Not a member? Sign up now
True Stories: Things I Learned From My Pregnant Babysitter
Life lessons from a wayward teenager.
by Ester Bloom
Lucinda, my pretty teenage babysitter, was crying again, and she kept talking about sin. She did not have to tell me she was pregnant for me to know something was up — I was a canny ten-year-old. Her boyfriend, Rob, was a DC cop; her True Love had died in a gruesome motorcycle accident. There was, it seemed to me, an unfair amount of gore in Lucinda's life, and I felt for her the same way I felt for neglected stuffed animals and silverware unevenly distributed in the drawer.
No matter what doubts she may have had about Rob, she believed she only had one choice. My parents smiled a lot and said supportive things. When she was not there they put their heads in their hands.
Lucinda continued to cry off and on, especially the day that Rob got mad, and set the wedding invitations on fire. She cried so much that even my little brother Judah tried to be nice to her.
Finally, the wedding day came. I had never been inside a Catholic church before. A crucifix in the air, taller than I was, thrust forward a mournful, surprisingly muscular Jesus; below it, an elderly priest approached the lectern. The priest smiled at us, opened his mouth, and paused. A great invisible hand pushed him backwards, and he disappeared with a muffled thump.
Swarthmore's campus was misty in the September moonlight as a group of us swayed towards one of the school's two frat houses, unsteady with cheap liquor. Being drunk in public still felt novel: this was only my second or third weekend at college, and I was among strangers from a mint-julep party hosted by an actual Southerner. I'd lost count of how many plastic cups I grimaced through in what I could already tell was a typical dorm room — Ishmael and Ender's Game on the bookshelf, Klimt's "Kiss" pressed against the white cinderblock wall. Someone suggested that we move on to DU. Alcohol had made me amenable to anything, even frat houses.
The smell of summer, like the light from the lampposts along the path, made the whole green world benign. We passed the school's cafeteria; to our right, a steep hill sloped up to the base of a gothic gray bell tower.
"You know," I said, "I've never been carried."
As though they had been waiting for this moment, warm, solid arms circled me, and my feet left the ground. I was too surprised to protest that I was too heavy, and anyway, with every step, someone was proving me wrong.
"Hi there," I said, when the boy put me down.
"Hi," he replied in a low, textured voice. "I'm Chris."
I was the one who was breathless. I had never even spoken to a Chris before.
We kissed for a while on the stone steps of the bell-tower. My friends Anthony and Carrie stumbled over giggling and fell down beside us, which seemed to emphasize the rightness of what Chris and I were doing. Anthony, tangled up with Carrie, suggested we go to his room, where he had two beds and no roommate.
"I'll be right back," Chris promised not long after we arrived, leaving me in one of the beds. "I just need to tell my friend from Bryn Mawr what's going on. She came here to visit me."
Even then, I knew what one did with a friend from Bryn Mawr. I lay on my back looking up the ceiling, which had the texture of cottage cheese, and felt honored to have taken precedence over the other girl. After seventeen years of chastity, of Jewish Day School, Jewish camp, boys named Ari and Avi and Josh who looked hungrily at my breasts but had no clear plan for how to approach them, it was, I felt, finally my turn.
At the end of the last day of fourth grade, my best friend Zach whispered, "I like you." I ran away. When we returned for fifth grade, we acted like it had never happened. One afternoon, while we were upside down on the monkey bars, he said, "Do you want to go out with me?"
"The half-day before Thanksgiving. We can go to Hardee's."
When the bell rang, we took our backpacks and walked to a strip mall close by. After lunch at Hardee's, he bought me a pink dollar-store bubble necklace shaped like a teddy bear.
Back at his house, we decided to play hide and seek. Quickly enough, we found each other beneath the laundry chute in his basement. He was pale for an Israeli, with brown curly hair, woodsy green eyes, and a nose that turned up at the end.
"You know that movie My Girl?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said. Of course. Everyone had seen My Girl.
"You know that scene? What they do under the tree?"
"Yeah," he said. Of course. Everyone had seen My Girl...
"Wanna do that?"
"Yeah," he said. And he kissed me.
Once home, I ran downstairs to tell Lucinda, who was folding laundry and watching soap operas. She cheered.