What a spot I got myself into vis a vis my cleaning lady. For consolation, after she stood me up, I kept the sixty cheapskate dollars in the envelope addressed to her, determined to spend it on some birthday treat. But I kept forgetting it—leaving it propped on my desk or packing it along and then switching bags—until finally, two weeks later, the cleaning lady is scheduled to come again and I can’t find the envelope.
So on Thursday morning I have to make her up a new envelope, which means wrestling with my conscience over the amount. I’d cut her back from eighty to sixty, then done the vacuuming myself, and found out that a friend pays her cleaning lady a hundred dollars (that includes laundry). I had been thinking of splitting the difference and giving her seventy, but all I had to make up the difference was singles. I put three twenties and five singles in the envelope, and it felt insulting. I put ten singles in, and it felt too thick. So I ended up giving her four twenties, marking the amount on the outside of the envelope, just so that, if she waited until she left to open the envelope, she wouldn’t feel guilty for not doing a better job.
Meanwhile, I looked all over for that stupid envelope: I’d meant to take it to the theatre that Friday (we saw “Lord Cornbury, the Queen’s Governor”), but forgot; again on the seal-watching expedition, I could have used it to pay for the fish, but forgot; and then last Sunday I was going to put it toward an Aquarian birthday dinner with friends, and forgot again. The envelope wasn’t in any of the bags I looked in. I even sorted through the wastepaper basket because I remembered at one point Norbert knocking it off the desk into the recyclables. No luck. Had I recycled in the meantime? I’d left my big bag at work on Thursday, because I was going to see Antony and the Johnsons at Town Hall. (He was great. They were great. His songs end in a way that takes me by surprise.) When I got to work I searched that bag, and it wasn’t there, either. So all day I found myself thinking, Who is more likely to find an envelope full of cash with her name written on it, in my apartment, than the cleaning lady herself?
I kissed my three carefully husbanded $20 bills—my stimulus package—goodbye. When I got home on Friday night, full of suspense—maybe the cleaning lady hadn’t even come—the hallway looked as cluttered as usual. But then Norbert tore across the living room and leapt into his new berth: a wooden crate that grapes came in that I usually pile old newspapers in and that I was trying to rehabilitate into a file. The cleaning lady had positioned it closer to the radiator, where Norbert would be comfortable and out of the way, with the label facing out: FAITH. The carpet was clean, the cats bowls had been washed, the aluminum plates that she likes to put under the stove burners were back in place. This morning, it was a relief not to have to clean, and I suddenly remembered that that weekend I was using my Liberty of London tote bag, and had even put a roll of film (how old-fashioned of me) in the outside pocket, and maybe I’d also put the envelope in there ...
Eureka! I found it!