I'm the nanny.
I'm not some sawed-off Jap bitch, trailing cherry blossoms,
smiling like she just heard the Holy Haiku, even as she
slips your pearls into her pocket.
I'm an American girl from Sioux City,
with a crew of younger sibs I practically raised myself.
Our mom was a goth who got old,
sitting on a tombstone on weekday afternoons,
reciting Baudelaire from memory
while I was left home to field calls from the school
and to fix French toast for a screaming pack of snotty-nosed midgets.
I loved them.
I do, still.
My employer calls herself Hecate, what kind of name is that?
You wouldn't think it to look at her,
with her no-nonsense, wash-and-run short 'do
and the Blackberry and the Bluetooth
or whatever all that crap is,
but the woman could get knocked up just by standing in the moonlight.
Don't think she doesn't let me know it.
Don't think she doesn't hammer me over the head
with her fecundity.
Look, you, I play a mean game of Candyland.
You haven't seen me in action--
I can be so sweet, you'd swear my veins were full of Splenda.
I've got those good birthing hips,
and can lug two brats around and boss the rest
without missing a beat.
In the evening,
when she turns back into a fucking pumpkin,
it's "Thank you, Janet," with a certain unmistakable finality,
like I'd just finished bagging her fucking Yoplait and arugula,
not taken care of her children all day.
Swing that sledge.
Drive that spike.
Is this any life for a smart, sensitive girl like me?
Weekends, she's got her garden,
like having a functioning uterus makes her The Ultimate Earth Mother.
Look at the sun, how it revolves around her head,
her personal golden halo.
"Are you all right, Janet?" she asks, standing in the open bathroom door--
her door, her bathroom, her porcelain and Kohler faucets--
as I puke my guts out.
No one holds my hair;
nobody runs for the Kaopectate.
The kids stand behind her and stare, as if they'd never seen me before.
In my room, I pray to whatever benevolent or malignant gods there may be.
Hear me, I say,
but they don't.
Monday comes, and Hecate gets in her MKZ, swinging her heeled foot in last,
as if she were Carmen, expiring on stage at the Met.
A whole weekend!
The kids, the friends, her husband Dave with his golf shirts,
all of them expecting, needing, smiling as they shell her.
"Sweet pea," she whispers to Madison, the youngest,
"You want to be just like Mommy when you grow up,
That afternoon, I park them in front of cartoons,
which I am never supposed to do.
I am supposed to play them Bach,
and try to teach the six year old Italian.
Fuck this, I think to myself, fuck this, fuck this!
Emmy, always the little caretaker, stands three feet away from me,
looking uncertain, one shoe untied, and very quietly wonders,
"Are you having a crisis, Miss Jan?"
I laugh. She is so kind and so doomed.
That night, I call my mother for the first time in weeks.
"Stop crying," she croons in her oddly endearing smoker's voice.
"Baby, stop crying."
By July, I am back in Sioux City, and it is sweltering.
I have an upstairs flat,
and time on my hands.
Hecate and Dave promised to give me good references.
I hugged the children, kissed them,
but I couldn't speak until I was miles from them, almost to the airport.
Mom and I order mocha lattes and take them to the viaduct
where the commuter trains pass over our heads.
We sit by the crap-choked water and pretend we are visiting Lourdes,
though whether as nurses or cripples, who knows?
Emmy made me a construction paper angel the day before I left.
She had it in both hands, and presented it so solemnly, it was hard to bear.
"Ciao," she said.
"Ciao, baby," I managed.
I am the nanny, or was.
I still have that angel,
and I have my mother, whom I have forgiven.
I ask her one afternoon, as the trains go by,
"What would you like, if you could choose? What would make you happy?"
"Why, honey, I'd like to meet Baudelaire, In Paris.
We'd have an affair, and he would write me my own gorgeous, dark poems.
What about you, baby? Where would you go? What would satisfy your heart?
Can you tell me?"
She has never spoken so tenderly to me before.
My throat is dry, as if I had not spoken for years.
"Maybe Florence," I tell her,
"In the Spring."
Then we are quiet,
and the last train heads west instead of east,
straight into the halo of the sun.
linked to Dverse Open Link #79