The Cleaning Lady
THE CLEANING WOMAN WAS LATE. She was new and I had to delay leaving for the office until she arrived. It wasn’t long though before I heard her voice out in the hallway inquiring for my apartment. I noted it sounded pleasant. Judging from the voice, I figured a woman maybe in her late twenties. I wondered whether she would be attrac-tive. Something in her voice made me think of it. Would a good-looking woman clean apartments for a living? Such things happen.

The doorbell rang, and I went to let her in. The woman who stood before me was maybe thirty but I could not take my eyes from her face. I tried not to do this, for others all her life must have had the same reaction. It wasn't that she was ugly exactly, not at all, but it would be fair to say the face was unfortunate. Yet something about her seemed nice enough.

“Ah, Miss Gramercy,” I said. “Or is it Mrs.?”

“Oh, no,” she said. Then she added, with a lilting laugh, “Not yet!” I decided she could be well under thirty. It was hard to tell with a face like that. Her voice had a nice little ring to it though. I felt right away she’d do just fine.

I led her in and began showing her around the place. “It's a mess, I know,” I said. 

“It's no different than other men like yourself,” she said pleasantly.
“Have you done other single guys?” I asked, looking at my watch. I might still make that meeting.

“Oh, I only do men's places,” she answered, opening the door to my office. That was rather bold of her, I reflected, taking the door from her. 

“I keep this room closed,” I said. “Organized chaos. If you touch anything, I’m lost.” 

She picked up a necktie of mine lying there on the floor, something I had ruined the other night at an Italian restaurant. 

“I meant to throw that out,” I said, taking it from her and tossing it into the wastebasket. “My Italian designer tie,” I said with half a laugh.

“It's all right,” she said, “I understand.”  

She looked around her. “Fifty dollars,” she said.

“Good,” I said, “You have yourself a client.” I looked at my watch again. 

“When can you start?” I asked her.

“Whenever you like,” she said. “I can start tomorrow, Thursday.”

“Wonderful! Terrific! Thursdays. The key will be under the mat outside the door. Just leave it on the table when you go. I’m out of here by eight-thirty so the place is yours any time after that.” 

 “I like to start early,” she said. She poked her head into a closet.

“No closets,” I said. “Just the open rooms, okay?” 

“Of course, Mr. Kwiatk . . . ,” she hesitated. No one can ever pronounce my last name, not unless you’re Polish.
“Just call me Jan,” I said. I reached into my office for my briefcase.

“Mr. Jan,” she repeated with that nice ring. 

She preceded me down the hall towards the front door. From behind you’d never think she was hard to look at. I like to try to figure out what a woman looks like from what you could observe walking behind her, sort of the way paleontologists reconstruct some prehistoric creature from nothing more than a hipbone. It works for every-thing but the face. The face is always a surprise. I noticed, though, that she had a nice light step, almost like a dancer’s. . . .