This morning, as usual, I woke up, wishing I was waking up later, but making myself get up nontheless. I changed from my pyjama bottoms to my sweatpants, put a sweatshirt on and went to the kitchen to have breakfast. Today the flat has its full clean, so the cleaner is in the kitchen (she is a sight for sore eyes in halls). I said good morning, as I usually do when she is there. I noticed there were dishes on the sides and put them away so it’s easier for her to do her job.
She started chatting me up about Iceland opening and students being stressed about exams and dedlines. She cleaned the kitchen table first. She asked me if the boy with the red hair had come back. She had forgot his name. I tell her his name and that he has gone back and also changed his hair. She asked for my name and tells me hers. I stopped boiling the kettle when she had to talk on the phone. Then I put it on again when she was finished.
I didn’t want to be in her way, but she seemed to enjoy the company so I stayed and had breakfast in the kitchen. She asked me what I study and I told her I study English literature and writing. She said that’s a very hard subject. Her daughter is studying Literature now for GCSEs and she tells her it’s very hard. But I’m probably good at it. She asked me if it’s hard. I told her it’s not easy, but it’s interesting. She said that nothing is ever really hard when it’s interesting.
She asked me if I had been on holiday. I told her I went back home for Easter. For two weeks. She asked me where I’m from and I told her I’m from Bulgaria. She started asking me more questions about Bulgaria, such as what the weather is like there and what my parents do. She got very excited when I told her my parents were farmers and they had chickens.
She said that where she’s from they have many animals: lamb, sheep, camel, but not chickens. Chickens come from outside and so they are very expensive. It would be very good if someone started farming chickens there. But people don’t think.
She said they have a lot of land, but they don’t know what to do with it. She said they could grow tomatoes or make a chicken farm, but people don’t think about the land, just the war.
My cleaner is from Somalia and she seems to really love her country. She was smiling as she told me how it’s always summer there and they have a very big sea, Indian Ocean, where you can get a lot of fish from. And a lot of land. Empty land. But people don’t think. They always just fight.
She left Somalia when the war started. About 1990. She moved here. Her children were born here. Now she works in London. She said in London you have to work very hard, it’s not easy. She has to work very hard to pay her bills. She wishes that someday she could have a farm for chickens in Somalia. That would be an easy job. I think about how she said no job is hard if it’s interesting. Maybe when people start thinking about the land instead of the war. When they stop fighting and start thinking.
My flatmate walked in shortly after and we had a little chat. Meanwhile, I had just finished my porridge. The cleaner had moved away from one of the sinks and I wash my bowl there. I didn’t want to be in the way, because she would have started hoovering soon. I said goodbye to my flatmate and wished my cleaner a nice day. I heard Henry (the vacuum) shortly after I got back to my room.
I tidied my room and started writing. The conversation with my cleaner made me think about all the conversations we could be having with different people. And how I am a writer because I want to have these conversations. And how I love books because they are a way of communicating with a person (a mind) from another space and time. And how I do wish people would start thinking.
First Published on Medium April 26, 2018