The Backyard in June

I have been this way all my life.

I am only in the third grade, but already annoyed with things. Mrs. Parks, always stepping out into the hallway to chat with another teacher. Homer Copeland, who thinks I will return his love by stabbing me with a pencil. Mrs. Parks, forever lotioning her hands, says, one at a time at the pencil sharpener, you know the rules. She may know about cursive, and all the times tables, but what a fool. I'll have a tiny gray spot of lead in the heel of my palm for the rest of my life, you lazy bitch. I will write a full report of your misconduct and see what Principal Adams has to say.

My first nanny was a woman from Tibet called Pima. She was small in her ancient blue jeans, guiding my stroller down Fifth Avenue to visit Dad. A sherpa in Manhattan. For a long, long time, I thought everybody was calling their mamas “Pima.”  

One day I will wander into a Williamsburg boutique called Pima. The walls will be festooned with silk scarves, beaded slippers, bejeweled scrunchies and the like. I'll try on earrings for a while before I ask the lady behind the counter about that name. Turns out, its such a common name, most girls in Tibet are named Pima. It means daughter. The miracle is that I can sponge this new trivia without ever dimming my sense of having always known it, always had the upper hand.

I know all about histamines and organ transplants. Unless there’s an accident, y’know, I think if a person’s organs fail them cuz they’re old or something, they should be just, y’know, let go.

Next we had a housekeeper named Mrs. Bell. I was still pretty small and only remember that she was dark brown and spherical, like a series of rounds: buttocks, breasts, hairdo and lips. The meals she cooked for us came across as brown and mangled, no matter how they started out in colorful boxes and freezer bags. One time she served stuffed bell peppers. What is this? said my little sister. Stuffed what? You don't like bell peppers, I told her. And she never has eaten them since.

Why is everybody so determined to fuck things up? I protest, not because of some big holy idea of right vs wrong, but because you people are not acting in your own best interest. Sometimes I wonder if Pima judged me for wearing Gucci footwear before I could walk. Not that I had any role in my attire. Sometimes I wonder if Mrs. Bell got the joke about bell peppers. Her first name was Evilee. Did she say the little curse I often heard from Mrs. Parks, Lord give me strength to endure? And sometimes I wonder if Mrs. Parks was sleeping with that cute dentist who came to tell us about flossing and brushing, and don't forget to brush your tongue. That way, he said, the only way you'll have bad breath is if you burp. The roomful of us, indian-style on the floor, laughed, but to me, it was a revelation.

People avoid me because I’m disapproving, I’m judgmental, I’m no funatall. But, let’s be realistic. I wish I had a friend like me! Someone who refused to accommodate my bad choices. Someone who pointed out that, hey, sleeping with the 17 year old busboy is a really stupid move. Buying that orange leather Coach purse on Dad's credit card is not a step towards the kind of person you want to be. Changing the pricetag on your organic groceries? Will I look the other way? No, and again, not because I sympathize with Whole Foods. Because it makes you a thief.

You are all avoiding my stern, holier-than-thou opinions. But then you call me a role model? You line up for my monologues? A wire rake to scratch my back, s’il vous plait. I hate sitting still to learn card games. I refuse to learn to play solitaire. I hate being taught the colors of the spectrum, I knew that already.

I am the nanny of my friends. With my headphones on, I listen to this guitar solo and fantasize about playing it for the entire school cafeteria. They didn’t know I could play guitar. Even the 6th graders are moved to cry quietly, even the boys. Is it this song, I wonder, or the awe of my hidden talents?



I wish I could plug my headphones right into your brain, Hannah, my nanny, listen to your streaming consciousness, decipher it in its rawness, before your words are even formulated, before the future takes its toll.


"Have I been this way all my life?" Interesting. I think of all the little moments in my past. The special ones are when you are "beside yourself". Where are we when we dwell on the past? Are we just as lost when we are children sitting indian style thinking, "what the Hell"? This self awareness seems to be eclipsed by our own motivation to question our very being. I agree with Shawn. To be in your head when things are happening would be nice....time transfixed....reality pierced by your creative and stern way of seeing things.

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