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Rosa

Rosa

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Published by barbde
Rosa is an undocumented home health aide, A little girl interviewing her for a school project helps her to begin to look at her story with both sorrow and uplift. She loves her patients, especially Wolfie, a Jewish lawyer who can no longer walk or speak. they are separated by a long strike in which Rosa learns about the union movement, but finally reunited.
Rosa is an undocumented home health aide, A little girl interviewing her for a school project helps her to begin to look at her story with both sorrow and uplift. She loves her patients, especially Wolfie, a Jewish lawyer who can no longer walk or speak. they are separated by a long strike in which Rosa learns about the union movement, but finally reunited.

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Published by: barbde on Oct 24, 2011
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10/25/2011

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Rosa
Barbara de la Cuesta
 
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osa puts the rice on and sits in Laureano's recliner with her feet up. Her bowels drag at her probablymeaning the start of another bloodletting just three weeks after the last. The front doorbell rings. Shehopes it isn't Mondo's social worker—he's in jail again until the start of April—or anyone like that, whousually comes to the front.
Que entren,
she calls through the screen. It isn't a social worker; it's littleEsmeralda, from the Mexican store. She comes in shyly
 
when invited and sits primly across from Rosaon the divan with a notebook in her lap. Three years ago she was in Rosa's catechism class; and wasnotably smarter and better mannered than any child she had ever taught the
Salve Maria
and the
 Padre Nuestro
. .It's about a project for her fifth grade. says the little girl. She needs to interview an older person. Ah,Rosa feels old. Do I need to get up? No you sit right there and I ask you questions. Hah, like the social worker she tells herself. But no,this child used to sit on the floor of her father’s store and sort through red beans.Hokay, she says. What kind of questions?Well about your life: where you were born, about your childhood, how you came here.Rosa's childhood. Well that might be looked at, unlike some other parts.So the little girl picks up her pencil and Rosa sighs and begins the tale, up to the hard parts. Thoseunreel before her nights…It was my aunt raised us, she begins. My mother died. There were four of us, three girls and the boy, a baby then. My aunt, she cook for us in great pots on a petroleum stove behind the house, or in the bigwood oven in the shed. You never knew what was in it: shreds of meat when we had some, and roots, and
verdes
. Each of us big ones have to feed a little one before we eat.And then she boil the wash in another pot and hang it over the chicken coop. There was nothing like awashing machine in those days. Or even electric. The mists didn’t rise off the mountain until ten oeleven o’clock. Sometimes the clothes don’t dry and we have to iron them dry with a big iron you putcoals in from the stove.Did you ever have any fun?Well, we children hunt eggs and every Sunday we each have an egg fried in grease and put on stiff white dresses to walk in a line behind my aunt and uncle to Mass...You have to walk very carefully, because if you scuff your shoes you can’t go out to play after.My aunt was very strict, but we together, we sisters. We sleep in one big bed, and my brother, whowas little then, sleep in my aunt's bed. She make him her baby. She don’t have children her own..Was it a farm, where you lived?A very small farm. All the family live on the same street. We have some chickens, and a pig they killat Christmas. My other uncle have a cow; so we have all the milk we want, and curd for butter and whitecheese. A mile away there is an
abasto,
like your papa have. We girls was sent there with our pocketsfull of coins when the flour run out, or to buy canned meat. The big market is twenty kilometers away.There, we go in the horse cart with my uncle once a month. We have salt cod part of the month, andsometimes a chicken; when that run out we eat beans and rice. We live there till I am eleven and our father want us back.Were you happy? the little girl asked..Was she happy? She must have been, because when her father came and took them all to run ahousehold in that big brick half-built house in Ciudad Jardin, while he worked building houses—bringinghome the scrap wood and bricks to finish their own house—that was when the sadness began, the fear, shedoesn't see her way to telling this little questioner about. No, she can't, she just can’t...So she heaves herself up, saying something about coffee, and goes to the kitchen to boil some water and set out some Goya biscuits, and of course Laureano comes in from whatever he’s doing and wantscoffee too. She makes some fresh, filling the cheesecloth with Café Bustelos, and pouring the boilingwater through it, then setting some milk to heat. Laureano passes the little girl the sugar and makes sureshe takes plenty like he does. They stir their coffee and munch the Goya biscuits while Rosa stands at the
2
 
stove enjoying the sight of them at the kitchen table with the bright new plastic tablecloth she just boughtat Kmart.We’ll talk more another time, says the girl, like a little woman already. .Yes, they will talk more, she promises; and from that afternoon on the thoughts of those years start tofile past her mind’s eye—as she was going to bed that night and even next morning dressing for work.She wonders for the first time why her father ever wanted them back? Three girls and a baby. It wasn't asif they could help him in his building projects. Like Laureano, he had his half-repaired cars, old washingmachines, kitchen sinks, unfinished rabbit coops all around the house waiting for his attention. Their aunthad taught them all to cook, but they even forgot how to do that around him. Ah, well, she'll think of something nicer to tell the little girl next time she comes.Riding the bus to work next day, Rosa doesn't see the little woman walking behind the man with astopwatch...it's been a while now and the days so lovely you just wanted to sit on a bench and turn your face to the sun. Did her husband just walk off into another life instead of waiting for her to catch up?They've sent her to do Clifford Auerbach's bath this week. He lives in a building opposite to theBlakey sisters in one of the newer sections. The apartment, she sees, could have been attractive with awoman's touch, but he has it all upside down and filled with papers on which he's drawn some kind of  plans and written instructions:
 Have the new girl draw the water for the centrifuge and stop payment on the check to the terminated… 
she reads
.
Sh
e
hangs up her coat in the closet and tries to pick up...Don't touch anything, he warns.Who sent you?The Agency, she says. For your bath.He tells her about his bowels. A fine movement about an hour later then usual. They've changed thecontents of the fiber pill. I suspected something when I saw it's a deeper pink than usual. You'resupposed to note this down in the book, not go around hanging clothes in that closet that I need for my project.Hokay. Rosa says. He has fully dressed in yesterday's dirty clothes, as Priscilla warned her, instead of waiting for her in the pajamas that he's dropped on the floor of the bathroom. These clothes he proceedsto remove slowly, folding each item, in spite it’s going in the wash, and putting it on the radiator. Thefiber pills have affected the color of his bowels, he tells Rosa, and when she simply stands there nodding,he tells her sharply that this fact must go into the bowel book as well. Rosa goes to get the book and pretends to note this as Priscilla has recommended; but he asks her to bring it and show him so shequickly writes:
difrant color 
...He looks at it and shakes his head. I never learn to spell, she says. .Priscilla will fix it. By now he hashis pants unbuttoned and stands before the toilet to shake a few drops out of his flaccid penis. His bellyand legs are covered with pale freckles and the muscles seem to have let go of his bones, which stand upin a teetering pile. Now he sits on the toilet to remove the pants and fold them, waving Rosa off. Shethinks of Wolfie, grunting his gratefulness as she used to move about him pulling and prodding andsometimes caressing.Someone must have told. They never send her to Wolfie now. It's been months. The dreadfulIrishwoman goes now and Rosa is certain she is rough and cruel. It must be her who told, but how canshe have known?. Certainly Wolfie wouldn't have told her even if he could talk. Probably the Irish havetheir 
 santeria
like the Puerto Ricans. You can see it in their divining eyes.He has the underpants folded up now and the water has nearly reached the top of the tub, so Rosa shutsit off and stands by while he touches it with a finger. Too hot, he says.It will cool. She sits on the radiator beside the pile of clothes. With Wolfie she always sat on the edgeof the tub and he put his hand up her skirt and into her panties, caressing her shyly, apologetically. Sosorry, he seemed to say. Was he apologizing to her for touching, or for not being able to properly carryout this seduction which, though he didn't know it, was as thrilling to her as any caress since Mondo's
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