She was going to get married last year but ended up being jilted the day before the wedding. She is now trying to sell the apartment she bought with her ex-fiance.
Maria seems remarkably cheerful considering everything she’s been through. I suspect it comes from being Eastern European. They make them tough over there.
We have been having a bit of a love affair. I write her these little notes and leave them in the kitchen. I offer her chocolates. I think this is my way of easing my guilt. I’ve never felt great at the thought that she cleans my toilets.
Maria writes me back. She tells me to have a nice day, she thanks me for the chocolates and my notes. Her writing is immaculate and the English is perfect. Never have I spoken one word of criticism. We’re very much in the honeymoon phase of our relationship.
But the other day she told me that she wouldn’t be able to clean the flat this week. I have already started to rely on her visits like you rely on the world to spin on its axis. She throws me a little lifeline before my eyes glaze over with all the chores I will need to do over the weekend. ‘My friend said she might be able to come instead just this once.’
The friend shows up yesterday and I am reappraising my love affair after her brief visit. There’s only one way to say it: she’s a much better cleaner than Maria. I feel like I’ve had a visit from the staff at a five-star hotel. All the toiletries are neatly lined up in the bathroom in order of size. She’s folded the towels neatly on the towel rails. The bathroom is whiter than I’ve ever seen it before, the tiles gleaming. The mold that had been lingering in the grout is gone.
She’s taken out all the trash and even cleaned the outside of the bin. I’m afraid Maria doesn’t usually get that far. The friend has even tidied up any loose wires, neatly coiling them so that no one trips. Everywhere I go I see yet another example of her industriousness. Meanwhile, I have a growing suspicion that my regular cleaner is more like Amelia Bedelia, charming but rather useless.
I realize that this is how it must feel to always have the same, reliable lover. You think the sex is great until you have an affair with someone else and discover, perhaps too late, how much better it can be. (No, this is not a personal remark on my own life.)
Next week it’s back to Maria. I’m wondering if I can turn my love notes into a set of useful instructions… I fear not. I have only myself to blame, but I believe I have set a dangerous precedent. Like applying mascara, there is no going back.