Dispatches

Paid Relationship

Shelley Kozlowski

I was crying all the time and it wasn’t just the hormones.

You remember I mentioned about eighteen months ago I was crying all the time, and you said hormones and all? You were right, but the thing is it did not go away—ever since I stopped smoking in 2006 I have been miserable—the week after I quit, someone who helped at an important time was killed in a hit and run and I never got over it—we were not exactly close (she had been my cleaning lady on and off for about eight years—including the time of the breakup with Benno, when it felt like Lusinde was the only other adult interested and involved in my home and children—of course it was a paid relationship but I always thought of her as a workmate or colleague). She had been working with us for about a six-month stretch when she was hit—crossing the road to get to a new client that a friend of mine had recommended. She was thirty-seven, married, and had an eight-year-old son and a fourteen-year-old daughter. She was Polish—she and her cousin used to swap jobs and homes every month—one would stay in Poland and look after the two families and the other would clean houses in Berlin from seven in the morning—often until ten at night—six days a week—eight euros an hour tax-free. It worked for them—a crazy system but they seemed to enjoy it in a way—all the cleaning ladies lived together in a small flat—I think they sometimes had fun. Her other cousin won the green card lottery and went to the U.S. about six months before Lusinde died. Took her family and husband with not a word of English between them—Lusinde could speak English and some German. She had a way of saying Hannnnah with a long n that used to tear my heart out—at the time I was getting a lot of stress from the kindergarten, who said Hannah stood out as an unsociable, un-teachable, intolerable child because she was so uncoordinated that she knocked over the other children’s toys and bumped into tables and was messy eating her lunch. Lusinde only saw her once every two weeks but Hannah always trotted along behind her from room to room . . . So I was sad for a long time—and I still am— it’s like I never cared about what I lost before—grandparents have died on me and an uncle and some acquaintances—but this is the first time it hit me and now I think it is not going to go away—I am not trying to be dramatic, I just mean I am not the same and I don’t think I can go back.

“Paid Relationship” is an excerpt of an email that Gina Partridge, who lives in Berlin, sent to her lifelong friend Shelley Kozlowski, who lives in Vancouver. Their friendship has been documented in notes passed in class, long letters, postcards, Christmas cards, birth announcements, wedding invitations and, most recently, a eulogy via email.

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Shelley Kozlowski

Shelley Kozlowski is a student of writing who wishes she had been able to keep the Falcon and now knows the importance of oil changes. She lives in Vancouver.


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