Published in Sycamore Review.

Photo EFE.

It was confusing. I didn’t want to do the wrong thing, but I didn’t know what the right thing was. My instincts railed against a system that would have me call a gray-haired grandmother my “muchacha,” but what did I know? The etymology of “maid” in English is just as demeaning. Eventually I deferred to those who had experience with such things. Older imported teachers. Salvadorans. Even Olivia tried to convince me.

“Mira. Hay tanto polvo,” she said slowly to me. When I didn’t understand, she ran her finger across my kitchen windowsill and a black smudge came away on her skin. Then she pointed through the window at Volcán San Salvador. “Polvo. Por el volcán. Hay tanto polvo.”


By October, Olivia was dead.