Work Hard – Memoirs Of An Illegal Alien Part 4

The job was really hectic and tiring as I was constantly rushing to get my task done. We had two building to clean every night, Monday thru Saturday, from 6: 30 pm -12 mid-night. When I got home most nights I was really tired and it did not take much for me to fall asleep.

I soon learned that the pay was way below the minimum wage. I had no complaints because without ‘papers’ any income was good. After the first week on the job, it was clear that I was given the nastiest tasks by Pedro. I was always assigned the bathrooms or anything that required massive cleaning. I thought maybe I had to work my way up to the vacuuming like some of the others. The one good thing about the job was that Juan, one of the other workers was teaching me a little Spanish. In between cleaning the bathroom, taking out the garbage and moving between floors, l would bump into him vacuuming and he would say something in Spanish. He sometimes spoke in broken English mixed with Spanish, which was mainly how I learned a few Spanish words. We were careful not to let the boss man see us chatting. I had taken Spanish up to 3rd form but I had not paid too much attention to the class. In fact, I hated the class. Now I regret not paying attention.

Juan was from Panama and left his family of six in the countryside. He had crossed the Mexican border and found his way to Florida. He was living near downtown Miami in a cramped 2-bedroom apartment with 8 others and was working another job cutting lawns in the day. Most of his money was sent home and he did not know when he would see his family again. He once showed me a picture of his wife and kids. Even though I did not understand Spanish as he described the picture I knew what “mi amor” meant and the look on his face clearly described the anguish and pain he was going through missing his family. I also missed my family very much but after hearing his story, I realized that my situation was not as bad. I had a little hope of seeing my family again when they came to visit. Juan and I became good friends as I could silently relate to him. I did not tell him too much about my particular situation as my parents warned me to say nothing about my status or I could be deported.

Aunty would drop me off at 6:30 pm and would pick me up at 12:00 mid-night every day. She would greet me with a great big smile and we would chit chat. She would talk about the kids and how work went that day for her. She really made me feel quite at home. Once I caught myself dozing off to sleep while she was talking and I really felt bad. It was not that she was boring me but I was just tired.

The schedule was taking a toll on everyone, especially her. I could see the toll it was taking on Aunty after a long day at her job. She did not show any negativity in her demeanor even though I know it had to be stressful. Imagine leaving your home late at night to come to pick me up. During the first month on the job, she had assisted me in every way possible. In Jamaica, I would be in bed by, the latest, 10:30 pm and I know most Jamaicans do the same. When we arrived at the house my normal routine was to eat and take a shower. I would try my best to not wake everyone with my routine but I know they must hear me. I did everything to be sure my routine would be quiet, including stashing some nightclothes in the bathroom so I would not need to go into the room to open my suitcase.

I was sharing a room so it was difficult because I had to fumble to get into the bed every night. I also could not call my parents as often during the week. I mainly called on the weekend.

I was starting to feel better financially as the little income helped. Aunt Fern had set up a bank account for me with her being the primary person. I did not have a social security card so that was the only way the bank would allow it. This little ID seemed to be the key to every door.

Charlie, my contact for the card, realized that I was determined to get a card so he kept in touch with me every week. He was still unable to locate the guy who could get me a ‘card’. I hated the job but there is nothing I can do without a card.

I received my first letters from Jamaica. It was from one of my best friends, Kurt. The letter was brief but descriptive enough for me to imagine being in Jamaica. He talked about a few of my other friends, the trips to the country and the beach. He also mentioned seeing Sherri-Ann and her saying she would write to me. I read the letter about 4 or 5 times because it just felt like I had a piece of Jamaica there in that letter. My heart wrenched and my yearning for home was overwhelming. I missed Jamaica.

After putting away the letter I wondered how to respond. Should I tell him about my job and what I was doing? I remember we had a funny name for a janitor, in Jamaica, to make them seem important. The name was Janitorial Engineering. I guess I will write about everything but the job. I can tell him about my daytime soap opera addiction and how much fun I am having living in America.

Photo by mwangi gatheca on Unsplash