I am seated by the pond with my back against the Sun. I am a shade or two darker than Lupita so I feel the harsh rays penetrate deep into me. There is a sweat dripping down my spine and a smell emanating from under my armpits. Little Mr. Two is seated on my laps chewing on some inedibles. Once in a while, Mr. Two adjusts his little buttocks on my laps, he wiggles. He is looking straight ahead. Maybe into the pond where the fish are creating ripples. Maybe they are dancing, or not. Maybe they are mating or making love. Except they are still too small, which makes me wonder if at all these pond-grown fish can actually reproduce.
Beside me, the Altman Code is beckoning. Little Mr. Two keeps crying ‘apaaa’ indicating his arm. He wants me to scratch his arm for him. Mr. Two is like that, he keeps scratching his little body and then suddenly stops, pulls your hand and says ‘apaaa’. You have to comply.
The path behind me is busy. Men keep walking up and down, so do women. Presently, a woman is walking down. She is clutching a hand of a small not-so-fat boy. The little boy’s gaze is fixed on me and Mr. Two. I say hi. He looks at the lady. The lady looks at me, Mr. Two, my brown leather bound note book, my pen, and the Altman Code, then walks away.
I chuckle. She is so normal, that lady. Normal people like her don’t care about amahs. An amah should not say hi. She should wait for greetings, never offer any. Everyone despises amahs except, of course, the little ones who sometimes forget to call you auntie and call you Mamii. When they become big, maybe too shall become normal, just maybe, and they shall no longer call you by your name and not auntie any longer.
Workers; all workers despise you. Even the violent-looking boy who blows his nose into his hands thinks he is superior to you. He sits on his mother’s sofa, reclines his back, puts his legs on the coffee table and stares at the TV, remote on his right hand and popcorn dish on his left. He thinks he is sophisticated. He imagines you should respect him because you don’t get to watch TV half as often.
I have not the time though. Because I am perpetually busy. When I am not cooking or scrubbing something, perhaps a pot or a corridor, I am washing or scooping poop that fell on the floor as Mr. Two was running about. Or maybe doing some other job away from my usual ones like making madam’s bed, undoing her braids or polishing boss’ shoes.
An amah is always fine, except the lazy ones who complain of headaches and fatigue and all that. She cooks but only what madam orders. An amah doesn’t choose, she’s directed. Do this, do that, don’t that, always waiting to be told. However, when madam and boss are away, nobody is there to order you around. You execute the orders you were given in the morning, formulate yours and execute them too. When amah’s are alone they make decisions, they use their short-lived powers to be happy. If anything happens to Mr. One, madam would skin me alive, ask why I wouldn’t use common sense if I said I was waiting for her orders.
Sometimes I am teaching Mr. Two to make a faces or I am putting him to bed after sleep swallows him. I love it when Mr. Two sleeps, because it takes of some burden off my shoulders. The only burden being carrying all his weight from where he slept to bed. When he wakes however, I shall have to change his diapers. Mr. Two wets the bed. And his pee smells awful, I don’t like it. But you see, amahs don’t do what they like., so they have to like what they do. Like smelling a kid’s diapers seven million times a day. Amahs sweep the house, all rooms including the bosses’. Sometimes they sweep used condoms, used and dumped on the floor.
The clothes are not yet pressed, the chicken haven’t been fed yet. Mr. Two hasn’t had a bath. If madam lands home now, I will get a lashing. Madam speaks a hundred words per second and this increases tenth-fold whenever she is angry. She has a shrill voice, one that makes the neighbors fold their curtains and peep, just in case. I wonder what they think. Still I can’t help stealing away from the house.
I do not have a specific time when I wake up. It can be at three, if boss is leaving for an important meeting out of town, or at five; to prepare Mr. One for school. On most days, my alarm goes off at five, I really don’t like the sound of that alarm. Whenever it goes off, I immediately jump out of bed and finish my yawning and stretching between the living room and the kitchen. I clean the house and cook breakfast simultaneously. I don’t have enough time to do one thing then the other and if I wanted to, then I’d wake up two hours earlier. Madam will be snoring past six, till a few minutes later. On some days, she overstays in bed till the water I warmed for her cools down. Then I have to listen as she yells, asking if I’m fed up with work. She knows I can’t answer, and silence means no, I need this job. I don’t know why they can’t move to a bigger house, an expensive one with hot shower. I really don’t understand, they have money. As she rushes to shower, she throws a bundle of clothes on my bed. These need ironing. I do iron my ironing in the corridor. Mr. one wakes up at around six thirty. He takes his time deciding whether he will have milk with cereals or tea with bread. Sometimes he doesn’t want to eat, he just stands there rubbing his eyes. He wastes food, that baby. He never bites his slice of bread thrice (sophistication!). It’s once, he turns it in his tiny hand, bites for the second time then places it beside him, picks another slice.
Daddy drops Mr. One at school. He rarely gets late. Madam usually drives herself to work. She is perpetually late. Her mood is ever foul in the mornings. She spends one hour thirteen minutes and fifty nine seconds before the mirror; coating her face with powder after another. When she is done, her eyebrows are drawn up in a thick black; that’s why you might think she is always surprised. She dresses and undresses at least six times before she settles on an outfit. All this time, I am waiting outside her bedroom, her naughty baby strapped on my back. I have to iron all the seven clothes that she tries each morning.
She then leaves the house in a hurry, shouting orders over the clanging of her heels after which I usually walk to the door and feel myself exhaling as she drives away. Sometimes I even wave at the disappearing car, not because I wish her a safe journey but, because I just want her away. Her presence here spells noise, trouble and more trouble.
Then I set Mr. Two on his feeding table, mix his foods and start feeding him. He is mostly uncooperative. A small bowl usually takes an hour or so to finish. When he is done, I strap him on my back once again and start on the laundry. The laundry is usually light but with Mr. Two on my back, it always feels worse than breaking stones in a quarry.
As an amah, I am meant to be a good cook, know everyone’s appetite and be able to serve them food accordingly. I sit on the table last after everyone one is already settled eating. I must be ready to dash to the kitchen for baby’s milk, or for more salt. So I always ensure everything is on the table, even an extra plate and spoon. Mr. One loves his food salty. While I sit last to eat, I must eat fast, faster than Mr. One so I can once again start my duty of cleaning his hands and face.
An amah is always fine, except the lazy ones who complain of headaches and fatigue and all that. She cooks but only what madam orders. How Sad always being under instruction, Waiting to be told to do this or that.