SECTION SEVEN

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COLUMN SIXTY-SEVEN, JANUARY 1, 2002
(Copyright 2002 Al Aronowitz)

THE ANTI-ANTI-MAID

Suzi was not what Howard expected. She was small and young. Her hair was so flat it looked ironed; it had been dyed the colors of a melted, Day-Glo creamsicle. Her eyebrows were plucked so thin they looked like they had been painted on with a single-hair Japanese brush.  She wore a sleeveless garment of coarse black fabric and rope, which made him think of the phrase "sackcloth and ashes."  A blue tattoo of an angel stood out like a bruise against the white skin of her thin upper arm.

Howard, on the other hand, was exactly what Suzi expected: tall, middle-aged, receding hairline, golfing shirt, tanned legs, loafers, small hazel eyes, lines around his mouth and eyes, white even teeth, and a slightly haughty attitude as he stood in the door of his fabulously rich house asking Suzi if she had come about the ad.

"Of course," she said. Her voice---husky and full of secrets, as if she were a fugitive from justice with laryngitis---stung his heart, as it had when they spoke earlier on the telephone and he'd given her directions. Her voice belonged to a bigger, older woman.

As he showed her around his place, detailing all the duties of the job---from the dusting of the billiard table to the polishing of the brass Italian fixtures in the bathroom---he felt they were engaged in a mutually agreed-upon ruse: they both knew that Howard would never hire Suzi as his maid.

The subject of Yom Kippur came up as they sat on Howard's black leather couch, in


Did he
really want
a maid?


Howard's sunken living room, looking out Howard's enormous windows at the sun sinking into the reservoir.  Howard was Jewish, and as it turned out, so was Suzi, although she had been raised an atheist by hippy parents who toyed with Buddhism and Sufism.

As soon as the sun went down the holiday would be over.  Neither Howard nor Suzi had fasted for the holiday, as was the tradition during this time of atonement and new beginnings.  On the other hand, they had both skipped lunch and were rather hungry.

They decided to abstain from the bowl of mixed nuts on the ebony coffee table.  "It's the least we can do until sunset," Howard said.

"Whatever," said Suzi, who had never heard of fasting on Yom Kippur, a holiday she'd always associated with death.

They talked about a few other things---fatalistic poetry, Marxism and local crimes. At one point, Howard brought out a book by Nietzsche to illustrate a point. He couldn't believe that Suzi didn't know Nietzsche.

"With your brain, with your dark outlook," he said. "Here let me read to you."

He read and she twisted a strand of candy orange hair around her finger and they passed the time until the sky grew inky. Howard turned on several warm yellow lights.

"The thing is," Suzi said, "your house is already clean."

"Maybe I need someone to mess things up a little." Howard sat back down at a respectful distance. "You know--an anti-maid."

Suzi blinked.  "I don't think so. I mean, I'm not your person."

"Can't we just be friends then?" Howard sounded a little desperate.

"I'm hungry," Suzi announced.

Howard cooked her an omelet and made a pot of coffee. They ate in silence. It was a fine beginning.  ##

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