John and Hector, natives of Nova Scotia, cleaned our home for forty years. Sadly, Hector died shortly before we moved to Washington and John was cleaning by himself and had to drop some of his clients. When we moved back to Cambridge nine months later, I was disappointed when John told us he couldn’t take us back.
But life goes on, and now we have Quelme, an attractive Brazilian woman who cleans for a friend of ours. Quelme's hair assumes a variety of unusual colors. and they all look good on her. She has a young daughter who came with her the first time she came to out place because Quelme’s English is, shall we say, “insufficient” to negotiate with clients who don’t speak Portuguese.
We always know when she has been here, because the pictures on the walls are crooked, the towels in our bathroom have been elegantly folded, and the toaster settings have been changed. But our apartment shines.
Quelme cleans so hard that she breaks things pretty regularly. We had to ask her to stop dusting the TV controls and moving the wires around, because the TV never worked after she cleaned.
She broke the toilet-cleaning brush the first time she cleaned for us. Next, a very special kind of light bulb. Following that we found a metal part of our sofa bed on the floor, part of the mechanism that changes it into a bed.
Quelme was here on Monday. On Tuesday, when I grabbed a Kleenex from our Lucite holder in the bathroom, one side of the box fell off. She had leaned it back against the base so the damage wouldn’t be so obvious.
She never reports these events—except the light bulb—because she doesn’t know how to tell me in English.
But Quelme makes our apartment sparkle.