It all started when I noticed the cleaning lady hadn’t been by for a couple of days.
I work a lot, and so I’m usually at my office after six, when the staff who works in our building to attend to the general upkeep (the cleaning staff) comes by. There’s a woman who works on my floor, who attends to the waste baskets and does general cleaning. I thank her when I see her, offer a smile, and wish her a good night if I see her when I leave. She’s sweet, older.
So when I saw she had been gone a few days, I got worried.
She came back later that week and I asked her where she had been, in English. That I had noticed and was worried about her.
But she didn’t speak English very well. Only a little, and I was so out of practice with my Spanish that I couldn’t think of how to ask. So she went off to continue her rounds and I finished up my work, and it left off kind of awkwardly.
The next night, I saw her again. Now, though, I was ready. I asked her in Spanish, broken as hell, if she had been okay and she told me she had been in the hospital. She’d slipped and hit her head. She was okay, but needed a couple of days.
Now, when I see her, we exchange a few words in my broken Spanish, which I understand better than I speak, and we talk a little.
Tonight, though, was different.
Like I said, I work a lot. I’ve been working even more the last couple of months, so my stress is high. Compounded by increased anxiety and being, much to my disdain, depressed and suicidal of late, I ended up staying late, upset, and was crying quietly at my desk, cleaning myself up with tissues and trying to stay quiet.
My boyfriend had said he’d come home early. His original plan was to stay late. They have a lot going on at his office right now, too. But when he learned I was in a downswing, he told me he’d come home and I agreed to drive him home from my office.
As I was waiting, I pulled out my copy of the Homeric Hymns. I’ve been carrying it around for several days, but hadn’t opened it yet. I wanted to read the hymn to Demeter, which speaks of my goddess Persephone. I had read a couple of pages when I heard the woman behind me, and I turned around to say hello, as had become our custom.
She paused a moment before asking if I was sick. I shook my head and said no, just sad. She asked why and I gave her a brief answer. I’ve been going through a lot of stuff the last several months, do I had plenty to choose from (though not a lot of vocabulary to explain). She asked if someone was sick, and I said no, just upset with me.
And she apologized and offered me a hug. You could tell I had been crying. My eyes were red, my face puffy. She hugged me and when she pulled away, she told me that God loves me and cares. I know she probably meant otherwise, the Christian god, but it caught me off guard that she would say God, not Jesus. I guess I’m just used to that phrasing.
And I felt…better. My downswing settled out and I started to feel less depressed. Here was a woman who knew nothing about me, only that I can speak a little Spanish. But she cared enough to ask and enough to comfort me. And it didn’t just feel like another person reaching out, but like something more was behind it, aside from human empathy.
Maybe it was Persephone. Maybe it was just a kind woman offering what she could to a lonely and sad person she talks to now and then. Maybe.