No matter how bad I feel, I’m always comforted by the thought that at
I’m not my brother. If he sees a girl reading, he’ll make some stupid
comment like when this girl was reading Treasure Island, he said, “I’ve
got a treasure island in my pants.”
I used to babysit for this woman, Yareli. I worked at this cafe, cleaned an AIDS
clinic twice a week, and got this babysitting thing because I used to tutor Yareli
in math. Shit in every other subject, math was easy as hell for me.
Yareli was going out with her girlfriends. She was a sultry woman who had a new
hair color every few weeks. It was bleached blonde back then with bangs that
swept across her face. She leaned in to kiss her recently teenage son, Victor,
was checking his MySpace for the third time in seven minutes. He squirmed under
her lips and managed a barely audible, “Bye, Mom.”
She gave me thirty dollars and told me it was for “renting a movie or whatever.” She
did this all the time. At first I thought she was being generous by giving me
extra, but I realized she had no idea how much anything cost. She once gave her
son a Benjamin to buy a basketball. She blew through money, charging everything
and not bothering to look at the bills.
Yareli hugged me, told me she’d be back by two and sauntered out the door.
Victor chugged the last of his red Gatorade and went in his room for his guitar.
He then sat at the computer, perpetually playing the intro to “Stairway
to Heaven.” Somehow he managed to check his MySpace while playing. He also
had VH1 on and Ozzy blaring from his room. He had five windows open on the computer,
one of which was this game where you shot zombies in a mall.
He never talked to me. He thought he was too old for a babysitter. Correct. But
his mom worried about him and feared that left alone he would set the house on
fire or be attacked by burglars.
Slinked in their couch, I watched TV. Victor claimed to be watching Best
Ever and asked me not to change it. When he heard me watching Rain Man,
him it was a commercial. The house was full of electronics; buzzing, beeping,
and lighting up the house at night like a tiny Vegas. There wasn’t but
one book in the house.
My brother once told a girl, “If you tug on my wand, it gets bigger.” How
does karma not kill a guy like that?
I watched TV while Victor sucked in the digital age. Usually this would go on
until midnight when I had to remind him of his bedtime. He would act surprised
that it was so late, but go to bed without a fight. The gig was easy money. When
Victor was asleep, I’d usually do some push-ups while watching The
then go into Yareli’s room, take out one of her thongs, wrap it around
my balls, and yank in the sink. The gold one with glitter was my favorite.
That night was no different. I put back Yareli’s panties and channel-surfed.
I only had to wait a little while longer for her to come back, tipsy and flirty.
My check-in procedure was just a peek into his room to see him sleeping with
his cell in his hand. But he wasn’t there. His bed was empty, the back
He wasn’t in the backyard or the shed or the bathroom or smoking on the
roof, I checked. When it hit me that Victor was gone, I punched a chair. It toppled
over slowly as if not to hurt itself on the way down. My fist stung. I called
him. He didn’t answer.
“Yo, this is Victor. I’m out being awesome,” his voice mail
I called obsessively. I drove around the neighborhood staring down every Hispanic
middle-schooler until I was sure they weren’t him.
It felt like someone had stolen my stomach. I started to sweat. I felt dizzy.
I checked under Victor’s bed, just in case. I couldn’t believe that
I screwed this up. I only had to keep him safe. He could have been drowning in
a pool somewhere while his stoned friends giggled about the word “rebuttal.” Yarleli
would kill me.
I don’t mean she would get angry, slap me, and tell me to leave. She would
slice open my torso. Yareli was beautiful and had a glowing smile. She was a
hard-working single mom that baked for the PTA and volunteered at the ASPCA.
But her sister told me that once when someone tried to break in, Yareli kicked
him in the face with her high heels. It went right into his eye. A normal woman
would have screamed. She twisted it in further.
I was pissed at Victor. He was probably just out playing kissy face, unknowingly
sentencing me to death. I kicked his bedroom door until it cracked.
At least I never went up to a girl reading Freakanomics and offered
to be her private professor.
I sat in my car praying that he had just gone to the C-Mart. He would walk with
up some Pepsi and a bag of Funyuns and I would scold him lightly.
Yareli called. I couldn’t answer. What was I going to say? Your son is
probably dead, but I’m doing fine. She called again seconds later. My caller
ID just said, “Ya.” It’s what I would have called her if we
were dating. She left a frantic message, no doubt envisioning caution tape and
pools of blood.
Her green sedan pulled up. I didn’t have any answers for her. Her son was
just as likely playing spin the bottle somewhere as he was buried alive. I pushed
down the pedal so hard that I sprained my ankle, the tires screeching, burning,
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