I came home from school today and plopped my backpack down on the couch, exhausted. I’d had two tests today and spent lunch with my teacher, getting extra help with my geometry homework. It’s a pointless class for what I want to do with my life, but I can’t get into a good school with a bad grade weighing me down, now can I? My stomach grumbled and I headed to the kitchen. Nothing on the stove, nothing made in the fridge… that’s okay. I took out a clean pan, some oil and fried the two eggs we had left… I’ll have to tell mom about going to the grocery store soon. Once that was done I slapped some peanut butter between two slices of whole wheat bread and snacked on that before getting started on some chores. Our laundry pile had become a mountain. When I’d finally finished I sat down at the kitchen table to get started on my homework… more geometry. Mom got home around seven; she opened the door and stood at the entrance for an extra second, letting out a long, exhausted sigh.
“Hi mija, how was school?” She noticed me in the kitchen and asked.
“It was fine, I passed both of my tests.” I said proudly, only stretching the truth a little…
“That’s amazing!” She came in. And there it was, a beautiful, full grin. They’d become so rare. “And you made food? I’m sorry I didn’t leave anything, I was running late today. Let me serve you.”
“No, it’s fine.” I insisted. “I had some already, you go ahead.”
She nodded and turned on the stove to heat up some tortillas. I closed my textbook and collected my newly finished homework.
“How was work?” I asked when she sat down to eat.
“Oh, you know…” She sighed, a gloomy cloud seemingly appearing over her head. “Got yelled at because the supervisor decided I wasn’t working fast enough. ‘You go into any one of these hotel rooms and show me how to leave the place spotless within five minutes’, I thought to myself, ‘THEN you can talk to me about working faster’. I tell you the man hasn’t had to do a lick of labor his entire life and he’s trying to tell me what I’m doing wrong.” She sighed again, a frustrated one. “But I just had to swallow my pride and say I’d do better.”
“You should tell someone, Mom.” I whispered. “There must be an HR rep or someone?”
“Maids are a dime a dozen, mija, you know that. If I complain, they can replace me like that.” She snapped her fingers.
I didn’t hide the concern in my eyes well enough and she noticed. “But that’s just how work is. Most of the time you don’t like it… but that’s why you’re studying hard. One day you’ll be at the top and no one will get to tell you what to do.” I simply nodded solemnly.
Ten minutes later she was done eating and moved on to rubbing her fingers, massaging her stiff, overworked joints, and a shot of pain ran through me. I took her dishes to the sink.
“Oh, I’ll do that.” She started to get up.
“No, it’s okay, I’ll do it.” I answered, forcing a carefree smile. “You go get some rest.”
Mom used to get home from work, pick me up in her arms and we’d play for the rest of the night. For most of my life she seemed young, loving, and full of life, but slowly her movements have become less youthful: her hair less black, her skin less smooth. Now it seems every time I look at her I can’t help but notice a new wrinkle, a new spot, a new stiff joint. Something new to remind me she’s getting old, just as I am.
I finished washing the dishes and looked out to the living room, where my mom was already asleep on the couch, just five minutes into watching the T.V. I closed my eyes.
“Please be strong.” I prayed silently. “Just hang on for a little longer. I’ll get a good job and you won’t have to work so hard to support me. I’ll provide for you. Just hang on.”
I walked over to the couch and covered her with the throw blanket, then turned off the television. Upstairs put away the laundry and went to bed. Just another night.
By Cindy Ceja
Cindy is an English major who takes her inspiration from real life. Her works revolve around struggle and largely depict how it shapes a person.