Dennis. The Sinhalese legend that is my housekeeper (but so much more) has been an increasingly relevant part of my life since I moved to Italy, and over the last five years I have come to truly appreciate him.
Dennis often brought gifts 'just because' (gentlemen, take note). Once I casually mentioned my love for spicy food, and the week after found this:
(He always leaves notes with his offerings.)
THIS IS FOR YOU
But aside from his gifts, he was a generous spirt and always motioned to support me emotionally. Our bond evolved when he had my back during my breakup last year:
"where is doctor?"
I could not tell a lie. "He is staying with a colleague. He left me."
-stares blankly- then:
"NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. I CAN'T BELIEVE IT. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO"
I stood in silence waiting for him to ride out the wave of disbelief. Then, his advice:
"I think he found someone better than you, someone more rich, more money. You were very foolish, you know why? Because you lived with him for this long and you didn't marry him sooner. Now you have to go out there and find someone better than him, but this time don't be foolish, you take the next man by the neck [extends arm with clenched fist] and you marry him before he leaves you."
"I just can't believe this."
"Don't his parents like you?"
"yes they do"
[angry tone] "THEN WHY CAN'T THEY FORCE HIM TO MARRY YOU?"
[i laugh] "No, I don't want to be --" [cuts me off]
[shouting] "WHY not? WHY can't they? THEY CAN FORCE HIM TO MARRY YOU. THEY HAVE TO"
"Did he at least get you a nice Christmas present?"
It was not uncommon for Dennis to keep in touch, to send me regular text messages. Every woman likes their guy checking in. His messages were often a mystery to unfold, but at least I knew he was always there.
As an employee, he was deliriously punctual, perhaps to a fault. He used to start work at 8:30, but when I asked him to start coming at 9am instead, he continued to arrive at 8:30 but would then wait outside the flat until 9. Over time he started to sneak in a few minutes before 9. Last week he walked in twelve minutes before 9 (he has a key) while I was standing butt naked in the kitchen with a boiling kettle in my hand. What could I do other than scream? He ran out.
In spite of my love for him, he has driven me absolutely nuts on certain occasions. It's happened more than once that he unloaded a dirty dishwasher. And just last week I asked him to swap out the duvet covers and pillow cases, and instead of pulling off the dirty stuff to wash, he simply layered the clean linens over the dirty ones. This was the second time he did this. (The first time I searched my house up and down for 24 hours to find where he had stashed the dirty sheets).
But then he goes and does that gift just because thing and I am made weak to my frustration:
Always a note, this time on graph paper:
I have left you
a small gift.
I hope you would
like it. See you
In anticipation of us going our separate ways, last week Dennis asked me for two letters of recommendation, one in Italian and one in English. He specifically asked they be hand written. On Monday I gave him his letters, scribbled in pen per his request. To his future employer I left out the part about the dishwasher and the duvet. I mentioned instead his honesty, trustworthiness, kindness, and punctuality. Then we hugged for perhaps the last time and said goodbye. He left, I cried.
In a few weeks I will be moving out of my apartment, the place I made a home. I'll be leaving Italy and not sure when or if I'll be back. But I will always remember this man I loved, my friend Dennis. I have a singular photo of him, in which his t-shirt brilliantly captures his imperial status: "It's better to go riding a missile".