Wednesday, July 4, 2012


The shopping bags I'm carrying are weighing down my wrists and I'm shifting my weight impatiently from one foot to another, waiting for the car to pull up. The girl next to me rolls her eyes. She says her driver is so slow, but that part would be fine if he wasn't so obviously obsessed with his fiance back home whom he talks to on the phone at night. It's disgusting, she says, the way he obviously thinks about this woman. 
Some combination of heat and nausea course through me like a wave and I have an urge to smack her with my groceries. Instead, I open my mouth, always ready with an unsolicited opinion-"You do realise the lower classes also have sex, don't you? They don't make babies by wishing for them-" but shut my mouth in time to catch the horrified expressions around me. I'm not sure if it's because I said the word "sex" out loud or flouted an unwanted hippie opinion, but I'm sufficiently irritated not to want to continue. The car pulls up and we pile inside. My friend continues, giving a fluttery laugh as if her airy lightheartedness could dispel everyone's discomfort. She continues, saying it would be perfectly all right if they didn't go around believing they can be like us now, just because they own cell phones and speak a bit of English. She briefly digresses to say it's kind of sweet and funny, though. I firmly press my head against the windowpane and ignore the conversation around me until the disgust begins to quell. I can't wait to be home.
Later, as the maid emerges from the bathroom at my house, a guest turns to me, wide-eyed. "I didn't know that was the servant bathroom," she says. I tell her it's not, it's the bathroom, where else is someone supposed to go pee? Again, my tongue is running away with its propensity to mention toilet and bedroom activities with no concern for the alarm produced in my audience. I shrug and shake my head to signal the conversation is over. Someone tells me my mother must be very progressive to allow these things, or perhaps our servants are extraordinarily clean. Most people are clean, I say, when they have access to nice bathroom facilities. I can sense the disapproval and am vaguely embarrassed, but not sure why. I seem to be ensconced in an environment of gentle, well-bred condescension. It is enveloping me, rocking me in its air conditioned, fragrant embrace, willing me to give up friendly conversations with drivers ("overfamiliar behaviour") and take my proper place in society, amidst servant-free toilets and a haze of patronizing beliefs. We give them homes, we give them sanitation, we give them three meals a day--the old echo that never echoed around my mother--fading into nausea and disgust again.