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the game isn’t over, not just yet

published: 2011-06-12

“Thank you,” she says.
She says it beneath her breath as I’ve told her many times not to thank me.
Please. Do Not Thank Me. I beg you. Don’t.
She has gained a lot of weight, but she has never looked more wonderful. Her children are finally with her. She hadn’t seen them in eight years. And for the past few weeks, she has been allowed to enact a normal life.
Remember how you used to play doctor as kids? Or play school?
We are now playing happy family. We are playing what it would be like if she lived in a European city and belonged there. To rent her own small but clean studio. To clean houses for employers who treat her well and adhere to rules of labor law: they give her days off, they send her home when she is sick, they provide for social security and pension payments and health care.
Indeed, play this game, dear employee, dear friend. And I’ll gladly play along. My part is easy. I simply provide for the characters. All I needed to do was pretend to every possible figure of authority that your children are staying with me and I’ve know them for many many years and have a special bond with them and I pay for their tuition and think they should see my city and so on. Of course I’ll join in! Right now I get to play the guest who comes over for dinner. I should actually thank you, because I feel entirely at ease in this game. I slump on your couch halfway through your marvelous feast and giggle with your daughters, who decide to do my hair.
Do keep smiling, my dear. Let’s take as many pictures as possible of this game which, for now, we seem to be winning. But it will soon end. Next week your children must return to Manila and you don’t know when you’ll next see them. Perhaps you’ll get kicked out of this sublet, as has happened so many times before. Or you’ll fall ill and can no longer work. Or you might one day cause an accident. Then the police come and tell you to leave the country.
Not now, though. The game isn’t over, not just yet.

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