Monday, April 5, 2010

Becoming Rosa

I sweep, a lot. And when I sweep, I think of Rosa. Rosa Higuera...

Montpelier, Vermont. Summer/1980

I am living in the upstairs apartment of a little house. The kitchen walls are yellow. There are spider plant cuttings in jelly jars on the window sill. I've just graduated from college. I've moved in with my not yet first husband, Charles. The house belongs to Rosa. Rosa is an eighty-seven year old Hispanic woman. Rosa lives alone downstairs. The stairs to our place go right past her front door; it's nearly impossible to come in and out without running into Rosa. She always seems to be out front, with her broom.

Rosa is short and stout. She has a very thick accent. I practice my poquito Spanish on her. We chat, standing on the sidewalk out front. We laugh. But I remember once when Rosa got very upset:

My brother, Pete and Dad, had driven over from Maine for a visit. We were watching the World Series. I can't remember who was playing but we were laughing and screaming at the television. I'm certain there was beer involved. At some point during the game I heard Rosa shouting from the foot of the stairs. I went down and she had her hand on her chest. She was in such a state, worried that something terrible was happening to me, that I was being beaten. So much yelling, she said. I said, No need to worry. We're watching a baseball game. It's okay.

In October, we moved to Burlington to live in a friend's attic bedroom. We married that winter. I was twenty-two. I had my first daughter, Jesse, just shy of my twenty-third birthday. Later, there was so much yelling, and other scary things; we fell to pieces. It all feels very vivid and yet blurry, like so much of life. I never saw Rosa again.

Tonight, as the yellow evening light came across the yard, I picked up my broom and started sweeping the blanket of red buds on the brick patio. The first swish of the broom and there she was, Rosa. Thirty years later and I can see her in my mind's eye, hold her in my hands. Some days I feel like I'm becoming Rosa, the way I love my broom; the way it makes space all around me, clearing a path at my feet.

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