If somebody would ask me if I’m fine then I’ll probably lie. Fine is a huge word. I think, ‘getting by’ is a more appropriate term for my life’s chapter right now. Some days I get really burnt out by my work that’s eating 18 hours of my day — 2 hours to prepare, 1 hour transportation to work, 12 hours of work, 1 hour of transportation back home and 2 hours to prepare my uniform and myself again for the next day. The other 6 hours is for sleeping, but of course, I still have my family, friends and loved ones who also needs my time so I don’t get the 6 hours recommended sleep. That is 24 hours in one day, same routine everyday. If you don’t start look for socialization and deviation from that then check your body for hidden ports because you might be robot.
Granted that I’m a private nurse, and I only have one patient and you might say that that’s not tiring at all, and I won’t contradict you, every job in this earth has their own challenges. For me, it’s relating with the family. I’m in a new country where English is not the main language, the language barrier is my first stressor. It hard to help someone you don’t understand. Does he have pain? Does he need water? Blanket? Is he telling me to get the fuck away? At first I had no idea, (Try talking to animals, that’s literally how it was for me.) but after a month, I’m glad to report that I’ve learned a bunch of new words and I’m happy because of that. I am still at a loss with long sentences and paragraphs so if they’re saying ‘This stupid nurse looks like a monkey’ to my face, I’d probably be still smiling at them. That reminds me. There was an incident that happened recently.
The family had pet birds. One day, one bird escaped. They were talking about it when my patient and I got out of his room from an afternoon nap. The Mother of The House told me about the bird and asked me to look in the box inside the cage to check how many are left. Now, this is how I understood what she was saying so I went to the cage, lift the flap of the box through the small bars and confirmed to her that yes, one bird was missing (also, there was a cute little egg inside, but I didn’t tell her that).
The event passed.
The next day, The Mother of The House was mad at me about something I did or did not do (as usual) and was telling me about the bird again, the whole time, my face was questioning her because for the love of God, I already told her that I don’t speak Arabic and she keeps on talking to me about these things! She’s saying that it costs a Thousand Dirhams and something about a salary. Now, the way I understood what she was saying was — The bird costs a Thousand Dirhams and if you will fuck this up, we’ll just buy a bird than pay your salary. Sounds reasonable enough. So the day, again, went by. Two weeks came and I was with my patient in his room for his afternoon nap when suddenly The Begotten Son came and berated me. BERATED ME. He’s shouting at me about how he doesn’t want his things to be touched and I don’t have the right to touch or check anything and my only job in that house was his father. His monologue took about five minutes before he told me that The Mother of The House, The Lying Servant (already in jail for stealing something) and Waldo (because of his beanie) The House Boy said that I was the one who opened that cage and let the Thousand Dirham fucking bird fly away. The next time I touch any of his things, he will call my office and take the Thousand Dirhams from my salary. His booming voice rattled the room.
Dear readers, I will give you time to digest this.
Within those two weeks before this confrontation, I was ignorantly walking around the house with a hatchet on my head for something I did not do. I was shocked. When he told me this, I was really shocked. So that was the reason why his butt was on fire. And the whole time I was thinking that maybe, he just want to establish ground rules. When I protested and swore that I NEVER touched that cage, he went out of the room unconvinced. I cried. I cried for a good five minutes before I composed myself and talked to Waldo The House Boy. It was a hard conversation because of the language barrier but I got what I needed. It was The Lying Servant that told the story and The Mother of The House believed her. The Begotten Son believed them. And The Monkey who doesn’t know how to speak Arabic got the beating.
I talked to The Working Daughter about what had happened that day and miraculously, she believed me and she also thought that it was The Lying Servant who did it. She said that she’ll talk to her brother about it and for me not to worry. She sounded really concerned and gentle, maybe because I started to cry and kept myself from crying and my voice sounded cut and weird. She said she believed me, so I had no choice but to believe her. After that day, we never spoke of it again and I never spoke a word to The Begotten Son again. I am not sorry.
Esprit de l’escalier — The French phrase, literally translated as “The spirit of the staircase”, which refers to all the things you realize you should have said after a heated conversation has ended.
I would have said that I am a Registered Professional Nurse from two countries. I did not waste my money on my education, pass a 500-item exam in my country and another 70-item exam given by your country to be treated this way. I do not (fucking) appreciate it at all. I understand that you are short of help these days (because you’re monsters and nobody can stay too long with you) so if your mother needs help in the kitchen I’ll help her, if she needs some clothes to be folded, I’ll do it. I’ll help as long as my work is done with your father even if we are not allowed to do these things, because I also have an overworked grandmother at home so I feel sorry about your (crazy) mother, but I am not your (Goddamned) servant. You are not my boss. Your father is not even my boss.
I may look like a child to you, but I am not stupid (I might even be smarter than you). I have enough marbles not to open your birds’ cage or any (fucking) bird cage for that matter. I have no purpose for that and I am not interested in holding a bird in my hand. If it were a puppy, maybe I would have, but a bird, I don’t think so. Next time, before you brilliantly march into this room and humiliate yourself, maybe you should check your sources first. If my professional career would be jeopardized because of your stupidity, as much as I have learned to love you father, as moody as he is, I guess it’s better if I get assigned to another family. You’re not the only family in Dubai and I will not tolerate being shouted at for no reason (other than your idiocy, you imbecile, of course.)
Of course, there was no time for me to make up all that awesome speech and save my dignity so when he left, I just cried.
I tried so hard to contain myself and went on with my day.
Even on the ride home, I was still keeping it inside me.
I never told my mother when I got home.
A private nurse, yeah. That’s not tiring at all, one might say, and I will not contradict him.
The language barrier is crumbling enough for me to understand my patient, that’s what’s important — that I know what he needs. I’m getting by.
If The Mother of The House tells me to do one thing today and yells at me to do the exact opposite thing the next day after following yesterday’s rules, I’ll get by.
If I get asked to lift the sofa or the table once a month, I’ll get by.
If I celebrate this coming New Year sitting in the room waiting for the next hour so my patient can properly urinate in the bathroom, I’ll try my best to get by.
If I have to wait for two years before I reclaim my dignity, I’ll probably get by.
Because I have dreams and I have responsibilities and we gotta do what we gotta do. Right?
So if you ask me how I am, I’ll probably lie to you.