By Esmeralda Santiago
América Gonzalez is a lodge housekeeper on an island off the coast of Puerto Rico, cleansing up after prosperous foreigners who do not glance her within the eye. Her alcoholic mom resents her; her married boyfriend, Correa, beats her; and their fourteen-year-old daughter thinks existence will be higher at any place yet with América. So while América is on the market the opportunity to paintings as alive-in housekeeper and nanny for a family members in Westchester County, ny, she takes it as an indication door to flee has been opened. but whilst América revels within the comparative luxurious of her new lifestyles, bold to care a couple of guy except Correa, she is confronted with dramatic facts that it doesn't matter what she does, she cannot break out from her past.
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From the supply room behind the kitchen she fetches a mop and begins to dry off the walkway puddles so that guests will not slip on their way to the back porch where breakfast will be served. She swishes the mop in clockwise circles, backing away from the area she has dried. Her mop erases the faint tracks of toads who claim these halls once the lights have been turned 29 / Esmeralda Santiago out, after the last guest has stumbled by exhausted from too much relaxation or too much drink, wanting only to collapse on the crisp sun-dried sheets.
That Correa has to control her with his fists because otherwise she would be too proud. She’s heard the men talk about how a man has to show his woman, from the very first, who wears the pants in the house. Especially nowadays, when women think they can run the world. Even Feto, father of six daughters, says a man has to teach women the way he likes things, and if the only way she can learn is “a fuerza de punos,” well, then, his fists should be the teacher. Tomás says he doesn’t believe in hitting women with his fists.
She didn’t learn from Ester’s mistake, why should she expect Rosalinda to have learned from hers? Maybe it’s a family curse. Just as Ester left her mother with a man who promised her God knows what, América left, at 33 / Esmeralda Santiago the same age, with Correa, whose promises she doesn’t remember. Perhaps there were none. Maybe, when you’re fourteen, no promises are necessary, just the insistent need to be with a man in a way you can’t be with your mother or your friends. Maybe, when you’re fourteen, you’re not running toward something, you’re running away from it.