I didn’t love babysitting. I dreaded it each time Mrs. H. called or Mrs. B, especially Mrs. B. Her kids were brats. I was a kid myself, I wanted to be a brat. I needed the money.
There were sunflower seeds and watermelon sticks to buy at Circle K on a hot middle-of-the-summer day. And earrings, I loved my little turquoise posts. I collected glass figurines that I bought from a glass shop in Old Town. Carmen and I took the city bus there, age 13, and shopped all day long like tourists on a vacation. We didn’t have anything else to do.
I hated being alone at night in those big houses after the kids went to sleep. The B.’s house had too much glass. I could see my reflection against the dark night. Skinny legs, brown, brown skin from being outside all the time. I was obsessed with all things scary – murders and sharks and airplane crashes and ghosts – yet I was scared to death. Still am. Still hate being in a big house by myself.
I loved nothing about babysitting, not the way Mrs. B. would tell me to feed Armin his peanut-butter-and-honey sandwich by pretending each bite was a plane. BRRRRRRR comes the plane in for a landing in your mouth. Not the way I felt compelled to look in bathroom drawers, looking for condoms or girly magazines, any evidence sex went on in that house. Not the way it made me jump when the phone rang or how the kids always fell asleep so soundly and so fast. Not even the money. Twenty-five cents an hour in some cases. But what else could I do?