by Idea Factory
My name is Valentina, well... my name was Valentina.
My story of how I lost my name and my identity begins back when I was 25. At the time I was fresh out of business school, and I was determined to make it in my career. Several headhunters offered me jobs, I decided to go with a growing firm out of Chicago. I was working on a high floor in a building located in the heart of downtown, my window had a great view of Lake Michigan. But my gaze wasn't set on the water, it was on the corner office that I wanted to be in by the time I was 30.
I was a fourth-generation Latina, my great grandparents came over to the United States during WWII when there was a labor shortage. My parents had both have advanced degrees and they put a lot of work into making sure I would be a success. My father, a bit of a bleeding heart, is a doctor and I think he was a bit disappointed that I chose finance over medicine.
I kept myself in good shape, image is important in the professional world plus I loved the way I looked in jeans.
Since moving to Chicago, I hadn't developed many close friendships and I didn't have a lot of hobbies. I'd work long hours and go home and crash with a bottle of wine.
One night, I was working really late when the cleaning crew came in. I was used to the noise of trash collection and vacuuming, this wasn't the first time I worked past 8 PM. But the woman who was cleaning tonight was someone I hadn't seen before.
She was about my age, also Latina. She was plump and the polyester cleaning uniform wasn't doing her gut any favors. Still, a lot of the extra weight was in her very cute ass, I couldn't help but take a peek when she bent over to pick up the trash.
I had hooked up with men and women while I was in college and business school but I preferred women just a little bit more. Up to that point, all of the women I had hooked up with or casually dated were white, I had gone to a really Caucasian high school. I had never been with another person of my same race and I was curious. But, even if this maid were willing, it would look terrible for my job.
She bent over again to pick up a soda can that landed outside the recycling and I took another, more blatant peek. She turned around faster than I expected and I think she caught me.
"Can I help you?" she asked with a sexy sounding accent.
"Um, no. Just, uh, making sure it was you and not someone breaking into... um.. the building," I stammered.
"Oh... okay," she said.
She walked over to my desk.
"What is a pretty girl like you doing working here so late? You should be out at the club, meeting handsome men," she said.
"So are you," I said awkwardly.
"What?" she asked.
"Too pretty to have to be working so late," I said. God, I sounded like such an idiot.
"You are sweet. My name is Manuela," she said.
"I'm Valentina," I said.
"I like that name."
Manuela smiled. I smiled. She got back to work.
I stayed late the next three nights hoping to see Manuela again. Two of the nights I didn't even have a ton of work to do. Still, only the boring old male janitors with their boring flat asses. I wanted another peek at Manuela's sweet booty.
Finally, on the fourth night, Friday, she returned.
"Hello, Valentina. What are you doing here working so late on a Friday? Even the big boss checks out by 5 PM on a Friday," said Manuela.
"I know, I know," I said, "I'll get out of here soon."
"Yes, unwind, grab a drink at the bar," said Manuela.
"No, I'll just head home. I don't want to grab a drink by myself," I said.
"Bullshit, you need to live life a little," she said.
"Well, I'd go out if I had a friend like you with me," I said.
"I'd love to but I'll be working until 2 AM, that's a long time from now. Perhaps we'd be able to get that drink if... no, that wouldn't work," she said.
"What? What is it?"
"I have to clean this entire floor myself because they keep cutting back the number of workers," said Manuela, "I can sneak out when it is done. If I had some help, I could probably be done by 11."
"I could help you!" I said.
"It is dirty, sweaty work, I wouldn't want to get your fancy suit all messed up," she said, "But I do have an extra cleaning uniform."
I took the uniform and went into the women's restroom. I slipped out of my designer clothes from Michigan Ave and put on the itchy bright yellow polyester shirt and the elastic polyester black pants. I still had my stylish haircut and tasteful (and expensive) makeup but below the neck I looked like just another Latina cleaning lady.
Manuela set me around the floor, cleaning the desks of my co-workers. I was vaguely humiliating to clean up the coffee stain rings. I was temporarily subservient to the very people who were usually working under me.
The cleaning spray and the scrubbing chipped away at beautiful nail polish I had just gotten at a manicure.
"Yes, those of us who do cleaning work never get to have nice nails," said Manuela.
I stumbled around with the commercial-grade vacuum cleaner for a bit as Manuela laughed at me, it had a lot more power than my Dyson. Once we were done, I switched back into my suit, still smelling a bit like cleaning products. I suggested we hit up some swanky bars near my downtown condo.
"No, no. I don't have the clothes to be in a place like that," she said, "I'd be much more comfortable in a place by my neighborhood. I think you would be too."
She pulled me on board a train and we headed out to neighborhoods I had only seen in passing on my way to and from O'Hare. Once we got off the train, we walked through a gentrified neighborhood filled with hipsters seeking the faux-authentic urban life. But as we got further from the train station, we got to the real authentic city. Working-class, bordered up storefronts.
Manuela led me to a tiny dive bar. I felt out of place in my fancy suit, the men were dressed casually. The women either matched the men's casual wear or looked slutty and cheap. Manuela bought us a round of tequila with beer chasers and that calmed my nerves about not fitting in.
"Should we get another round?" asked Manuela.
"Yes, let's do it," I said.
"Oh," said Manuela as she fished through her faux leather purse, "But I'm out of cash."
"Here," I said as I handed over my purse, "Use my card!"
She took out a gold card and opened up a tab at the bar. Manuela used my card to buy us a lot of drinks, she also bought shots for some of the other patrons at the bar. I didn't mind, the drinks were cheap here and it seemed like a good way to ingratiate myself with the regulars. Growing up, most of our neighbors and my friends were white, it felt nice to be in an environment full of other Latinos.
We stayed until bartime. On our way out, I realized that I hadn't closed our bar tab.
"Don't worry, amorcita. I signed the credit card slip for you," said Manuela.
"Should I call a cab now?" I slurred, drunkenly.
"Oh but aren't you hungry?" she asked.
I was. Manuela took me to a little taqueria.
"Let me order for you, you've got to try the specialty," said Manuela.
I said okay. She ordered me the carnitas burrito. I was a vegetarian at this point but I didn't want to seem rude and protest. She handed me the giant burrito, packed with pork and cheese and beans. It was incredible, that's not just drunk talk, it was amazing.
Drunk and stuffed, I was ready to call that cab when she invited me back to her place for the night. I figured she was just offering to let me sleep it off. Instead, she greeted me with a passionate kiss as soon as we entered her tiny apartment. She led me to her bed, a lumpy mattress with stained sheets, pulled down my clothes and started eating me out. Manuela was really, really good at eating pussy. Better than anyone I had been with before.
I was just about to cum when she stopped.
"Say you'll be mine," she said.
I would have said anything in that moment.
"I'm yours," I said.
She finished her work and I passed out.
I awoke the next morning, incredibly hungover. Manuela's two dogs were yapping away. Manuela was already in the kitchen, I could smell something cooking. She brought me a huge plate of chilaquiles, I hadn't had these since my grandmother made them. Essentially a tortilla chip casserole for breakfast, they were covered in salsa, sour cream, a fried egg and whatever left over meat was around. In this case, it looked like more pork. Well, it was time to break that vegetarian streak while sober. I also thought about how I needed to hit the gym after this.
"This is so good," I said.
"I figured you could use a good breakfast. Poor girl like you only gets that trendy, overpriced food downtown. You could use real, home-cooked food," she said with a smile.
"I had such an amazing time last night. I really like you," I said.
"So you weren't just using me for a good time. Not just slumming for a one-nighter?" she asked.
"Of course not," I said.
"Good, than you can repay the favor from last night," she said, pulling down her panties.
Her pussy was plump and hairy, it smelled like sweat, piss and pussy juices. I had never been with someone with such an untrimmed bush, I lept in excitedly.
"Mmm, you are good, amorcita. Do you like my natural pussy? Just imagine if you stopped shaving, you could have a powerful, strong pussy like mine," she said.
I had trimmed or shaved since I was a teenager but she made me want to throw my razors away.
We spent the rest of the weekend together in her apartment- making love, eating and drinking. There was no A/C and it was a hot early summer weekend. Our sweat rubbed against each other, I picked up her scent and she picked up mine. It felt like all the smells of that old mattress were seeping into my skin.
In the downtime, we had great conversations. She had come into the United States as a little girl, this is the only home she can remember but college was always out of reach simply because she wasn't a citizen, she wasn't born here, so she couldn't get financial aid. My privileged life seemed trite in comparison but she listened intensely to my background and what it was I did at my job. She was smarter than most people would think a cleaner would be so she was able to follow along when I described my work in business.
On Sunday night, I got into a cab and made my way home. When I got into my apartment, I cried. I didn't want to go back to my lonely, workaholic life.
Manuela didn't answer any of my texts on Monday and I didn't see her that night even though I hung around the office until 10 PM. She ignored my texts again on Tuesday but she did work my floor that night.
"Hiya," I said.
"Oh, hello," she said.
"Did I do something wrong?" I asked.
"No, two girls quit over the weekend and now the rest of us have to work harder to cover for them. We won't get replacements for at least a month. I'm afraid I won't be able to see you much until then," said Manuela.
"That's terrible," I said, "I was hoping to grab another drink. If there's anyway I could help."
"Ha, not unless you can find me another cleaner," she said.
"Well, maybe I can help out again. Just tonight. Well, maybe a few times, not every night, just until you find someone," I said.
"Oh my God, you have no idea how helpful that would be," she said, "Help me tonight and I will help you after."
"Tonight, we go back to my place," I said.
I went to the cleaner's area, a dingy, bare closet. I changed into the uniform, leaving my clothing in a neat pile on the floor. Once again, I felt the cheap, itchy polyester on my skin. But this time I grew concerned.
"What if one of my co-workers or my boss stops in to pick something up? How will I explain this?" I asked Manuela.
"Most people don't look long at us cleaners. They avoid eye contact. They will only notice you if you seem out of place. Let me help you fit in," she said.
Manuela removed my expensive earrings and necklace. She took a rag and washed the makeup off my face. She tied my hair into a tight ponytail and put a baseball cap with the company logo on my head. She was right, at a quick glance, even a family member probably wouldn't recognize me. I looked plain, insignificant.
I set about cleaning my floor's cubicles again doing a better and faster job than before. However, I was getting tired from the long day.
"Here, for some energy," said Manuela as she dropped me off a large candy bar.
"No, I shouldn't have that much sugar," I said.
"You are burning too many calories cleaning and you'll get weak. Eat the candy."
I ate the candy.
Once we were done, I went to the cleaner's area to change back into my clothes only to find that my outfit was soaked. Someone had spilled dirty mop water all over my clothes.
"Ugh, some of the other cleaners are so stupid," said Manuela.
"What am I supposed to do now?" I said.
"You'll have to wear the cleaning uniform home," said Manuela.
"But my building has a doorman, I have neighbors. How do I explain that I'm wearing a cleaner's uniform?"
"Maybe you went to a costume party," she said.
"On a Tuesday?"
"If you are so embarrassed, come back to my place tonight. We will dry your outfit off enough that you can run up to your apartment before work," she said.
"You are so good to me," I said with a smile.
We got on the train back to her neighborhood but, this time, I was invisible. No one regarded me, no women eyed my purse, there was no unwanted male attention (I appreciated the absence of that). I was just another invisible drone to them. A low-class cleaner.
Manuela and I shared some beers when we got back to her place. Once we had gotten a little drunk, Manuela decided we needed some food, I said no but she said she'd pick me up something anyway. She walked down to a late night place down the street and came back with two greasy bags filled with hot dogs and fries.
I had never really seen the allure of the Chicago hot dog in my time there, even veggie dogs hadn't appealed to me, but Manuela convinced me to try one. It was so processed, so salty, so fatty, so loaded with nitrates... it was so good. I ended up eating 3 hot dogs and almost all of the fries, I hoped Manuela hadn't wanted more because I only saw her eat one hot dog.
I woke up the next morning, hungover as I called a cab.
"You probably won't have time to make lunch this morning so I made you something," said Manuela as she handed me a paper bag.
I put on my soiled (but dry) suit and got in the cab. My stomach ached from the alcohol and the greasy meat, I resolved to eat healthy that day. I walked into my building, grabbed a new outfit and headed to work.
Around 10 AM, I started to get hungry even though I didn't see how that was possible. I took out the lunch bag Manuela had packed for me. A torta, a huge sandwich with what looked like beef and lots of mayo. A bag of chips. Another candy bar. I knew I should step out and get a salad but this looked so much better. Still, I didn't want to have my co-workers see me eat such a heavy lunch. I needed somewhere private, then I remembered the cleaner's room. It was empty this time of day.
I went to that dingy room and took out my torta, it looked delicious. Manuela knew how to make a sandwich. I was just going to eat the torta but I decided to eat a couple chips as well. Then, I ended up eating the entire bag of chips. I figured I might as well eat the candy bar too. As I munched on the sugary treat, I felt a pressure build up and released a little fart.
I was exhausted at the end of the work day but stayed around to see Manuela again.
"Can you help out with cleaning again? Someone else called in sick." she asked me.
"I'm so drained, I need to go home, I have a big meeting tomorrow," I said.
"Please, I brought you dinner, we can take a meal break first," she said.
So I had my second meal of the day in the cleaner's room, a generous portion of tamales.
"I'm so glad you like my cooking," said Manuela.
"Yeah, but after this, I need to chill out. I don't normally eat like this," I said.
"Oh, enjoying yourself a little bit is important," she said.
With that, I farted again.
"God, I'm so embarrassed," I said.
"I don't mind," said Manuela as she came over and kissed me. She rubbed my full belly a bit as she undid the buttons on my shirt. Then, she removed my bra and my skirt. She stuck a few fingers in my pussy and made me cum right there in the cleaner's room.
Then, she lovingly helped me put on the cleaner's uniform. She didn't bother to put my bra and panties back on.
"Tonight, we really need some help in the bathrooms," said Manuela handing me a bucket and a plunger.
She wanted me to clean up the piss and shit of my co-workers.
"Oh and if you need a snack," she said as she handed me two candy bars.
If I thought cleaning my co-worker's desks was humiliating, cleaning their waste took it to a whole different level. Scrubbing their shit, wiping away their pubic hair. I felt so low. Luckily, the candy bars were there to cheer me up.
"You did a great job on those bathrooms, amorcita," said Manuela.
"Good, can we go back to my place tonight?" I asked.
"Sounds good," said Manuela, "Oh, Valentina, but I have to let my dogs out and feed them."
"Ugh, but I can't keep running back home in the morning before work if I stay over at your place," I said.
"Bring some outfits over," she said.
Things were getting serious, so odd given that this was just supposed to be a little fling. Was I really going to become the girlfriend of a cleaner?
We took a cab over to my building and I went up to pack several outfits. It was the last time I'd see my apartment for awhile. We went back to Manuela's place where we drank, made love, ate and passed out.
I awoke sweaty from the night before and tried to head to the shower before I had to grab the train back downtown but Manuela stopped me with breakfast and morning sex. I went into my meeting smelling like cleaning products, Mexican food and sweat.
I worked the whole day at my regular job and then helped Manuela clean for a few hours before heading back to her place. This became the routine over the next couple weeks. I had gotten really good at cleaning and Manuela started to give me more duties. While I was becoming a better cleaner, my regular work performance was suffering and I knew it. I was burning the candle at both ends but I figured it wouldn't set my career back to have fun for a little while.
The schedule was also having an impact on my body. Manuela was feeding me big breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a snack or two every day. My eyes were puffy from the drinking and lack of sleep. My skin was breaking out a little bit as I wasn't showering regularly and the greasy food. Speaking of greasy food, I was getting a tummy pooch and my pants were getting tight on my ass. I knew I should care but Manuela loved my body and I no longer cared what anyone else thought.
At her home, she kissed my increasingly hairy pussy and grabbed my growing butt.
"Your ass! You are starting to look like a real Latina. Not some tan white girl," said Manuela, "Latina women are supposed to be curvy."
Gaining weight is a little easier when your lover wraps it in ethnic pride. Though I couldn't help but notice that Manuela was looking smaller. When I asked, she said it was just from walking the dogs so much. I was worried she was spending too much time taking care of me and not taking care of herself. She was barely eating while constantly cooking for me.
Manuela was more willing to make me part of her life. She bought me some more casual clothes so I fit in more in her neighborhood, I had almost forgotten there were non-designer jeans. She introduced me to her friends, she said I was another cleaner so they wouldn't judge me. It felt nice to belong, even if it felt a little weird belonging as someone else.
Everything was going along smoothly until one night when I was cleaning the ladies bathroom on my floor at work. I was scrubbing the sink when I noticed that someone was in the stall. I panicked, this was going to be close quarters with a co-worker. The toilet flushed and out walked Beth, an annoying toady who worked on a couple minor accounts. She was scared of me and with good reason, I thought she was dead weight. But now, she was sure to recognize me.
She walked over to me. I held my breath. She spoke.
"Can you please get out of the way? I'd like to wash my hands. Do you even speak English?"
I sheepishly got out of the way. She didn't recognize me, she didn't even make eye contact. Manuela was right, people don't even view those in the service industry as worthy of being treated as a human.
"I'm sorry," I said it in the barest of whispers. I tried to put a bit of an accent on to cover my voice.
Beth dropped her paper towel on the floor when the waste basket was right there. She knew I'd have to pick it up. Even worse, she totally clogged the toilet. Now I was cleaning up the filthy mess of a woman I had planned to fire someday. It was utterly humiliating but, for some reason, I found myself incredibly turned on and masturbated right there in the stall.
A few weeks later, Manuela and I were out shopping. I needed new work clothes as Manuela's cooking and my drinking had brought me up a size. The elastic cleaner's uniform was one of the only things that still fit me.
"Maybe we can get a nice outfit or two for me? Your professionalism has inspired me, I think I'd like to take some more community college classes," said Manuela.
I smiled. I was so proud of her. It was hard going to college on your own while being mostly ineligible for financial aid because of immigration status.
"Of course, let me pay for it," I said.
"No, I can't," she said.
"But you've given me so much," I pleaded.
"True, you have certainly raised my food bills at the mercado," she said as she poked my new belly in the middle of the store.
Manuela went around and tried on some professional outfits. She had lost even more weight, she was now only a size or two bigger than me. That plump ass I loved had even shrunken a bit. On our way out, I noticed a cute dress I hadn't seen before.
"Ooh, I want to try that on," I said.
"Go ahead, give me your card and I'll wait in line here at the register," said Manuela.
I handed her my platinum card and I went back to the changing room.
I took off what I was wearing and looked at myself in the mirror. My face was looking greasy, probably from sweating so much in Manuela's un-airconditioned apartment. Plus, I never brought over my face wash and lotion from my apartment. I hadn't been to the salon either, my hair was getting longer and I was starting to wear my hair pulled back. I used to just do that when I was acting as a cleaner. My eyebrows were getting bushy too, Manuela thought that looked cute and real. My body looked soft, my arms were less toned, I jiggled the little bit of new flab on my upper arm and showed off my unshaved armpits. Another one of Manuela's weird body hair fascinations. Phew, that extra hair managed to capture sweat. Tiny fat rolls pooched out of the sides of my bra. Clothes covered it up, but I was getting a potbelly. My ass is what had really grown, no amount of clothing could cover that up. I never had a booty before but a good amount of my weight was heading there. I didn't
The dress was too tight on my rump region and that was the biggest size they had. Ugh.
Manuela was already done with the purchase when I came back. She forgot to give me back my platinum card but I didn't pester her for it. She was buying more clothes than me anyway today so I figured she should just hold on to it for the day. Besides, she needed it to register for classes. She can just have that card.
The cleaner's room had a little microwave but it sucked. Still, I was desperately hungry during my little break between my professional job and my service job. The large plate of enchiladas Manuela made me were burnt on the outside and cold on the inside. II dropped a little food on my yellow polo shirt. Who cares if it stains, I thought. No one looks at me.
"So much homework and it is only the second week of class," said Manuela, "These business classes are so difficult."
I could remember, they were tough.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" I asked. I figured I could tutor her since it was my old major.
"Yes," she said, "Can you cover some of my cleaning duties? I really need time to catch up on my studying, it is harder for me because I have been out of school so long."
I didn't think she was going to ask that. If I took over some of her stuff, my work would take longer. I wouldn't be done until 1 or 2 in the morning. Ugh.
"Sure, but not every night," I said.
"Thank you so much, amorcita! You'll need your strength, here, have some of my enchiladas," she said.
I ate my second plate of enchiladas and went to work.
I was a zombie the next day at my real job, my desk job. My co-workers could tell. I was sacrificing so much for Manuela. My career, my sleep, my body. Shouldn't they have hired a new cleaner by now? But I loved her. I genuinely loved her. I had never fallen in love with someone before and I would do anything for her. Besides, some sick part of me was enjoying the humiliation even though I knew the consequences of all this were catching up with me. Maybe I even enjoyed suffering the consequences.
For the next few days, Manuela helped me again with cleaning. But then she told me she was going to need another night of homework time. I decided to start cleaning early so I wouldn't be up until 2, even though that ran the risk of running into more co-workers. Sure enough, two of the younger guys, fratty fellows fresh out of undergrad, were working at a table as I started to clean. I kept my face away from them and they ignored me. But I perked up when I heard them mention my name.
"Yeah, Valentina has been slipping," said Chris.
"Sometimes people can't handle the workload at a big firm like this," said Ben.
"Well, I know how she's been trying to manage her stress," said Chris as he puffed out his cheeks.
"Not just her weight, she's really let herself go. I walked over to her desk the other day and she had really bad B.O. Even fat chicks can take a shower," said Ben.
"3 months ago, I used to spank it thinking about being alone with her some late night at the office. I wanted to see what happened when she let her hair down," said Chris.
"Well, now you've seen what she does when she lets her hair down. She picks up the Cheetos," said Ben, "Besides, you'd still bang her."
I left the room with tears welling up in my eyes. I went to the cleaner's room and bawled. I looked at my body that was now verging on plump, I looked at the bags under my eyes. My greasy face was breaking out in acne, I hadn't had a zit since I was 16. Who was I anymore? Then I ate the large dinner Manuela had packed for me, masturbated and went back to my job. Someone needed to clean those bathrooms.
Manuela's course load kept her busy. Working two jobs kept me busy too. We barely saw each other for most of the next month except for the few hours of sleep I would get in her apartment every night. She still managed to make me meals but I was relying more and more on carryout.
My mother's birthday was coming up. My father expected me to fly back to Arizona, I had every year. It was a big event for our family and this year, she was turning 60. Everyone was going to be there. But when I told Manuela I was going to go, she started crying.
"But my mid-terms are coming up. I need you to help me with the cleaning. Otherwise, I will have to dropout and waste all my money," she said.
I paid for tuition and books but I didn't want to correct her while she was upset.
"I'll call my father. He'll understand," I said.
I gave him a call. But how could I explain this situation. 'Hi dad. I need to stay in Chicago so I can do unpaid labor as a cleaner to help my immigrant girlfriend go to college.' That sounds crazy. My life sounds crazy.
"Dad, I'd love to come home. But my life is so busy right now. I'm uh... up for a promotion," I said. I was definitely not up for a promotion right now.
"Valentina, you have always put your career ahead of family. But your mother and I aren't going to be around forever. What is more important to you?" he asked.
"You don't understand. It is really complicated right now," I said.
"Fine. If you don't think you are worth our time, don't bother coming home for Thanksgiving or Christmas," he said as he hung up on me. My father had never hung up on me before.
I ran crying to Manuela.
"My father doesn't want to see me anymore," I said, "How could he say that?"
"Shhh. It's okay," said Manuela, "I'm your family now. I'm all you need."
She brought me over to the bed. As I sat down, a button popped off my pants.
"And I'm so fat!" I yelled.
"It is okay," she said, "You can wear my old things. I have been so busy with school, I have been losing weight anyway."
I hadn't realized it but Manuela was now smaller than I was. I was now the plump one. I didn't have time to process that as she laid me down and gave me oral pleasure. I was embarrassed by how hairy I had gotten down there. I even had some hair climbing up my lower belly. Even my new butt, which I had been so proud of, was starting to get the first signs of cellulite. But Manuela's touch felt so good, I relaxed for the first time in weeks. Unfortunately, the relaxation caused me to let out a big fart.
"I take it you are enjoying this, my little gordita," she said with a smile.
"Did you just call me fat?" I asked.
"It is affectionate," she said.
It was weird wearing the clothes we bought for Manuela. It felt so alien to be at my regular job. Me, but not me anymore. I still had vacation approved for my trip to Arizona, even if I wasn't going anymore. I decided to take a week off... well, at least from one of my jobs. Spending a week as just a cleaner would help me clear my head.
Manuela sent me a text. I pulled out her crappy burner phone, it was the phone I was using at the moment. She took my iPhone to class as she needed it to log-in and download homework assignments. Everything is so cloud-based at colleges now.
The text read: "NO TIME TO COOK. SRY. LUV U."
No dinner. What was I to do. I was starving, she had been giving me these nice dinners for months. I didn't have time to run out and pick something up, there was cleaning to do. I hit up the vending machine but I had little change, one bag of chips wasn't going to get me through the night.
I started cleaning anyway. I was cleaning out the cubicle trash cans when I noticed half a sandwich sitting in the trash. It still looked fine. I picked it up and took a bite. Promising young executive to eating out the trash. What would the other people in my MBA program say if they saw me now?
I polished off the rest of my co-worker's discarded leftovers. Half a slice of pizza here, a burnt bagel there. My appetite was relentless. At least I was reducing the amount of waste our office produced, I was being green.
Manuela made me dinner the next night. But I still found myself snacking on things from the trash. God, my hunger was out of control.
The next day, I was working my way through some stale leftover donuts in the break room when I heard someone open the door. It was the Senior Vice President. My boss's boss's boss. He was a respected leader in the field, I had even hoped he would be a mentor to me someday. Instead, he caught me stuffing my face with trash donuts.
He looked me up and down as he walked over to the coffee maker. Did he recognize me?
"I need you in my office," he said.
"Yes, sir," I said, adopting an immigrant's accent again.
Did he spill something in his office? What was going on?
We entered his office. He locked the door behind us and closed the blinds. I no longer thought this was a spill.
He threw a 50 dollar bill on his immaculate hard wood table.
"This never happened," he said. He unzipped his pants.
"No. No," I said.
"Fine," he said, throwing down another 50.
"No," I said.
"Shut up, I could get a blow job from a decent looking woman for cheaper than this, fatty. I know you immigrant workers need the money," he said.
I slowly walked towards him and got on my knees and started sucking. From potential protege to shameful late night blowjob.
"You can do better than that tubby," he said.
I started bobbing my head with great ferocity. Eventually, he pulled his dick out of my mouth and sprayed his semen all over my face and my yellow polyester shirt.
"That was mediocre," he said, pulling away one of the $50s, "Maybe you can earn more next time."
"Yes, sir," I said, grabbing the remaining $50, "Thank you."
That was by far the most humiliating thing yet. I was done. This was my rock bottom. No more being a cleaner. I'd pay for someone else to do this cleaning job, whatever it took. I was going to go back to my regular life, rebuild my reputation and pray that the Senior VP doesn't recognize me as the chubby immigrant who gave him a blowjob. I was resolute.
Then I got a text from Manuela: "I TRIPPED AND HURT MY ANKLE. NEED YOU ASAP."
She told me where she fell and I rushed out still in my polyester cleaner's uniform stained with powdered sugar and semen. Luckily, I had finished most of the cleaning and figured no one would notice if the trash wasn't emptied for a night.
I reached Manuela, she said her ankle was on fire. It didn't look broken, a bruise hadn't swollen up yet.
"Should we take you to a hospital?" I asked.
"No, no. I don't have insurance," she said.
"Well, we can go to my apartment. It is nearby," I said.
I had barely stopped by my apartment in a few months. I hadn't seen the night doorman in even longer. How was I going to explain my cleaner's uniform to the doorman?
We walked up to the front door.
"Excuse me, do you live here?" he asked.
"Yes, I'm Valentina Torres. Don't you see I hurt my ankle, I don't have time for this," she said without a hint of an accent.
I looked at Manuela. While she wasn't as trim as I used to be, she was a lot trimmer than I was now. She looked professional in her fancy clothes. Manuela wasn't a perfect match for the old me but if they created a police line-up to find the me of six months ago, they'd be far more likely to pick her than me.
The doorman looked her over. He had never really gotten a look at me, probably because I never gave him the time of day. As a service employee, I treated him the same way people treated me now.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. I apologize. I have to do these checks for safety," he said, "They gave us this tablet to create a database of people allowed entry into the building. Just let me take your picture and I promise we won't try to stop you in the future."
He snapped a picture, to the staff at my building, she was Valentina.
"And let me get a picture of you," he said, "Your name is?"
"That's Manuela, my maid," said Manuela, continuing the pose as me, "She can come in anytime she wants."
I pay ungodly rent for the apartment where they now think I'm a maid. We got past the doorman and climbed into the elevator.
"Why did you say you were me?" I asked.
"I was thinking on my feet. I didn't want to spend forever explaining why you were dressed up as a maid. This seemed like the easiest explanation. What is that stain on your shirt?" she asked.
"Oh, god. I had no choice. I was so pressured..." I stammered.
"I'm amazed it has taken this long. Powerful men think they own you just because you are lower class. Don't feel bad, my gordita," she said.
She hobbled down the hallway and we got her into my apartment.
"Can I get you anything?" I asked.
"Yes, can you run a bath for me? And I need something to eat, something small and healthy. Soup, maybe? Oh, and I need you to run to my apartment and let my dogs out. And grab some clothes for me to wear tomorrow. I think I might need to stay here for a few days until my ankle heals," she said.
I felt like her maid, but I had to remember that she was hurt. With her ankle in pain, I decided not to mention that I needed to quit covering for her as a cleaner.
I left my apartment and took the train back to hers. Her apartment had been our apartment for so long but this was the first time I slept there alone. This had been such a stressful and confusing day, I couldn't quiet the thoughts in my head. I walked down to the taqueria for a late-night burrito to help me fall asleep.
Manuela continued to rest up in my apartment, it was much easier for her to make it to class from there than her neighborhood. She also didn't go to work forcing me to fill in for her completely for the rest of the week. At least I had something fun coming up - a salon appointment. A new hairdo and a facial weren't going to make up for the stress I had put myself under or the nearly 50 pounds I had packed on but it would be a start. I needed to stop looking so sloppy.
"You are going to the salon. The expensive one nearby, good for you! You deserve a treat. I have an appointment at a salon in my neighborhood. Though I don't think I'll be able to make it there on my leg. Too bad, there is a job fair coming up next week at my school and I was hoping I would get an interview, then we wouldn't have to be cleaners anymore," said Manuela.
Ugh, I ended up giving her my salon appointment. I still needed to get a haircut before returning to work. I went to her salon, it did not look like the sort of place professional women went.
"Manuela?" asked the woman at the desk.
"Yes... that's the name on the reservation but that isn't my..."
"Come right this way," she said.
I asked them to give me something that would look good at the workplace, something tasteful. And I asked them to shape my eyebrows, once again, tastefully.
"Do you want us to do your makeup for the day? It is free." my stylist asked.
She brought out some curlers.
"No, no. I don't want anything big," I said.
"This will just put a little wave in, you'll look classy," she said.
She put the curlers and something else into my hair. As the curlers worked, I felt a burning sensation, probably just the heat from the curlers. She waxed my eyebrows and did my makeup. I hoped this would help improve my self-esteem.
As she turned me towards the mirror, my hopes were dashed. My hair looked like it had practically been permed, with bright yellow streaks placed in there. My eyebrows had been waxed to a thin cheap arch. The make-up was heavy and caked on, it didn't even cover up the acne on my face, if anything it only made it stand out more. The thick eyeshadow and full lipstick with a dark outline around the outside. I didn't look classy, I looked like the cheap version of what a cleaner would think would look classy.
"Do you like it?" she asked nervously.
"Yes," I said. I didn't want to be rude. In the past, I would have been rude. But I could tell how hard she was working.
I walked down the street as gross men catcalled me. With my cheap hair and makeup, it did look like I was ready to be picked up. A low-class woman in a low-class neighborhood, I fit in perfectly.
I got on the train back to the Loop, it was as we got to my old neighborhood that I felt uncomfortable. I no longer belonged amongst these people. I walked off to the side, out of the way of the professional people off to do professional things. I kept my head down, I didn't make eye contact.
I reached the entrance of my building.
"Name," said the day doorman. He used to hold the door open for me.
"Manuela," I said, choking back tears.
"Ah, Valentina's cleaner. Come right in," he said.
I made my way up to my apartment. Manuela looked at home.
"Oh, my girls at the salon did a nice job. You look just like a neighborhood girl, gordita," she said.
Manuela looked stunning. Her hair was straight and professional. Her skin looked flawless. The make-up was slight and tasteful. Even on an injured ankle, she was standing up taller than I had ever seen before.
"How does my voice sound? I've been practicing trying to keep my accent down. Employers are so discriminatory at job interviews," she said.
"You sound perfect," I said, meekly.
"Pick up around the place a bit, please. It's hard for me with my leg."
She didn't even ask, she told.
On Monday, I tried to clean myself up, do the best I could with my cheap hairstyle and trashy eyebrows. Upon getting into work, I ran into my supervisor.
"Hi Valentina. While you were away, we needed to move forward on the Benton Project. It moved really fast, we didn't have time to tell you. Chris agreed to take project lead. And, you know, it would take so much time to catch you up to speed on what we did last week, I'm thinking we will just have Chris stay on top of it. He's agreed to do the extra work," said my supervisor, "Don't worry, we've got some exciting projects for you. But it would probably be better if Chris was located near the project team. Can we move you down to the 6th floor?"
The Benton Project was the one prestige thing I was still in-charge of. The work I hoped would turn my reputation back around with my supervisors. I wanted to fight for it, win it back. But I lacked my old confidence as I stood there in my chubby body in an ill-fitting blazer.
"That sounds good," I said.
The 6th floor was where dead-end data entry worked. My job was to oversee their reports. It was still technically an executive position but a pointless one with little room for advancement. I was a glorified proofreader.
At least I no longer felt ashamed to eat at my desk. Many of the women who now worked with me were fatter than I was. I could eat my big lunches and snack on candy in the open now. I could clean all night and be a zombie at this proofreading job without anyone noticing.
After another week of being a desk/cleaner drone, Manuela said her ankle was still bothering her as much as before.
"You've got to go to the doctor," I said as I folded her laundry. My laundry, technically, it was my old clothes that she was wearing washed in the washer I owned.
"But a trip to the E/R takes hours and is so expensive," she said, "If I had an insurance card I could go. Wait, what if I used yours?"
"You are two inches taller than me, they will notice. Your eyes are a different color than mine. Your blood type is probably different," I said.
"Have you had a physical since moving to Chicago?" she asked.
"No," I said.
"Then the records probably didn't transfer over from college. Medical records are terribly inefficient. I saw it on the news. Besides, they will just look at my ankle, maybe prescribe something for the pain. They won't look closely. It's Saturday, I will probably just see an overworked nurse practitioner. I'll go to a different clinic than yours," she said.
I had given Manuela so much. But this felt wrong. My hand was shaking as I handed her my insurance card.
"Thank you, gordita," she said.
We went into a cab and rode off to a clinic in a different part of town. Manuela went inside, I had time to kill so I went to a cheap Chinese buffet. I ate away my regrets and concerns for letting her use my insurance. Greasy, heavy food was my comfort now. So was my soft, fattened body. I was just them both to hide away.
I left the buffet with a belly full of fried treats and went to meet Manuela.
"They didn't find anything wrong with the muscle," said Manuela, "But they decided to run some tests to make sure their wasn't any internal damage."
"Tests?" I asked.
"Yes, bloodwork and x-ray," she said.
"Now, you are in my insurance's system as Valentina," I said.
"Oh, they did it all so quickly. I hadn't even thought about that," she said.
"I can't use my own insurance anymore. I don't have insurance!" I yelled.
"It is okay, gordita. We will figure something out," she said.
I was numb. I went through the motions for the next two weeks, pointless desk work, pointless cleaning. I didn't bother taking care of myself. The Senior VP found me for another blowjob, I didn't even put up the meekest protest. And I ate, easily packing on another 10 pounds. I was now busting out of the biggest clothes we had ever purchased for Manuela. Even the big yellow polyester polo shirts I wore as a cleaner were getting stretched across my now impressive gut.
Then, my supervisor came in to see me one day at work. I was sure I was fired.
"I think you got the job," he said.
"What?" I asked, taking a break from the bear claw I had been munching on.
"I just got off the phone with somebody over at Strategic Alliance, they were looking for a job reference for you. I have no idea how you talked them into giving you a Junior Vice President position. Frankly, I'm just glad to have you out of here. Smart move, we were going to fire you as soon as we had hired some new minority junior executives. As a piece of advice, you've got a real second chance over at Strategic Alliance. Get your shit together and don't fuck it up," he said.
What job interview? Strategic Alliance, they were a huge firm, even bigger than the one I worked for. But no headhunter had ever approached me from there. I had so many questions and I had a sinking feeling who would answer them for me.
"Why did you pose as me for a job interview?" I asked.
"Well, they were never going to give the job to Manuela, the undocumented cleaner with 3 semesters of community college. But, Valentina, the promising young MBA, she could get the job," she said.
"I don't care how good your community college classes were, they are going to figure it out," I said.
"Not if you come and be a cleaner at my new business. I have 3 semesters worth of business classes, enough to fake it through the day. At night, you clean and tell me what you would do with that grad school educated brain of yours," she said.
"Why would I do this? Let you take my life?" I asked.
"Because you don't really have a better option. My home is yours, your old job wants to fire you and your new job doesn't even know your face. You have no insurance, you are estranged from your family. Your only other option is poverty as an undocumented immigrant. I'll be fine if you don't help me. If I can't make it at my new job and they fire me, I'll just make a wrongful termination lawsuit and live off the settlement," she said, "Besides, you want to stay here because you love me."
"I do love you. Why would you do this to someone who loves you? I thought you loved me."
"I love you too, my gordita. I wanted to set you free. I saw a privileged girl who was trapped by her career's expectations, a workaholic who wasn't living life. I thought I could free you from that a bit. I had no idea it would go this far but you never really tried to stop me. You and I both know you are meant to be a fat low-class cleaner, no pressures. Just getting through mindless work so you can enjoy food, drink and sex," she said.
"That's not who I am," I said.
"You feel safe being fat and plain, don't worry, I will make you fatter yet. No one will expect much from a slow moving 250lb maid. Stay with me, we will bring the dogs to this apartment. You can be my live-in dog walker and maid. This apartment can still be yours, in a way. I will keep you comfortable, I will keep you fed, I will protect you," she said, "I just need one thing more from you..."
"Call me Valentina."
"My beloved gorda. Thank you, Manuela," said the new Valentina as we started our new lives.