The Indigo Girl | Sojourners

The Indigo Girl

Between Haiti and the streets of Brooklyn

The certain shade of blue of a particular toilet bowl cleaner is a blue I’d like to wear. Yet I never find it anywhere, not in fabric or eye shadow, in paint or paper. Not in people’s eyes. Not in the sky. Only in the toilet, every Saturday morning when it’s my turn to scrub it. I’m 16 years old and it’s hard for me to let anyone scrub our toilet because of it. My brother André claims that people like me, people who scrub toilets even though someone else is willing to do it, have what he calls Maid Mentality. If you don’t have to do something like that, if someone - like him for example - is happy to step in once in a while, why on earth would you insist on doing it yourself? He stands in the bathroom doorway as he tells once again the story of a little girl who lives next door to the two-bedroom apartment we share with our parents in Brooklyn. We don’t know the little girl’s name but my mother jokes that she is André’s girlfriend because he stops to chat with her whenever he sees her. It is from André that we learn that the little girl is 12, which we wouldn’t have guessed because she’s tall and chubby and has breasts and a baritone lower than someone three times her age. My brother’s fascination with the details of this girl’s life is endless. He does not understand, for example, why she can be a U.S.-born child living in mid-1980s Brooklyn and still work like a peasant in the Haitian countryside. As I scrub and scrub our toilet, he recounts his latest encounter with the girl. Heading out to the corner store one early Saturday morning, he saw her carrying a heavy bag of laundry to the corner Laundromat, on her head. "I ask her where she’s going with that and she says ‘Washing’ like she’s going to the stream to beat the clothes down with rocks or something." My brother also doesn’t understand why in spite of the little girl’s obvious load of responsibilities, she seems so cheerful during their conversations.

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Sojourners Magazine December 2004
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