my boss used to refer to me as one of her “Estellas”
she had two Estellas
there was Estella at home (her maid)
and Estella at work (her secretary)
she always smiled – in a motherly way – when she talked about “her Estellas”
as though she was honestly proud of us
and she was proud, but it had little to do with us.
i spent more time in that office
than i did at home
the space was beautiful and clean and well-designed
the way an architecture firm should probably be
there was expensive furniture everywhere
the opposite of any home i’d ever had.
she paid me to sit and look pretty
to answer the phone
to be kind to people who walked through the door
i spent my salary on clothes and shoes and makeup
i bought outfits that matched the décor.
if i didn’t have enough makeup on,
my boss would stop at my desk and say,
“are you feeling okay today? you look ill.”
i understood this to mean that
i’d have to try harder tomorrow.
i wondered if she accidentally condescended to Other Estella
the way she condescended to me.
i thought about Other Estella from time to time
usually when I was angry at my boss for some small injustice
she stared at the zit on my chin the whole time she talked to me
she ate all the good candy out of my very thoughtfully arranged candy bowl
she accused me of deleting an excel formula from one of her favorite spreadsheets
she told me people are only voting for Obama because he’s black, then lectured me for an hour on how I should vote for Hillary because women in this country have been discriminated against for too long.
i’d powder my nose, reapply lip gloss,
sit in the white silence of a pristine office.
my hands perched over the keyboard,
my computer screen an assortment of open documents from various Office programs,
none of which I intended to touch.
and i would think how lucky i was
that i didn’t have to live with The Boss
the way Other Estella had to.
and a wave of guilt would wash over me,
because I was the Estella who didn’t have to clean–
the granddaughter of the immigrant
the daughter of the janitor
the one who got to go to school and follow her interests.
in my mind,
Other Estella had interests that she was too misfortunate to follow
she had black hair
she spoke perfect Spanish
her English was fine
some days, she wore a uniform
she scrubbed behind toilets
she made phone calls back home,
to Mexico or Guatemala, while The Boss was at work,
torturing her Other Estella with menial tasks that didn’t actually need to be done.
but, the sad truth is,
i know nothing about that Other Estella
except what she meant to me
in those moments when I was grateful to be me and not her
which makes me proud of her
in the same way The Boss was proud of us.
i have always been embarrassed by the spelling of my name
Estella, with two el’s – pronounced properly –
is actually Esteya
Esteya is not my name
Estela, should have only one el
the way Other Estela actually spelled it.
“i love the name,” my boss told me, standing tall before my desk,
her mouth full of dark chocolate candies,
“did you know it means star?”
she asked, between bites.