The Bohemian Experiment

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The Babysitter

Posted by beckert10 on June 20, 2009

Thailand 092(2)

Despite being the dominant species on the planet, it takes a long time before a person is able to do much of anything.  Deer and horse can run an hour after birth.  Crocodiles and sharks are left to fend for themselves immediately.  Sea turtles must run a gauntlet of predators and battle pounding surf as soon as they take their first breath.  Human offspring, however, are utterly helpless the first few years of life.  Perhaps this is the reason a child’s scream is so earsplitting.  The inability to do anything for themselves is made up for by a voice that leaves no doubt something is needed.

“Reina, use your words.  Tell me what you want.  How about Elton?”  The mention of her favorite singer soothes her a little.  I hold up the Elton John’s Greatest Hits CD jacket.  It doesn’t suit her highness and the screams resume.  She tries to say something between hysterical sobs.
“What?  Christmas music?”  At this point I’m willing to listen to anything except the sounds coming from her mouth.  Driving with one knee, I flip through the CD book until I find the on labeled ‘X-Mas.’  I slide it into the player and Bobby Helms’ crooning blares through the two Rockford Fosgate 12” subwoofers in the trunk.  I feel confident I’m the first person ever to play this song with so much bass.  The screams subside.  I pull up at a stoplight and check out the girls in the car next to me before remembering I’m bumping ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ in May.  Caring for a child is perhaps the best birth control.

There’s no parking available in front of the aquarium so I circle around the block to look for a spot.  It seems the short-term solution provided by the CD labeled, “X-Mas” is beginning to wear thin on the emperor in the car seat behind me.
“Where’s momma?”
“Momma is at home, remember?  The new baby in her tummy is making her feel sick.  Momma needs to sleep.”
“I want momma.”
“Soon, OK?  First we’re gong to see fishies.  Doesn’t that sound like fun?”  She doesn’t respond, but at least she’s not crying.

I see a spot and parallel park.   We get out of the car and I shoulder the bag that contains the rations for our two hour sojourn: diapers, snacks, bottles, sunscreen, a change of clothes, toys.  It must weigh twenty pounds.  A very merry Christmas, indeed.

I pay the woman at the counter $17.50 for one adult and one child.  As she glances down at my niece her face softens.  As much as having the kid around makes me feel sexless, I can’t help but notice the effect she has on women.  They presume she’s mine and take me for a caring, sensitive guy who is self-assured enough to stay home with his little girl.  As far as a chick magnet goes, the kid is far superior to even the cutest puppy.

“I have to go potty.”
Do I take her into the women’s room and risk being seen as a pervert or to the men’s room where there might be a pervert who gets off on the sound of a two year old making pee-pee?  I opt for the men’s room.  At least there I’m in my element.  The women’s room has always seemed to me almost mystical, a urinal-less ladies-only club where complex behavior I would never understand takes place.
I sit her on the bowl.  After a few seconds the expected tinkling sounds don’t come.  I ask what’s wrong.  I can’t quite make out her response but it seems as though she wants me to go first.  I explain I don’t have to go right now.  Upon hearing the news she lets out a little sob which usually precludes crying.  I’ll shit on the floor if it means avoiding a tantrum.  I get her off the pot and we go over to a urinal.  I’m trying to force a stream that isn’t there and it’s especially difficult with my niece approximately eye level with my wee-wee, watching.  Another guy comes in.  He seems unfazed by her and starts an impressive sounding stream.  She shifts her attention to his unit.
“Whoa,” she says, clearly impressed.  Finally I start a small stream which earns less-enthused clapping from her.  I make eye contact with the guy, as if to say, “Hah…kids,” but he gives me a look like, “You call that a piss, man?”

We’re walking through a tunnel that shows in 3-D how the oceans formed.  It’s dark and mock thunder and lightening flash and boom.  She’s scared so I take her hand and we hurry through.  As we emerge there is a room surrounded on all sides except the bottom by a wrap-around tank.  Dozens of fish, turtles, and small sharks glide effortlessly by, oblivious to the gawking Homo sapiens.  There are some benches, a good place to sit down for a snack.  I give the kid some Cheeze-its and a tippy-cup of apple juice.  Without meaning to, I devour all of the cheese crackers.
“More crackers, please.”
“All gone.  You ate them.  How about some nana?  Sandwich?”
If I’ve got my cues right, we’re definitely in pre-tantrum mode.
“I want momma!”
This could be the beginning of the end.  Usually, once she’s got mommy on her mind my ridiculous attempts at care only become more inadequate.  It would be a long ride home.
“Hey baby, how about some of these crackers?”
She sweeps in, seraphic, with a hand full of cheese crackers, giving me a smile as if to say she knows exactly what’s at stake.
“Say thank you, Reina. Wow, you saved me there.”
“Oh, don’t mention it.  I know that tantrum face when I see it.”
”Yeah, let’s not even go there.”
The toddlers have noticed each other and are sizing one another up in the manner of animals: curious yet cautious.
“She’s so cute.”
“Oh, thanks.  Deceiving though….she can go from angel to demon in a second flat.”
“Oh, don’t I know.  This one’s not as sweet as he looks either.”
She’s maybe thirty, blonde, attractive.  The kid has her hair but clearly the father’s face.  I check her hand.  There’s a ring.
“Yah, she’s a really good kid for the most part, but still a little unstable since Mom passed away…”  I let the weight of the words hang in the air.
“Oh my God…do you mind if I ask what happened?”
“Boating accident.  We were water skiing.  I was driving, she was up on the skis, doing her thing.  I looked back to check on her and she was just…gone.  Never found a trace.”
“Oh no!”
“After a week I told them to stop searching for the body.  I mean, what does it matter, right?  Once you’re gone, you’re gone.  I guess coming to the aquarium is a way to try and make peace with the water.  I want her to see its life-giving potential as well.  It’s not easy, but it’s helping, slowly, I think.”
Reina slaps the boy in the head.  I give her the thumbs-up.
“Actually, I think we’ve done enough healing for one day.  Would you care to join us for a picnic in the park?”

Outside the sun is warm and bright.  The aquarium is right next to a good-sized park.  It’s the middle of the week, so hardly anyone is here; mostly retired people and mothers with kids.  I lay down a blanket from the car and we sit while the kids run around.  She hasn’t mentioned her old man once, which is a good sign.  I explain that I support us by working as a day-trader, which is supplemented by life insurance payments.  When she asks me for stock tips I tell her those don’t come for free.  She places her hand on my arm in a cut-it-out kind of way, but lets it linger for a moment.  You can tell the kids don’t really like each other.  Hers keeps hogging all of the toys and Reina smacks him again.  When he comes over to tattle I explain that we’ve been having rage issues since…well, you know what.

It’s getting close to naptime.  I say I’d love to have her over for coffee but the house is being fumigated.  She suggests her place instead.  Before we leave I tell her I must quickly make a phone call in regards to something in the Asian markets…peripheral dividend moderators…very technical stuff.  I dial my sister and assure her that Reina is sleeping peacefully in the shade in the park, looking completely angelic, so much so that I wouldn’t feel right waking her.  With the promise to get some nice photos of the cherub at rest I hang up and put on my game face.

During the ride the kid falls asleep.  Now, the key is to keep her that way, so she has no memory of this detour.  In the driveway of the two story ranch with stonework exterior I creep around like a burglar trying not to wake the beast.  I lift her up out of the seat and her head flops around like she might wake, but doesn’t.  A couple of Mexican guys are working in the yard, obviously taking an interest in the unfamiliar guests.  I imagine one sneaking out back on his cell phone and dialing the Mr. up at work.
“Señor, you’d better come home quick.  There’s a joven here with a niña in a black car, señor, playing Feliz Navidad… sí, es muy extraño.”

Inside, the place is spotless.  It’s always easy to tell the work of a maid because they do things like clean behind the TV, inside burners and the microwave, vacuum the curtains, and they use something with a citrus smell that all maids seem to possess in bulk.  Family photographs dominate the living room.  They vacantly smile and stare out, seeming to confirm to any doubters that this is indeed a happy family.  I can see he has a strong chin, low cheek bones, intense green eyes-not a bad looking guy.  There’s a photo of him in his fraternity days, grinning with youthful smugness, a face that cold not possibly have sensed the delusion of upwardly mobile aspirations that would one day leave him estranged from the very life and family he’d hope to build, that being a parent and husband would be little more than a hobby he practiced in his free time.  I almost feel sorry for him.

I lay the kid down on a bed in the extra room.  Hers is down for the count too.  Feeling I need to do something to get things back on track, I ask her if she smokes dope.  She hasn’t in years.  I assure her of the high-quality, low-paranoia strain I have in the car.  She seems indecisive.  I pull it out and let her have a look.
It’s loneliness that makes her willing to take a chance with a stranger.
I pack the one-hitter and we step out on the patio.  I take my drags and exhale the bluish smoke up into the midday sun.
“Señor, they’re smoking hierba…sí…you’d better come home muy rápido.”
I pack and pass it to her.  She holds it awkwardly, like a young girl trying to look capable in from of a cool, older guy.  Peer pressure is a bitch.
The deviance makes her feel young, like she’s living her own life again.
We go back in the house and she starts the coffee.  I don’t want any but I want her to feel like we’re still just having coffee.  As she’s rinsing some things in the sink I come up behind her, put my hands on her waist.  This is the test.  If she freaks out and sends me home, I’ve lost nothing.  It’s not like she can tell her husband about it.
“Señor, come muy, muy rápido…”
She tenses for a moment but does nothing.  She’s shaking a little.  I pull her hair to the side and kiss the back of her neck, slowly slide one hand over her breasts.  Her eyes flutter shut.  I spin her around, kiss her on the mouth.  We stumble over to the couch, not letting go of each other.  I remove her top to reveal tits just barely beginning to sag.  As she begins to go down on me I step on a toy truck and almost lose my balance.  Her soft lips pass over me.  I look at her husband in the photo, thinking that in some way, he probably deserves this.  I don’t feel bad for him anymore.
“Sí, senor, doggystyle, over the couch…you fucking cabrón.”


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