I am telling my babysitter dirty jokes.
I eagerly tell her. On a daily basis. On the edge of my seat. With the same stupid little grin on my face. I have composed them all on my own, and I am proud of this. And of the shock I have elicited. Despite the terrible inconvenience. Despite the shame.
I also ask her dirty questions. Very dirty questions. I ask her if girls can masturbate like boys can. I ask her if she has ever contracted a sexually transmitted disease. I ask her what a wet dream is. (And, what, exactly, is a wet dream? And, have you ever smoked marijuana? What is marijuana? And, can I spit on you?) I ask her these questions because I am so curious…
My babysitter complains to my mom about my dirty mouth. And my dirty mind. And she can flawlessly recall. The worst part is that I thought there were secrets between us. But, I’m only eight years old, and secrets just don’t exist, yet.
I do worry that I am in love with my babysitter. Because, I have this dream: my babysitter’s lying down on a bed in a room somewhere. She is wearing her beaten tennis shoes. She is in a black skirt. My babysitter is not wearing a shirt. Or, a bra. My babysitter has very pink nipples. I am shocked at this. I want to say something. My babysitter’s long black hair comes undone. Then, the dream ends.
Facts about my babysitter. She was born during a thunderstorm. Classical music was playing. My babysitter was raised in Pennsylvania. I forget the name of the town. Her parents don’t let her drink coffee. Or allow her to view R-rated films. Because she’s too young. Common rules for young children to follow. My babysitter finds a cardboard box full of VHS’s on the pavement on the way home from school in some homophobic steel town. My babysitter discovers Meryl Streep in that cardboard box. My babysitter decides she wants to be an actress. Some boy in my babysitter’s class has a crush on her. But that little boy is gross. He eats a pound of spaghetti every night. His wife beaters are stained with red sauce.
More facts about my babysitter. In high school: she is bullied by a boy-girl duo who are in love. The couple shatters trophy cases in the hallway together. They are suspended together. They barely graduate together. They become drug addicts together. My babysitter feels bad for them when she tells their story.
My babysitter graduates from her high school. Her parents cannot afford to send her away to her dream school (NYU). My babysitter is forced to settle for an all-girls Catholic college not far enough away from where she grew up. My babysitter drops out of that college. She’s sick of it. She’s sick of not getting what she wants.
Now, in New York City: my babysitter’s a struggling, starving actress. She’s trying to make it big in the city. My babysitter pays for all small things—like coffee and cigarettes—with a jarful of coins. She carries the jar in her backpack. It jangles when she walks.
Late at night, going home, my babysitter’s falling asleep on the subway. That is a really dangerous thing for a young woman to do. My babysitter’s a waitress in a coffee shop.
My babysitter puts on films like Goodfellas. Films like The Shining. Like Kramer vs. Kramer. (My babysitter’s favorite film is The Deer Hunter.) My babysitter covers my eyes during dirty scenes. I hate that. I want to see naked bodies. I want to see dead bodies.
My babysitter’s younger brother works at a factory. He doesn’t own a bank account. He carries a bundle of cash wherever he goes. (His favorite movie might be The Blues Brothers, I think.)
My babysitter turns the lights off. My babysitter closes the blinds. My babysitter shows me movies in the dark. I don’t want things to ever change. My babysitter picks me up after school. We are in a yellow taxi. She tells me she’s not going to Europe this summer. She says gas prices are just too high. I tell her I always knew she would never go. In the back of my head. Deep down in my heart. I always knew she would never go.
My babysitter responds. My babysitter says I ask her too many questions about sex. She says that I talk too much about dreadful things. Like dead bodies. Like death. And I just deny everything. Deny, Deny, Deny…
I say that is simply not true. I say I am not like that. I say I have never been like that. Because whenever someone tells you something negative about yourself—something that’s true—you should always tell them they’re wrong, always.
We enter an Italian restaurant. My older brother is now a high school graduate, and we are celebrating this fact. This new fact.
My babysitter leads me to my family’s table. My babysitter drops me off for dinner. She leaves, and I never see my babysitter again.
Meryl Streep didn’t get parts until she was twenty-seven.
My babysitter is only twenty-eight.
Myles Zavelo lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY.
*Image credit: Still from ‘The Babysitter’, 2017.