Painting courtesy of June Kelly Gallery, New York. Photo credit: Becket Logan

Then Jesca quit.

I had seen it coming so it was not a surprise to me.

Although we rarely talked in recent times, I knew it was only a matter of time before Jesca, finally decided to pack her bags and leave her employer’s house. She was one not easily satisfied and on those occasions we had spoken in the past, kept alluding to domestic work jobs which paid better.

When a house help suddenly quit her job, she immediately transformed into the villain. Even the watchman at the main entrance to our court, automatically knew that the errant girl was no longer welcomed in the environment. Women who hardly paid attention to each other before, instantly transformed into the best of friends, discussing about the help, who had been ungrateful enough to just up and leave.

Although your decision to quit might have been reasonable enough, no employer wanted to admit to that. The common consensus was that it was shameless for the girl to do so.

The day that Jesca left, Mama Brian, her once employer, came visiting in the evening when she was sure that Mama Ken was already home from work.

“Today I have had the worst day ever,” She began, loud enough for me to also hear. As if  she could not fathom how I could still be working for my employer, when her help had just left.

“What happened?” Mama Ken asked, seemingly bored.

From my vantage point in the kitchen, near the open door that led to the living room, I could tell that my employer was hardly interested in Mama Brian’s visit.

Mama Brian is an obviously younger woman with small children. I have no idea where she works but it must be at a good place for she always drives herself to work. They rarely interact with Mama Ken so I’m sure my employer had to be wondering why she had shown up in the first place.

“Imagine my housie left in the morning. And she did not even inform me of her intention to quit earlier. She knows I have young kids and she just wakes up and decides to go. I tried requesting her to at least stay till evening when I came back from work and the insolent girl would hear none of it.” Mama Brian now rambled on.

“Eh, now what did you do?” Mama Ken inquired in that same bored manner.

“I didn’t even know what to do. At least Brian goes to school for half day but now Mueni was the problem. I just bundled her in the car and took her to my sister’s.” Mama Brian informed.

“I had to ask for permission to leave work early. And can you imagine this girl made me beg for her to stay?! I have never understood what these housies want. You give them free lodging, food, they even use your soap to take a bath and they still leave when you least expect…”

“Yes, they are difficult to understand.” Mama Ken mumbled. She suddenly sounded genuinely sympathetic.

“At least you are lucky yours is a good one.” Mama Brian now mentioned.

“It’s just luck sometimes.” Mama Ken quickly agreed.

“I don’t even know what I will do tomorrow. Baba Brian was so annoyed when I informed him the help had left. He never liked that girl from the onset. He used to say she looked like she knew a lot, that one. But you see I had no choice. I got her from a bureau. You know how our work goes. By the way, would you mind doing me a favor?”

In that short time span, I had concluded that Mama Brian probably talked too much.

“Go ahead, I’m listening.” Mama Ken urged.

“Could your help watch Mueni for me tomorrow as I figure out what to do with my help situation. I would have taken her to my sister’s but it’s quite far and inconveniencing for me…” The request now tumbled out in torrents.

For a moment, silence.

“Coretta is usually very busy during the day looking after the house. I doubt she can be of much help to your daughter. I would really have loved to help but you know these girls. Next she’s going to start complaining that she has also been looking after the neighbor’s kids and demand a raise.” Mama Ken cleverly declined.

I know Mama Ken pretty well and carrying out favors for neighbors was one thing she rarely did.

What followed was a somewhat unmistakable grimace on Mama Brian’s face. And then she quickly excused herself, claiming she had left something cooking on the fire. I doubt if that was even true, because the time she had already spent in my employer’s house, would have been enough for whatever she was cooking to have already burned.

“Did you know that Mama Brian’s help left today?” Mama Ken would later interrogate me.

“No Mama Ken, I didn’t.” I replied, shaking my head vigorously in the negative. The one house help rule was, never to disclose any information you knew, about a fellow help whether you were close friends or not. No matter the good intention behind it, it would one day be used against you by your employer.

“People cannot even say hi to you when times are good but they expect you to quickly lend a helping hand when times are bad.” Mama Ken now wondered aloud, to no one in particular.

Still following uncle’s advice, I said nothing.



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