Julia Lucrecia Taveras is an actress and translator living in the Free Republic of the Caribbean.
(presented in excerpted form)
The markings of an old song heard through a laundromat sound system bring me back to driving aimlessly around Somahaus, NY.
Day 1. I waltzed into Summer House with a backpacker bag and a giant suitcase thinking that $200 per day would be payment enough for what I was going to endure. Mom keeps calling it Soma-Haus. “Sí, ma, Somahaus, NY;” some house. I had also grown up in some house. Some big house that hired people to clean it and loving people to take care of its children.
“Ma,” I say as I sink into my mother.
The 62-year-old mother is giving the 23-year-old daughter a cold shower on a hot summer ninght. Mother got on a plane immediately after work; they had contacted her because something was wrong with her daughter. I am in tears, hugging Mother’s light and dark folds. We stand still for many minutes.
At that moment I remember Yulissa’s face, her squinted eyes and curly blonde hair. While working for the Dollops, I ended up adapting (imitating really–I’m a fan of imitation) Yulissa and her Serbian son C’s accent. So much that by the end of my stint as a fashionably late but ethnically ambiguous and hip babysitter, I had confused the concept of “Mama” by saying that to her so often and so…exactly like her son did it. It was weird like it was weird for someone who doesn’t speak Spanish to suddenly realize how well they can do so while intoxicated. Yulissa didn’t fire me; she simply did her job as the Dollop’s family manager. She just couldn’t believe the brat (me, that’s me–I’m the brat, not the kids) had thought she would be playing house all month.
“AAAAAAAAAAAHHHNGELA WILL NEVER BABYSIT AT SUMMER HOUSE EEEEEVER AGAIN!” screamed Yulissa over the phone after I called her, one last time, to ask her a dumb question, this time about some grill brush procedure. Yulissa was on her way to her only two weeks of vacation throughout the year so, arguably, she hated my guts.
I renounced to the void when, wearing a Zara® t-shirt that had Frida Khalo ‘screen printed’ on it I sang “American Woman” by Lenny Kravitz on karaoke with all her might. It was a notable Somahaus Friday evening where they tried to pair me with a guy who just happened to be in the military. That was around the 15th of the month, the first time she got almost tricked into driving under the influence. Yes, laymen and gentlelads, the Dollops were very happy that they had hired an Ultimate Frisbee kind of Latinx, the one that is exotic but can assimilate if need be. Day one is the first day without a supervisor at work; this is well after the day I was fed up.
On day one, I forget to put sunscreen on Little B. It is also the day B begins to look at me as if he has already told his mother Jane that he wants to get rid of me. He looks smug and satisfied, peeking at me behind his summer reading, his freckles faint at living room distance.
“I don’t have to listen to you,” his gaze calmly tells me. The paranoia has been breeding for a few days now, and I simply ignore him and continue to my assigned room. Note, this is not my bedroom, I don’t own a bedroom–backpacker bag arrival and the promise of making enough to have one month and security deposit in cash, remember? I make sure to put my phone in my pocket so B doesn’t see the handkerchief is the last thing I will ever steal. I tell this to myself later on because I got it at Summer House. I wonder if there were cameras in the driveway that might have documented what I did. They know I stole it from their bougie summer picnic bags-ket. Santa, the Mexican maid, would be totally o.k. with my crime. She says, with pity:
“They don’t care. They will throw it away anyway.” Not that time that I stole, but other times that we talked while doing chores she said things like that to me. Or like,
“The other babysitters just pick up here and there but they leave a mess. They are so messy!” and
“I’ve known Little B since he was a newborn; that’s when I arrived in this household. He listens to me.”
The following happened tight before I threw out Rita Indiana’s Papi out of pure fear of what it had done to me. I threw it out in one of the six trashcans int he Dollops’ 1.5 gillion dollar Sommer House kitchen area B.
“We should get a dog, one that doesn’t run away.” Only teenage daughter Grace’s complicit braces-smile rises at me. That same smile had been gossiping with me about summer volunteering and stud muffins just a week before, you know. What I hear is:
“We should get a [new] bitch…” Because a servant is a bitch. She’s talking about me. Grace knows I am miserable in this job.
“G, stop.” Her mother Jane says, not looking up from her phone. Maybe they’ve already discussed the topic of getting a pet and I am just…listening too much.
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