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Dorotea Mendoza Long Distance

Everything Emporium wants payment. Threatening to take us to court. The first of that day’s text messages from the Philippines came at half past seven. It was from Ligaya’s 16-year-old brother. Ligaya, a live-in domestic in New York City, carried out her morning tasks. She made breakfast, fed her twoyear old charge, and took Nickel, the blonde Cocker Spaniel, out for its morning walk before the bosses leave for their appointments. Inside the elevator, the dog wagging its tail against her calf, Ligaya replied to the text, Told you not to shop on credit. She nodded good morning to the building doorman. His wine-colored uniform was a size too small and smelled like carpet cleaner. While Ligaya bent down to pick-up the dog’s droppings, a second text came. Also P950 for college entrance exam. Ligaya tied the waste bag and threw it in a trash bin where it topped a parfait of newspapers, empty paper cups and crumpled tinfoil. She texted back, Will send all you need today. The Bank of Philippine Islands remittance center was a small three-desk office on East 53rd Street. Inside, someone was eating fried mackerel and rice with shrimp paste. No one in the cramped space minded the briny odor. Nowhere to sit, Ligaya maneuvered the stroller toward the back. She waited her turn, standing against the wall between the water cooler and a photocopier. There were 11 people ahead of Ligaya. Usually she would be the first in line. She worked and lived six short blocks away. She blamed her lateness on the new Maclaren Techno buggy, the contraptions and accessories she had to unwrap, assemble and attach—the adjustable five-point harness, mesh shopping basket, compact umbrella fold, water-resistant hood, shoulder pads, head hugger,

footmuff, seat liner, deluxe organizer, and a pannier. Her bosses had insisted that she use these things immediately, get their money’s worth. Back at the apartment, the tot and dog in their respective play pens, Ligaya texted her brother, Money in. Get from bank first thing in the morning. Pay store at once. She took money. This message from the brother came at eight in the evening. Morning in the Philippines. Ligaya’s bosses were at a dinner gala. The she was Ligaya’s 18-year old sister. She had taken money before, gambled it. Twice she doubled the money. Her contribution to the household, she had argued. Another text from the brother, 4 men banged on door, looking for her. Men threatened papa. Ma losing it. Ligaya dialed her sister’s mobile. All circuits busy. She texted her, Where r u?!? No answer. She tried her brother’s mobile. All circuits busy. She tried the home number, made sure she pressed the long distance access, country and city codes. 011 62 3... All circuits busy. She texted the brother, ??? For more than an hour Ligaya tried to telephone and could not get through. No response to her texts. Ligaya packed a shoulder bag, stuffed her passport and wallet in her purse. She placed diapers and snacks inside the stroller back handle organizer; in the pannier, dog food, bottled water and metal dish. Ligaya handed the stroller over to the doorman, along with the dog and the two-year old. “I left a note upstairs,” Ligaya explained. “Please tell Mr. and Mrs. —.” She was out the door before the doorman could say anything. She got a taxi on 3rd Avenue. Half in, she said, “Kennedy Airport, please.” The End

Dorotea Mendoza was born in the Philippines and grew up in New York City. Find her on the Web at

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