Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I Do This I Do That - Chapter 2

II. A Hard Time

Scores of blank faces from every race and demographic proportion waddled around the dwindling stoops on my block. It's a melting pot of faded denim and burkas. Javiers whistle against dirty brick buildings, baggy pants walk slowly, and dark sandy faces argue between gorging puffs on cigarettes. 

People are numb in this city. Waving elicits the same null response as running through the street screaming. I remember there was a homeless woman downtown who used to chase people if they looked at her. Right down Michigan Avenue, she barreled through crowds, screaming, "Stop looking at me!" I was alarmed the first time I saw it, but after awhile she was just noise, like a horn honking.

There's such a strong sense of singularity in a neighbor-less neighborhood. The nature of temporary tenants turns neighbors into ghosts, and desensitizes me from the strange people and strange happenings around me. I could lay down on the sidewalk and people would just go around me.

I walked fast through the sandy wind, quick between the loitering gutter bums and strollers pushed by long-nailed gum chewers. The train came and I ran onto it, just before the doors closed. It was crowded and I stayed in the corner by the door, bracing myself for the abrupt starts and stops.

A group of undergrads, presumably freshman, sat in the seats nearest to me. They wore multicolored back-of-the-head-hats atop of wind gusted, air dryed hair. In skinny jeans, and cropped jackets, each had on a different colored scarf. A few girls wore big dark sunglasses. They talk loudly over the EL rattles, ignorant to the eavesdropping riders.

"I know! And like, I heard she got kicked out of Barcelona for being too drunk. I hate her. And did you see what she wrote on Alex's facebook wall?"

"Oh my gosh. I don't know why anyone even talks to her. She is one of the most annoying girls I've ever met," said scarf girl #2.

Everyone laughed.

Another girl interjected, bringing up music venues, studying abroad sophomore year, and zingers of heavy women on the passing platform.

A little boy in a faded red Spider-Man shirt sat across from the girls. He looked them all over, curiously, and swung his feet below the seat.

His mom was pale and tired looking. Her hair was in a greasy loose bun, and she looked at her watch anxiously. The name tag on her faded blue blouse read,"Irving". I thought about how awful it would be to wear a name tag. I'm sure the unacquainted strangers addressing her daily by name is habitually annoying for her. What an intrusive thing for me and every one else to just steal that intimate knowledge with a glance at her shirt. Maybe it was a family name. Maybe her parents chose it because it is distinct. She could never avoid being Irving, and I resolved in that moment I would rather do anything than wear a name tag.

The boy taps his finger on the window glass.

"You sit still!" she snaps.

He settled into his chair and puts his hands on his lap. A few minutes later, he taps his finger on the glass once again.

"Godammit! What did I say?"

She looked fried and heavy. The boy crossed his arms and looked down, swinging his dirty shoes slower.

The girls stood up as we neared the next stop.

They talked over each other and laugh outrageously while they exited, leaving the noisy train voiceless.

I could feel the taco grumble in my stomach while the train jolted around the track corners. My head throbbed erratically from hints of lingering intoxication.

My phone vibrated in my pocket. It's a text from Mrs. Lesnik, "Hey Laur. Had to go to work. The girls are downstairs playing. Please walk Bella immediately. David will be home at 5."

There were 9 un-played voice mails too, that I could not bear to hear. For weeks I'd been avoiding my family, and my mom stalked me with relentless inquisitiveness. The imaginary internship I'd created was keeping me busy full time, as far as she knew, but it was only a matter of time before the bullshit buried me.

I exited into a sea of walkers, who dispersed around me down the stairs into various directions in haste. The Lesnik's block is shaded by great canopying trees. It hums with mild traffic and city birds. I walked up the modern stoop and enter the house, locking the door and turning off the alarm behind me.

"Hi girls!" I yelled into the hall.

I heard them laughing and playing downstairs. The wooded floors were perfectly clean and swept, and the living room sparkled with glass tables and artistic fixtures on the freshly painted creme walls. Bella's yips echoed from the back foyer.

The Lesnik's had the little Yorkie dressed in a yellow polka dotted shirt and a brimmed hat. She looked ridiculous, and I walked her around the block feeling foolish. Her clean cotton shirt was probably just as expensive as mine. I refused to pick up her shit from the grass, regardless of how many rude looks I get. It is already enough that the bitch is better dressed than me.

Her crates were color coordinated and organized into seasonal outfits, with matching collars and bandannas. She is my 2 pound boss, and so are the five-year-old brats in the basement.

After the walk, Bella panted and trotted to her water dish. Downstairs the girls had built an elaborate fort with blankets and sheets. They wore pink tutus and crowns on their heads.

"Laaaura!" screamed Madison, running towards me and latching onto my leg like a leech. Morgan follows, latching onto the other and digging her nails into my oiled skin.

"My mom said your gonna get fired if you're late again!" said Madison, with a big smile on her face.

"Oh reeeeeeally," I answer. I swoop down and pick her up.

"She said we get ice cream today, too!" says Morgan, jumping up and down.

"She's the boss," I say.

Letting the girls do whatever they wanted was the only way to ensure I wouldn't be fired. They were completely out of control, but if they wanted pickle juice and sugar cubes for dinner, so was it. As long as the girls were relatively safe and happy, I'd keep my job. Both Mr. and Mrs. Lesnik were slaves to work and play, and Madison and Morgan were just another commodity to their success. Just like Bella. The girls went to a top private school, and their kiddie designer clothes and rooms of toys were accumulated bribes for good behavior.

I had just recently become their 3 day a week nanny, but the Lesnik's had others employed for their nightly festivities and sporadic weeks at spas or abroad.

We walked to the beach after getting ice cream. The girls wore tutus still, held wands in their hands and wore tall princess tiaras on their heads. The sun melted streaks of chocolate ice cream down Morgan's hand. Mady had already finished her cone, and her mouth was covered in chocolate and waffle crumbs.

The beach was relatively quiet, and tanners and readers sporadically covered the sand. A tall man in a plaid shirt threw a Frisbee to his lean black lab. He waved, and I figured that he was from a small town where people are friendly. The girls ran through a beach volleyball game towards the water. The waves were low and constant, and they set their wands in the sand and walked into the shallow lake.

"Laura! Come in with us!" Mady yelled towards me.

I left my shoes in the sand and met them in the cool water.

Just a few days before this, Mrs. Lesnik told me I was the girl's favorite babysitter. "Mady and Morgan just love you, Laur. Whenever I ask who they want to sit for them they always say you. I wonder why that is," she'd said.

This was why. I let them do anything (truly anything) they wanted, as long as I was fairly positive they couldn't be hurt.

The two of them splashed me with full might when I waded towards them. Mady dove into the water in her tutu, and Morgan ran into me, jumping up and sending us over into the waves. The water was cold, and I walked out and sat on the sand, watching them splash and screech wildly.

"Be careful!" I yelled.

They wore themselves out and we walked back to their house, shoes squeaking and hair dripping wet. I was wearing white shorts, and my pink underwear surely glowed through the wet cotton fabric. I walked in front of them and Mady chanted, "I'm walking behind your pink behind! I'm walking behind your pink behind!" We laughed and it felt like happiness.

The sun warmed us and the girls were tired and teasing each other by the time we returned. I put their clothes in the laundry and changed mine. I'd kept an extra pair of shorts and a t-shirt there for days like this.

It rained the week before and the girls chose to walk Bella through mud puddles. A month earlier I made chocolate pudding, Madison's request, and the girls flicked spoonfuls of it all over my grey shirt. But the next day I had a $200 bonus. The shirt was only $10.

Throwing food on me was sort of like their inside joke, but I always made a point to leave the ruined garments in plain sight before my paycheck came.

"Oh those silly girls," Mrs. Lesnik would say, laughing about my cheese-whizzed tank top, or mud covered sweatshirt. I laughed too, when they reimbursed me in tenfold.

The girls declined my suggestion to watch The Lion King, and opted for an animate horror. They wore clean tutus and laid on the floor in the basement with popcorn, relatively calm and dozing. I napped on the couch upstairs, in celebration of their silence.

I awoke to Bella yelping outrageously. The front door unlocked and Mr. Lesnik walked in, turning off the beeping alarm. He watched me while he walked into the kitchen. I sat up lazily.

"Hey," he said.

He always looked slightly drunk to me. His eyes were a bit squinted and lazy, and he had an astutely audacious air about him that usually only emerges from muddled drunk confidence. He was wearing biking shorts and a t-shirt, and looked as though he has just begun working out again after a ten year lull. The skin of his belly was pressed against his dry fit shirt. His brows raised above his squinting eyes and he smiled coolly with closed lips. Perhaps he was sober, but his expression was permanently intoxicated, and he looked at me like I was a secret that only he understood.

"So how were they today?" He unpacked the things from his bag and placed them carefully on the kitchen counter.
"Oh, angelic," I said. I knew he did not pick up on my sarcasm.
"They didn't give you a... hard time?" He emphasized hard, oddly.
"Oh no. They're hilarious. We had a really good time ."
"That's terrific. You know Laura, they really do love you," he looked up and smiled, as though he's rehearsed the conversation and practiced his glances for the moment.
"Well they're great girls. I love them too," I say. I said this, but really I know they just love the ice cream and food fights, and really I just need the money. I liked spending time with them. But frankly, I could show up drunk, eat ice cream for lunch, and play mindless kid games. I'd hardly call it 'love'. I believe many people misconstrue 'love' for monetary exchanges. I'm not saying I have a better understanding of what love is, but I'm sure the Lesnik's don't either. They love jeans and vacations just as much as they love each other.  Which is fine, I guess.

He folded a pair of jeans carefully and placed them on the counter.
"Eight-hundred dollar pair of jeans, and I shove them in my backpack," he says, shaking his head. It was an expression of pretentiousness, rather than frustration.

I spat out a noise, trying to laugh, "hahaheahea."

"You want you a beer?" he opened the fridge and gestured one towards me.
"Sure," I said, unsure.
His astute expression was fixed on me while I sipped the beer. I darted my eyes away from his gaze. I scanned the label on the beer. I studied the pattern of the tiled floor. I chugged the rest of the beer.
"If it's okay with you, I think I'll go," I said.
"Of course. If you'd like, Liz won't be here for an hour. I could drive you home then. That way you won't have to take the train."
"It's fine. I'm supposed to meet my friend. She's in this neighborhood so I can walk. But thanks though Mr. Lesnik," I said, setting my bottle on the counter.
"Call me Dave," he said, "Oh and here." He pulled out a wad of twenties from his wallet and touched my palm when he handed them to me.
"Always good to see you," he said.

1 comment:

  1. The timing of this is perfect as the warm spring weather is upon us! Can't wait for the upcoming chapters.