My belief is that if you ask someone to do a favor for you, you should be so happy when they agree that you should let them grant you the favor on their terms. This is not the case with my former landlord.
Once you make a verbal agreement to help him out, you are his bitch.
The bastard did a sneaky call on Thursday night. I was just starting a run on a treadmill when my phone rang. I didn't recognize the number, but the first three digits of the incoming call ranked on my personal do-not-decline o'meter. So I jumped off the machine, went into the hallway at the Y, and answered.
My former landlord wanted to know if I could babysit Taquita, his 9-month-old, a laid-back lass with an easy disposition and a gummy smile. The usual babysitter was unavailable. The backup, a clinically-drunk tenant at his duplex who babysits away her rent debt must have been busy, too. He obviously went with the next best thing ... me?
This gig would last from 9 p.m. to about 3 a.m. FL knows I don't like to watch Taquita at their house, because I can't remember what the last awful thing I said to FL's baby mama when I was hammered, but I'm sure it couldn't be described as "superficial." For awhile we talked about bringing Taquita to our house, where she would end up sleeping overnight on a mound of Lourdes High School track paraphernalia with a wheel of brie for a pillow. But there wasn't really a plan, per se.
The details were sketchy: FL and his brother wanted to go to Black Bear Casino for the seafood buffet. FL's baby mama wanted to go out with friends. "I'll do it," I told him. "But I need to work out for the next hour. No matter what you do, DO NOT CALL ME FOR AN HOUR!"
Two minutes later my phone rang, this time FORMER LANDLORD popped up on the caller ID. I kept on truckin', mildly annoyed that the dinging was interrupting Scarlet Johanson's awkward attempts at charm and questionable taste in music on a Celebrity Playlist she hosted with Pete Yorn on iTunes. I hit "Decline" without any sort of treadmill incident. He called back immediately. I declined again. Three minutes later, he called back again. This time from his brother's cell phone. Ignore.
When I was done, I had three messages.
"Yeah. I think we're gonna have you watch Taquita. Call me back."
"Yeah. I was on the phone and didn't know if you tried to call back. Call me again, if you did."
"Yeah. Call me on Ratshit's phone when you get this."
I plugged my sweaty head with a super absorbent toque, dabbed at my pits with a towel, and wrapped myself in a sweater. It was better than what I consider "showering" on most days. Then I called him back.
This is what he proposed:
1. That I should come get Taquita from their house.
2. That I should bring her to my house.
3. That I should return her to their house at midnight.
I decided to suck it up, and watch Taquita in her own environ. This would mean some weird small-talk with baby mama. But I knew they had cable, and I whenever I visit my former landlord's house, I always indulge in one of my favorite foods that I cannot find else ware -- slabs of processed American cheese.
I just happen to be talking to my mom on the phone on my way to my former landlord's house.
"I gotta go. I'm babysitting Taquita," I told her. "[Former Landlord] is goin' out."
"HE'S GOING OUT DRINKING EVEN THOUGH HE HAS A BABY?!" Ma pista asked incredulously.
"Yes," I said. What I didn't say is: "Sometimes mommies and daddies who work 40 plus hours a week need a day off to cut loose. Even, surprisingly, one's with illegitimate children."
"WHO'S GOING TO TAKE CARE OF THE BABY WHEN THEY COME HOME DRUNK!!!" Ma Pista wondered, passionately and a little Catholicly.
"I guess that's not really my business," I said. I didn't say "There are a lot of adults and a pretty smart dog living in this house. They'll figure shit out if they have to."
My former landlord's house is a museum dedicated to its previous owners. The doilies still hang in the window; the walls are covered in a weird pink quilt-like padding that would make the dining room an ideal location for gay ultimate fighting. You cannot walk inside without thinking "how bazaar."
The weirdest thing is that you can smell the place from the sidewalk. Not necessarily potpourri, but maybe Glade Plug-Ins. Like, a lot of them. Drenched in Bath & Body Works. It's nice. Baby mama, whom I usually refer to as Scrubs, had her hair did and was prancing around in one of those cute little outfits, popular with people who weigh less than 90 pounds.
I immediately picked Taquita up off the floor, where she was busy sucking on a bottle and watching Nick Jr.
"I cleaned her butt so she should be fine," Scrubs said.
I asked a lot of questions, not being accustomed to the ways of negative year olds. I was told:
Taquita was fed.
She goes to bed whenever.
She has food in that bottle.
Don't set her down, or she will scream like its the first Wednesday of the month.
Scrubs blew Taquita a kiss, popped a ciggie into her mouth, and was out the front door.
Taquita had been positioned on a blanket on the floor, surrounded by plush stuffed animals and toys. The TV was a mix of primary colors and people talking in very soothing voices. Like watching a golf tournament hosted by a rainbow.
I finally got to see this thing called Yo Yo Gabba. It. Was. Hilarious. The episode featured Jack Black. I LOL'ed.
My former landlord has a prominently place plaque in his home that says: "I take life with a grain of salt. A pinch of lime. And a shot of Tequila."
I was starving. I'd brought the fixings for a simple meal, but realized quickly that I couldn't balance a needy child on my hip, deflect a randy dog's nose from going bloodhound on my crotch and sweat socks, and saute green peppers, tofu, and onions at the same time. I combed my former landlord's refrigerator for the semblance of easy-to-make, low-sodium food and got blanked. I ate some stale Cheese Puffs and a slab of processed cheese. I raided the Halloween candy. I wondered who he hell was drinking so much Monster that it necessitated its own shelf.
As the night went on, things with Taquita got progressively weird. I, for one, was exhausted. Chuck and I had been house hunting at the crack of ass. I could barely keep my eyes open. Taquita found me laying prone on the living room floor, and stuck her fingers up my nose, slapped my face, and dug her little mini appendages into my eyeballs. For real. I started plotting a story about a vicious 9-month-old who kills babysitters and afterward dines on their organs.
Taquita can stand by herself, shakily. She can clap. She likes to pucker her lips like a fish. She can say words that sound like "mama." "da" and "Auntie Christa." She owns one book, a book about sleeping that is four pages long and features the nameless, vaguely distorted faces of real children. She thinks this board book is delicious. I encourage this. I figure that the price of having laid back parenting is having a babysitter who encourages the eating of a child's only book by repeatedly saying the word "Yum."
Taquita grabbed her pacifier, plugged it into her mouth, and keeled over onto a mound of blankets. Just when she looked like it was lights out, she made a resurgence. Crawling like an injured war hero across the floor. Her eyes were heavy. Conk. She was back again. Clapping and dancing on her haunches. Conk. Out again.
I took her upstairs to bed. I came back 10 minutes later and woke her up to make sure she was breathing.
Then I went downstairs to watch a Jersey Shore mini marathon.
Her father was pissed that I didn't double check her diaper. Meanwhile, I'm buying her books for Christmas.