Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Story: Molly in Singapore. Part 8.1.


Lady Charlotte, the author of the original story Arriving in Milan, has kindly agreed to take the story where Monica Graz (will a little help from yours truly) have left it. This is the first of at least three questions that our heroine will have to answer. I hope you enjoy this installment as much as I did. And to make reading previous installments of the story easier I've created a Molly saga label. 

by Lady Charlotte


THREE QUESTIONS
1. Question One

“Tell me, Julia,” said Signora Moretti, “Back when you were the youngest ever Professor of History at Cambridge, did you reckon yourself a feminist?”

I stared in consternation at my employer. It was a long time since anyone had called me by my original name – and even longer since mention had been made of my original career. I could feel myself going red – and then I paused to wonder if someone as dark-skinned as I now was could actually go red. I tried to meet Signora Moretti’s eye. Of course, it was impossible. As I did instinctively now, whenever I looked at a European, I found myself lowering my gaze to the floor, and fiddling with the hem of my apron.

“Well, girl?”

I tried to find my voice. “I… I…” A cascade of thoughts and memories had come unbidden into my mind; but my words were humiliatingly inadequate to expressing what I wished to convey. “When I… first… when I no maid, Madam… I no want…”


“What?” Signora Moretti’s forehead wrinkled into a frown. “You are making no sense.”

“I no want man… when I no maid…”

“No.” Signora Moretti shook her head brusquely. “I cannot endure listening to such hopelessly clumsy English.”

“I sorry, Ma’am.”

“I should think so. It is a shame Linda isn’t here to translate for you. Isn’t it?”

‘Yes, Ma’am.”

“She is going places. Her English is almost flawless now.”

‘Yes, Ma’am.”

“Not like you. I doubt you will ever master the language.” She smiled at me.

I gripped the edge of my apron more tightly. It had been a month now since Signora Moretti had overheard me talking to Linda, after my friend had come round to tell me about her new job, no longer working as a domestic, but as a secretary to her boss.

I still remember very vividly that day. After Linda had gone, Signora Moretti had made sure to tell me how impressed she had been. ‘There are those with aspirations and there are those stuck at the bottom that will always be at the bottom. I want your English to be far more rudimentary than it is, Molly. I want your Filipina friends to despair of it. To know, whenever you are spoken to in English, that one of them will have to translate for you. I want them to think of you as the incorrigibly dumb one.’

So it was that she had imposed new conditions on what I was allowed to say. I was forbidden ever to use any tense other than the present, and obliged to speak using only the singular form of nouns. I was given a list of 200 words, all of them consisting of a single syllable, that was henceforward to constitute the sum total of my vocabulary. ‘The’, ‘am’ and ‘is’ were all notable by their absence. As a result, whenever I was asked a question in English, I found it a desperate struggle to reply. I would concentrate on marshalling the few words I was permitted to speak, and find that my actual meaning was almost impossible to convey.  Compared to my fellow maids, I sounded tongue-tied, ignorant, like the peasant woman that I appeared to be – a foreign domestic worker indeed.

“You may speak in Tagalog,” said Signora Moretti after a pause. “I have a new colleague, a psychologist from the Philippines, who is fascinated in your case. He will translate for me later.

So, Molly, I ask again, did you use to be a feminist?”

With a great surge of relief, I began to speak. It was almost as though Tagalog were now my native tongue – for, compared to English, I could talk in it without having to pause or worry. Naturally, I gave my employer a scrupulously honest answer. I told her that I had indeed been a feminist, both in my personal life and in my academic work. Had it been, I now wondered, a defence against my submissive instincts, an expression of my anxiety as to where they might lead me? Be that as it may, I had indeed, yes, been proud to reckon myself a committed feminist… and even as I affirmed that, my employer raised her hand, and signalled enough.

‘Though I don’t understand Tagalog I know your answer, Molly. See, I have this article here that you wrote.”

She raised her iPad, and I saw the flash of a title from a world aeons ago, back when I had been a professor, back before I became a maid. “I know as well that, despite your new status and profession, you retain the instincts of a feminist. And how do I know that?”

I looked at her helplessly. In my uniform grown shabby with the rigours of housework, I could not have felt less feminist. “I… Ma’am, I…”

Again, my employer held up her hand. “I know, Molly, because Mr Singh has been complaining. He says that you have been looking down your nose at him. That you have not been amenable at all to his advances.”

“Please, Ma’am.’ I shut my eyes. Memories of the previous evening, when Mr Singh, the Morettis’ chauffeur, had pressed needlessly tight against me as we passed in a corridor, made me flush. “He… me… he touch me…”

“Silence, girl! And if he does touch you, so what? You should be honoured! You do understand, Molly, that it is your destiny to marry – and that being so, that Mr Singh would be a remarkable catch? A Singaporean citizen, with all that implies for your residency rights here, so much as looking at a girl like you! You would be honoured to have such a husband. You stupid, vain, arrogant little girl!”

My flush deepened. It had never crossed my mind that Signora Moretti might intend me to marry – and my sudden consciousness of the abyss that awaited me, of the future that might well be mine, suddenly made me feel faint.

“I have decided, Molly, that you need to be reminded that a girl like you, whose whole destiny is to marry, to have children, and to be at the beck and call of her husband, cannot be permitted the airs and graces of a feminist. Who do you think you are – some spoiled Western woman?”

Not pausing as I shook my head, Signora Moretti continued. “To that end, I have decided that John Carlo, who works as the chef at the Embassy, will be coming here more often to cook for us. I have told him all about you. I have told him that you are single, and ready to marry – indeed, that you are eager for children. Should he propose to you, Molly, and you not have a good reason for refusing him, I will oblige you to marry him. And you know I can do that, don’t you?’ I nodded, my legs feeling like jelly.

“So,” my employer continued, “given the choice, I think you need to be a little less stand-offish with Mr Singh. Don’t you?”

Breathing deeply, I brought myself to meet her gaze. “Please, Ma’am…”

’‘Dismissed.”

 I bobbed a curtsey, turned and left. As I did so, I felt tears rising in my eyes, and I began to run. I didn’t stop until I had reached the sanctuary of the kitchen. Except that as I reached it, I saw that the door was open, and heard the sound of pans being clattered beyond it. Heart racing, I pushed the door fully open. There, standing before the oven, was a huge man in a white apron. He turned to look at me. His pockmarked face lit up. He smiled, and I saw that his broken teeth were yellow. “You must be Molly,’ he said in Tagalog. “I have heard all about you. You’re darker than I’d thought you’d be, but you’re quite pretty, all the same. I think we are going to get along.”

16 comments:

  1. Married? What a great idea. With plenty of little rug rats running around. Perfect.

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    1. Yes, possibilities are endless. And what a powerful device to completely seal Molly's fate.

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  2. Yes, indeed. But mothers become powerful. They do find new ways. Molly would become Julia, Ph.D to fight for her child.

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  3. I suspect that Signora Moretti secretly fancies Molly and that the maid will soon be fending off her mistress's advances. Love the story, thanks. Hope to read more about Molly wearing her formal uniform and cap, waitressing at one of the Morettis' evening parties.

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  4. married? that's disappointing. having a family would give her some kind of escape and respect. permanent residence? she doesn't deserve that. what about a mistake that gets her deported with a blackmark on her record? then she can hardly leave Manila... only for a harsher country to maids like India or Thailand...

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    1. Well, given the options I do not think the marriage in question can be associated with respect or any kind of escape. If anything, it can only cement Molly's humiliating and dependent position. Also, there are still many ways it can all go wrong. She could end up pregnant with a baby, but with no husband. That would have her deported by law. Although I do think that becoming a wife to someone well beneath the original Julia (but a step up or equal of Molly) will make her situation inescapable and add a new dimention to her life as a maid as she would essentially get an additional master.

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    2. And what if child is white?

      John Carlo or mr. Singh can only think that Molly prostituted herself or had sex with white people. In both cases consequences are quite horrible for Molly.

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    3. Thats definetely a risk for her. Its in her best interest for the future baby or babies to be as dark skinned and Asian looking as possible. She will always have the excuse of being only half Filipina though, but to a point. But facing a choice of admitting her true identity or being punished for an extra marital affair with a white man may send her submissive genes into overdrive.

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  5. I have to echo the comments above. Being a wife and mother would give Molly status and a place in the community independent of her work. If you insist on marrying her off, better it be to a gay or asexual man who just wants a beard.

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    1. I dont think marriage bliss is the goal here so not too worry. Not seeing a happily ever after in this story.

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  6. Thank you for the latest episode. I think that Molly's life is too easy - she needs to be working very hard and be utterly humiliated.

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    1. Just wait until the next episode this week.

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  7. Thank you for this article. Please do publish the list of English words which Molly is allowed to use.

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    1. I took the liberty of compiling the list by taking 200 most common words of the English language, removing anything with more than 1 syllable or too fancy and adding key words that any housemaid must know to do her job well. In no particular order:
      1. Yes
      2. No
      3. Ma'am.
      4. Maid
      5. Clean
      6. Dirt
      7. Wash
      8. Rub
      9. Dust
      10. Sweep
      11. Cook
      12. House
      13. Floor
      14. Door
      15. Mop
      16. Soap
      17. Dry
      18. Dish
      19. Iron
      20. Bed
      21. Room
      22. Down
      23. Up
      24. Food
      25. Dress
      26. Be
      27. Help
      28. I
      29. Me
      30. He
      31. She
      32. We
      33. His
      34. Her
      35. Of
      36. Man
      37. Girl
      38. See
      39. Boy
      40. Big
      41. Small
      42. Ask
      43. Speak
      44. Head
      45. Leg
      46. Arm
      47. Hurt
      48. Tire
      49. Open
      50. Close
      51. Hold
      52. Word
      53. Order
      54. Eye
      55. Run
      56. Keep
      57. Face
      58. Play
      59. Stand
      60. Sit
      61. You
      62. Break
      63. And
      64. To
      65. In
      66. It
      67. This
      68. With
      69. At
      70. By
      71. Do
      72. But
      73. From
      74. Or
      75. When
      76. Who
      77. How
      78. What
      79. All
      80. Will
      81. Say
      82. Make
      83. Can
      84. More
      85. Out
      86. So
      87. Time
      88. Than
      89. New
      90. Old
      91. One
      92. Two
      93. Three
      94. Four
      95. Five
      96. Six
      97. Seven
      98. Eight
      99. Nine
      100. Ten
      101. Twenty
      102. Hundred
      103. Day
      104. Night
      105. Week
      106. Month
      107. Year
      108. Take
      109. Come
      110. Know
      111. Use
      112. Like
      113. Work
      114. Now
      115. May
      116. Must
      117. Such
      118. Give
      119. Over
      120. Think
      121. Most
      122. Even
      123. Find
      124. Way
      125. Must
      126. Look
      127. Skirt
      128. Shoe
      129. Great
      130. Back
      131. Long
      132. Short
      133. Where
      134. Much
      135. Well
      136. Own
      137. Just
      138. Good
      139. Bad
      140. Feel
      141. Too
      142. Place
      143. Very
      144. Write
      145. Life
      146. Here
      147. Cold
      148. Hot
      149. Book
      150. Show
      151. Both
      152. Mean
      153. Call
      154. Over
      155. Last
      156. First
      157. Thing
      158. Right
      159. Left
      160. Move
      161. Same
      162. Part
      163. Turn
      164. Real
      165. Want
      166. Late
      167. End
      168. Hold
      169. Drop
      170. Set
      171. Play
      172. Scoop
      173. Broom
      174. Brush
      175. Wipe
      176. Sponge
      177. Pan
      178. Spoon
      179. Knife
      180. Fork
      181. Plate
      182. Bowl
      183. Rinse
      184. Hair
      185. Cloth
      186. Put
      187. Walk
      188. Bread
      189. Phone
      190. Still
      191. Sun
      192. Meat
      193. Fish
      194. Eat
      195. Drink
      196. Stop
      197. Please
      198. Thank
      199. Buy
      200. Pay

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    2. You should add some other essntial words for a maid: apron,uniform,maid's cap,Sir,Madam,broom,vacuum cleaner.

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    3. Ma'am and broom are already there. Agree with sir - it will replace a far less useful book. Dont think Molly will be reading them any time soon. Rest are longer than one syllable.

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