I am currently working on a one woman show titled, Miss Texas in NYC about an actress who comes to the big city and the folks she meets. This piece is taken from that show.
Anitza. She and her young son lived across the hall from me where she shared an apartment with her brother’s family. She worked the night shift at Newark airport as a cleaning lady. So we always seemed to do our laundry at the same time—in the middle of the day on a Tuesday when no one else was using the machines.
We developed one of those rare relationships where we instantly trusted each other and became quick friends. After a few months, she asked me over for tea when we finished our laundry. I was curious about her and where she was from—We sat down and she began her story. Anitza told me she had been a grade school teacher from “the former Yugoslavia.”
ANITZA: There is no more Yugoslavia as I know it. There is only division among people of my country now. I lost so much-my books, my class journals, photos, my cassette tapes-Tom Jones (sighs.)
When the partition began—dividing the city, we all thought it was a joke. We were living side by side. But then the barricades went up, everything stopped—shops closed. I could not get to school to teach my class—all public transportation stopped. Then we knew it was not joke.
My husband, Joseph, and I—we had been up all the night before talking in the cellar. We moved mattresses down there for Zozo and Rosa. We were trying to decide what was the plan to take. We were not part of the majority in my city and we could be in danger. We knew also we did not have long to make a decision.
They found us. There were seven of them. When they smashed through the door it was the morning. We heard them upstairs. They were armed. Young boys. They were in my class a few years past. The older one with a bit of mustached seemed the leader and said, “The stores were closed and they needed wine!”
Joseph, he tried to…he could not fight against so much anger. Such big anger.
I had Zozo and Rosa, trying to keep them turned away. The one who was the leader yelled for the others to stop. He wanted my husband to stay alive to watch. They took my daughter from me and…in front of me, her father and brother. Her last image. And my husband’s last breath—of his ten year old daughter.
The night is not so good. I think I fall asleep and I see people in the dark. I see Saint Christopher. He asks me why I did not protect my children and leave when the barricades went up? He points at me telling me that I am responsible for so many deaths.
That is funny. The Saints come to me in my sleep—but not God. I cannot talk to him, awake or asleep. I cannot hear him anymore.
NARRATOR: The next week, Anitza stopped me in the hall and said she had to show me something I would not believe.
ANITZA: Is OK I cannot talk to God. I have guardian angel. Just last weekI am cleaning at gates four to twenty is my station. It is ‘red eye’ time, so no people around. I pick up trash from under chairs. You will not believe what I find. A CD-Tom Jones Greatest Hits of Eighties. Of course, I take to lost and found and leave for one week. That is rule. If nobody claim it is mine. Nobody claim. See, guardian angel!
Joseph, my husband is guardian angel. This I know. On a very significant birthday my husband have a big surprise party for me with secret special guest coming. I do not see my husband for awhile and all of sudden, my favorite Tom Jones song comes on speakers very loud-“She’s a Lady.” Out comes Joseph dressed up and dancing like Tom Jones with wig and tight pants on the hips and open ruffle shirt. Now let me tell you, not too many men who can wear pants like Tom Jones--Aaaaah…Joseph.
It is not so bad working at airport. Is like I tell Zozo, when he asks what do I do at work? I am collecting stories. When I have more busy shift and more people it is easy to imagine stories. Airport is mostly a happy place. People, looking to see if their mother or father or daughter or husband is coming from the plane. They smile. Such big smiles. At airport gates, we are all the same. Everybody wants to hold onto what they have that is dear.
You know, you are very easy to talk to. You give me idea. Maybe, one day I will put down the stories of people I see. Maybe, I will write book some day….