Compared to my other posts, this is very mature. Part of my journey to wholeness and self-love has involved documenting events of my past. The short stories are a form of art work to me. They feel like art, as they are scribed through strong emotion and creative flow. However, the words are no longer a part of me. The little girl’s experiences are forever lost on the pages I typed.
This is not meant to be sad, but shared as a possible peer into another part of me—the melancholic artist, perhaps. Or a mature woman sharing her truth, so others know they are not alone. I have many pages of similar events, but shall not post on this blog because of the maturity-level. Someday the missing chapters, I suppose, may appear in book form as a collection of many of the thoughts in this blog.
The Sound of Nothing
My new sitter was Jessica Jensen. I called her Jess.
She was much the complete opposite of the obtuse and sedentary babysitter Mrs. Stockman. Jess was a long-limbed, freckled-faced high school freshman with thick reddish-blond hair and a ruddy face infested with whiteheads.
Initially, I wanted to make Jess my best friend, but Jess had different plans. She wasn’t mean or anything. She was actually quite tolerant. However, she was short of being my friend. During our time together, Jess feigned interest in me, in the form of an over curious stare or raised eyebrow, but within a few minutes she was focused on something else, like her fingernails or the person on the other end of the telephone. Nothing I said or did truly seemed to impress Jess. She thought I was smart and funny, and told me so. But her real interest was in her boyfriends and teenage mischief, all of which I was much too young to understand.
Jess was a roamer, and in a way I was her little naïve sidekick. I’m sure it crossed Jess’s mind several times to leave me behind somewhere, but to her credit she always kept me in close proximity. She didn’t know what she was doing most of the time. She was just some teenager from a broken, druggie home, who didn’t know better, a girl who had far too much freedom. We attended movies, where Jess covered my eyes so I wouldn’t see the full screen of naked breasts, and then afterward we’d hitchhike about town, bouncing from one kid’s house to another. Jess was in search of something, maybe an escape or a rush, something to make her forget about where she’d come from and what she’d seen.
I stood by Jess, no matter where she took me, because, like her, I had no choice. Choices are for bigger kids, once they realize they are worth something, once they know their value, once they can look at themselves and smile, liking what they see. Jess and I, we just hadn’t gotten there yet.
I followed Jess into a world that seemed a distant land from the home I once knew with my stepfather Drake. It was a place of no good and ugliness, a world with molding mattresses stretched out under the overgrowth of a beat up magnolia tree, where the backyard fence was bent and broken in all different places, where the house with the peeling yellow paint and exposed boards stank even from the outside, maybe even from the next house over—a raw smell, a dangerous smell that I imagine dogs would whimper and slink away from.
And there, I’d find her oldest brother, or better yet, he’d find me—a long-haired, high school dropout named Rick: a teenager roughened by an absent father and a strung out mother, scraped up all over on the inside like a bristle brush to stainless steel. An aimless boy who roamed a place where beer bottles lined the back porch and stray wild cats, some pregnant, some close to death, slithered in and out of open basement spaces like hairy serpents.
Inside Jess’ house were threadbare couches, half-busted televisions and food, but not the type of food anyone would want to eat, just leftover spoiled junk, crushed potato chips and cookie remnants, and bowls of sugary cereals molding in spoiled milk. It was the type of house that needed to be quarantined, sealed off with yellow tape and bulldozed down, or burnt into smoldering ash. No good was in the house. No good at all.
Rick liked to play doctor, a confusing game wherein he touched me in places a little girl should never be touched. And Jess, he’d do the same to her, that’s what I suspected, though I never said so. I just kept my mouth shut, let him do what he needed, and left, went out and found Jess, like nothing had happened. He never laid himself on me, nothing as crude as that, and he was just a child himself. He didn’t know any better; just like Jess, he didn’t know any better.
I didn’t feel nothing. No pleasure, no guilt, no disgust, felt like I would after playing a game of Twister or the Game of Life. That’s what it was, just another game of life.
One time, in the early spring, I clutched Jess’ hand in her backyard while watching the slimy-brown juices of chewing tobacco seep out the side of Rick’s cocked mouth. “Get the hell out of here!” Rick yelled, fixing his cold-hazel eyes on scowling Jess.
Jess stood her ground.
“Didn’t you hear me?” Rick continued, kicking up pebbles with his muddy old boots and letting loose a wall of dust. “Get the hell out of here!”
“You are an idiot,” Jess said. “It’s my backyard, too.”
Jess clenched her teeth. I stepped back and started counting the multitudes of dandelions. At the same time, Rick removed a chipped brick from an outdoor wall.
Jess screamed, “You’re going to get arrested!”
“Mind your own business,” Rick said with a heated gaze, adding more spit to the puddle in the dirt. “Just get out of my sight. Go back to humping your fat loser of a boyfriend!” With that said, he pulled out a dented tin box which had been stuffed in the space behind where the old brick had been. He then opened the box and pulled out a pile of compressed twenties. He fanned out the money, stopping to toss a smirk Jess’s way, and then shoved the box and brick back in place.
Jess squeezed my hand, and shouted again, “If Mother finds out, she’ll kick you out on your ass again!”
Answering back with a stiff middle finger, Rick headed out the busted back gate. “Whore!” he hollered from over the broken fence. “Stinking Whore!”
Jess turned round to find me. I gazed up at her and I thought for a moment she might grab some money for herself. Images of Budd’s ice cream cones and bean burritos danced in my head. But Jess didn’t take any money. She didn’t even go near the brick. Instead she led me inside her house to the grime-covered kitchen.
“Come on,” Jess said. “Let’s get out of here.” She grabbed a hotdog off of a plate and took a bite, then proceeded to chew with her mouth open. My mother taught me to always close my mouth while eating. I watched as Jess’ food slid about, until the hotdog moved to the side of her blushing cheek. “Now, what did you see? You didn’t see anything did you?” She swallowed and took another mouthful. A frantic look crossed her face. She paused between her words to chew. “Because… if you saw… or heard… anything… anything at all… it’s not… true.”
“I didn’t see anything,” I said, wide-eyed and innocent. I started counting with my fingers. I figured there was at least a few hundred dollars in the box.
Jess swallowed again. “Good. Good. Let’s go then. Come on.”
As Jess walked a few strides ahead of me, I could hear her disjointed whispers. A block away, she stopped and turned to me. “Never mind,” she said. “You’re too young to understand. It’s too late, just too late to do anything now.”
Further up the sidewalk, Jess stopped dead in her tracks. Her lacy halter flapped up in the wind. I reached over and attempted to pull her top down. She didn’t notice, and the wind blew the halter right back up again. Her sheer pink bra was showing. I studied the thin material. Jess faced sideways and cupped her hand to her ear. “Listen. Do you hear a police car? Do you hear that?”
I gazed into the crystal-blue of her wild eyes and considered what Jess had said. I didn’t hear anything. We waited without moving, stood still—didn’t move an inch, just like those pill bugs do when they’re playing dead. For a few seconds I believed Jess might well be a bionic babysitter endowed with supernatural hearing. I waited patiently for the sound of the police siren or the sight of a patrol car. I waited and waited, but in the end there was nothing.
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