“I thought she was at your place?” a friend of Janelle’s asked. 

“I thought she’d be back by today,” my household assistant Renee’ remarked. 

Shrugging my shoulders,  I replied, “She goes where the money is. What else can she do?” 

I didn’t realize she was taking all her clothing with her when she accepted moving in with the cancer patient to take care of him. It turns out he lives way over in Minnetonka, miles away from here.  “I guess I should have figured with no car, she’d have to move out there.”  We had really gotten used to the three of us becoming a pretty mellow, happy trio with each of us together keeping the home and gardens looking pretty darned good – ending with Janelle’s mellow cocktails she served us early afternoons. 

How could we know this was probably the usual lifestyle of DACA people whose  means of earning a living would include home care of folks, house painters and roofers, migratory workers, and if lucky entertainers and models.   We agreed, this probably means that when some job opens, no matter how far away, all your stuff goes with you since you may not be back and you can’t afford to keep a place elsewhere, not even a locked storage.

“This must have been pretty scary for you the first time you were truly on your own, not knowing where you might be living from week to week, back in NY,” I asked. 

“The first place I went was to Jamaica, Queens, which I didn’t like but I found an affordable room.  I found a nail salon close by that hired me.  I never went to cosmetology school and didn’t know much about nails or doing manicures but got hired anyway but was not much good at it.  The customers were not very satisfied and I was’t making enough money to pay my rent.  So then  I was hired at a Jamaican restaurant and put a fake Social Security number on the application since I didn’t have one of my own.  My first day on the job I was told I was doing a great job.  But then the next day their accountant called me to say my social security number was invalid.  So I confessed and was fired.   I found another job as a caretaker for an elderly man who claimed to have cancer but he was too interested in having me wash his penis frequently with my bare hands.  A few days with him, scared me so when he fell asleep, I escaped from the house and rented a room elsewhere.”  Still in her teens, she had several other similar housing experiences with strange men.  Quite a few, actually.

To change the subject, I remember asking Janelle, “How can you afford a better Apple computer than mine and a great I Phone with all the apps.  And how do you know how to use them?  Lord knows, they drive me crazy.” 

She replied in her usual cheerful, no nonsense way, “Well, Shirley, all my gadgets are second hand—throw aways so not the latest on the market — and although I’m 34 now, I started school in America when I was 14 years old.

” Well, of course, I thought to myself, that helps explain her exposure to technology but nonetheless I continued being impressed with rapid us of these gadgets.  This young, beautiful gal has survival skills like I can’t even imagine.  She then showed me how she can  write and send a resume anywhere in the USA and apply for jobs anywhere, getting the information in minutes from her I Phone alone.  Then showing me many photos of her posing for shoots out East,  wearing sexy outfits,  laughing with actors from Saturday Night Live while attending functions for beautiful people.  I could tell her generation, and DACAs particularly, acquired the skill sets they needed for survival through media unknown to me.  This young lady moves about my house quickly, almost like a dancer, multi-tasking on her computer, or vacuuming the floor, putting away dishes, groceries or anything that needs to be put away, while she gets job information on her phone or a lead somewhere.  Before I know it, a car has pulled up and she is running off to get in the car while telling me she’ll be back in maybe a week.

Later, she calls from Rochester, saying she is with her cancer patient while he goes through treatment at the hospitals there.  I was relieved to hear that the gentleman was quite an introvert who had few interests but seemed to enjoy limited conversations with her.   Last week-end she was back here long enough to paint my toe and finger nails vibrant matching colors.  I’d never had a manicure before.  After all, I was a depression baby, raised in the traditionalist generation. 

She will be back again this Saturday and will be joining me at a dressy black-tie, long dress affair at a mutual friend’s home.  We will be celebrating La Fete National on Bastille Day on July 14!  This is a group of party-loving people we both know who frequently find reasons for ‘putting on the Ritz’ and though I am the oldest by far, I enjoy playing ‘the Auntie Mame role.  The host’s mother, my best friend, will also be there.  After the ball is over, Janelle will find a ride back to Minnetonka.  Who knows where she will be next.

Stay tuned to read future episodes of the Lady from Trinidad!

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