Alma was a young attractive house maid, employed by my friend Lily, a Filipino widow in her 40s. I visited Lily at her luxurious pad on East 47th St.
LILY – Hi, long time no see. How are you?
ME – I’m okay, still working in Time Square. Good pay as a systems analyst but I hate it.
LILY – I don’t blame you. Tell me about it later. (She calls Alma who appears instantly from the kitchen.) I will be out for just 30 minutes. Alma, please take care of our guest, Bernie.
ALMA – (As soon as Lily was gone.) I can’t stand it anymore. She treats me like a dog. I’m her personal slave. I wish I stayed back home, but I have to support my family. I am a single mother.
ME – Go find another job. This is New York. There are many jobs.
ALMA = (She begins to sob.) She’s got my passport. Besides, I am scared, and she knows it. I go out of the house only to buy groceries. Please help me.
My instinct told me to back out. If I helped her, I would be betraying a friend. But I was moved by her predicament.
ME – I don’t know how to help you. If you escape, she simply tells Immigration.
Alma blurted out her story in a micro-second, before Lily got back. Her mother was a maid for Lily’s parents for 40 years. The husband of Lily got Alma’s mother pregnant and thus Alma was born. She was a child maid for 18 years until Lily moved to New York when her husband died. She dragged Alma along as her adopted daughter, so she could have a maid for a tenth of the salary of a New York cleaning lady.
A year passed by, and I was shocked to see Alma at a Times Square bank. She was in full make-up, wearing a dazzling white fox fur, with a cute little blonde in a baby carriage in tow.
ME – Wow. What happened to you? Let me guess. This is your daughter.
ALMA – You’re good. Yes. Isn’t she pretty? Lily had a suitor, Sean, a handsome Irish fellow, an engineer.
ME – Let me guess. You stole him from Lily.
ALMA – Will you shut up and listen.
ME – My, you’ve learned to be a feisty New Yorker, no longer the meek maid. Emancipated from slavery. (We both laughed.)
ALMA – I was young and pretty, and he could not stand Lily treating me like a slave. One day, Lily was out. Sean came. She would be back in an hour. I knew Sean had an eye for me.
ME – You flirted with him.
ALMA – In a subtle Filipino way, yes. And he got me pregnant in less than hour. Sweet vengeance against my slave master.
ME – Heaven forbid. You must be good.
ALMA – Pinay instinct and Irish libido.
ME – If you got him just for revenge or sex, it won’t work.
ALMA – But it has worked. We have learned to love each other. I have forgiven Lily. So what if I got pregnant instantly. He was easy to love because he was so kind. I was easy to love because I pampered him. I gave what no Irish woman could give – deep passionate Pinay love. (We laughed aloud, and the baby woke up and cried.)
ME – Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s what Pinays always say. But true, Alma, there are no rules in love except love itself. You find love in strange places, even in jungles like New York. You are lucky.
It was odd. Alma broke all the rules, yet her marriage came out better than some marriages I knew where they had ‘trial periods’ of many years. In a Puerto Galera beach back home, I met a rogue South African mercenary escaping justice, finding true love with a Pinay prostitute. Both repented their old ways.
Years passed. At the same bank, I had a second mis-encounter. Lily was looking haggard and old.
LILY – Hey, I know you. Did you teach Alma how to get away from me?
ME – (Hiding a small lie.) Of course not. That was your own doing.
LILY – (Buckling down.) Yes, I know. I had a nervous breakdown, almost lost my job. But I recovered. It was a lesson in humility.
ME – So, how did you manage?
LILY – I prayed every day and he rescued me. I met this Irish guy.
ME – Another one.
LILY – Sean’s brother.
ME – Ooops.
LILY – I have a happy marriage. Two lovely kids.
ME – The Lord gave you a storm so you could seek his shelter, turned you to a loving wife from a vicious slave master.
LILY – I will say it again. A lesson in humility. Do you know Alma is richer than I now. I don’t care. We see each other often. We’re good friends.
ME – There are no rules in love except love itself.
That echoed in my mind for many years. Thanks to Alma.
AUTHOR’S BOOK NO. 1 – Wings and Wanderlust – Discovering your Inner Self. At age 26, the author hitchhiked 25,000 kilometers in Europe and North Africa for three straight years. In this book of his wild adventures, he learned deep insights that changed him totally, which he wants to share with readers. It also a guidebook on how to plan your own adventure.