by Monica Graz (Parts 1 and 2 are written by Lady Charlotte, Parts 3 and 4, 5 and 6 and Part 7 are by Monica Graz)
It was mid morning three weeks later and once more I was mopping the floor, this never ending repetitive job of a maidservant. I was as usually in a disheveled form, wearing my cheap light blue chlorine stained poly cotton dress, my equally stained apron and my rough-looking clogs. I still wasn’t allowed to use rubber gloves and my permanently red hands started developing small calluses. They were the hands of a manual domestic laborer by now.
I stopped once more in front of the hallway mirror and looked at myself. I still couldn’t believe how different I looked. A completely transformed person looked back at me; a Filipino maid looked back at me! I was a transformed person because under Signora’s strict instructions I had a complete makeover. Her idea of turning me into a proper servant in all aspects was to make me resemble a South East Asian woman and completely separate me from my white European origins. My longish hair was dyed raven black, my eyes got a more oriental look with some sort of permanent makeup and my skin became several shades darker with the use of a special solution that wears out very slowly, something like a permanent tan.
In the mean time I was not allowed to speak English any more. I had to communicate with anyone I came in contact with in my poor Italian. As Signora said I needed a limited vocabulary to perform my duties as a servant, there was no need for me to participate in elaborate intellectual conversations. Though I tried to improve my Italian by studying it hard every night, being deprived from my native language was quite a blow. I did start feeling more like an immigrant domestic worker in an alien environment.
Conchita, who was heartily approving of my transformation, was very keen to also teach me Tagalog, her native Filipino dialect. That confused me even more. All of a sudden I was really and truly disoriented. Signora’s plan was very clever, I was gradually losing all me reference points to my previous existence.
I heard a door open and close upstairs, my trained ear realized that Signora was coming down for inspection. I rushed back to my bucket and mop and picked one of the rags. I went down on my hands and knees and started cleaning thoroughly the corners of the room and the skirting boards. I knew that Signora was getting a special thrill when I was down on my hands and knees, then the servant’s humiliation was complete.
I heard her foot steps passing near me and then she moved inside the main living area and sat in one of the plush couches. I was able to look at her with the corner of my eye though I never stopped my work.
“Molly!” I heard her authoritative, unkind voice. “Come here girl, I want to talk to you.” She was speaking in Italian, of course.
“Si Signora, subito Signora,” I answered and stood up fixing my dress and apron at the same time. I knew I looked like a poor skivvy but I also knew that she wanted me to look like that. Turning me to a proper servant in all aspects was a task she was taking very seriously. I approached her and curtseyed, lowering my eyes at the same time.
“How do you like you new look girl, are you feeling your position in this house better now?” she asked in a slow Italian so I would be able to understand her.
“Si Signora,” I answered in heavily accented Italian making an effort to find the right words. “Me very pleased Signora, my new look, Conchita like it also, she say she take me to Filipino friends, want meet me, Prego Signora.”
I knew I sounded awful in my bad pigeon Italian but Signora seemed to love it. With a broad smile in her face she continued addressing me slowly, as if she was talking to a wayward child.
“That is excellent news, Molly. Conchita is a very clever woman and she knows how to take you down to the path of a servant. It will be good for you to mix with those Filipino maids; you can all exchange stories and experiences about being maids in Milan, how delightful.”
She clearly loved Conchita’s idea so I decided to tell her that she was trying to teach me how to speak Tagalog.
I curtseyed again and said, “Prego signora, can add something extra.’
“Certainly, speak up girl,” she said still being totally amused by both my pigeon Italina and my story.
“Conchita teach me to speak Filipino language. She call it Tagalog, she want me speak that when we meet Filipino friends.”
This time she clapped her hands from sheer delight. “Another excellent idea of Conchita, I must congratulate her but I think she is out now, doing the shopping, I’ll talk to her later.”
Then she turned to me a stern look on her face.
“Listen girl, I want you to try hard to learn that Filipino dialect Talagog or whatever it is called, even harder than learning Italian. After all Italian is your day to day work language and you need about a couple of hundred words to go by, but in Filipino you can speak with those women about more intimate subjects and you can learn to express your sentiments. Do you understand me, girl?”
I felt all red from embarrassment; my cheeks were burning, though probably she couldn’t see it since I had such a dark skin now. I gave a small curtsey; it was like second nature to me by now and said, “Certo Signora, io capito Signora.”
“Now then,” she said in her stern voice once more, “I want you to go for half an hour in your usual spot, cover yourself with your apron and press your nose to the wall, you know the drill. I want you all that time you will be there to meditate and think of your new status in life, that of a lowly Filipino maid, a poor uneducated immigrant girl who came from that part of the world to find a better future in here.”
She stopped and looked at me slightly more gently now, “After all this is the reason you came initially to this house Molly, isn’t it? To become really and truly a lowly domestic servant, after all this is the wish you expressed when we were in contact through the internet some months ago.”
She looked at me again and added, “When you first arrived here I gave you the chance to back off and go, now I am giving you this chance once more. You can either leave now and go back to the world you came from or you simply go to the corner and think about your bleak future as a lowly domestic servant. Your choice is completely yours. What is it going to be, girl?”
I was overwhelmed with strange emotions when I heard Signora telling me this. Yes, I was still able to reverse everything and go back to my Julia world or I could continue this dark voyage to the unknown at the mercy of a rather cruel and unpredictable Mistress.
I was all flustered and emotional when I curtseyed to Signora and said in my rough Italian “Io sono la vostra serva, la vostra schiava Signora!” I turned and went without another word to my corner spot lifting my apron to cover myself as instructed.