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By: Matthew Fargo

You first heard about Jamaican nannies at the Open Bar Mitzvah. That was when Jethro’s mother got “extremely intimate,” as everyone put it later—which was how you learned that “extremely intimate” was Upper West-Side parlance for “tits-out drunk,” because Jethro’s mother had said, and you quote:

“Jethro was a pathetic bedwetter until age six—when we got the Jamaican nanny.”

Matthew Fargo is an technologist and translator based in Tokyo. He specializes in immersive interactive experiences and Japanese comedic literature from the 1930s. Honestly, at this point it feels like his first language is C++ and his second Japanese, with English coming in a distant third, so go easy on him. He is the translator of Akasegawa Genpei’s Hyperart: Thomasson (Kaya Press).

Which caught everyone off guard.

So you all protested:

1) “But he’s so HAND-some!”

2) “But he’s so grown UP!”

3) “But he’s so well dis-POSE-d!”

Nevertheless, Jethro’s mother was insistent:

“No,” she insisted. “He was petulant and puerile, and ultimately rather ugly to look at.”

And so you all continued to object:

1) “But just look at him; he is a prince!”

2) “He is so gentle; it cannot be!”

3) “Those golden curls; you must not remember correctly.”

Nevertheless, Jethro’s mother was assertive:

“Oh-ho-ho, no,” asserted Jethro’s mother. “Until he was six, I very seriously entertained the possibility that he might be demon spawn. Like in The Omen or Rosemary’s Baby. Or Children of the Corn. But then I got Odessa— the Jamaican nanny.”

That was the first time you heard about Jamaican nannies.

You looked over at Jethro. He was mixing a drink for his grandmother, entertaining her in the meanwhile with an irreverent impression of Senator Schumer. With his free hand, he was rocking his sister’s baby carriage.

*

The second time was when you were at Cobble Hill Park with your sometimes-lover Herman. There were small children everywhere, literally everywhere, planted beneath the trees like plump anthropomorphic mushrooms.

Herman remarked upon each of the children, in turn:

1) “That one is cute.”

2) “This one is likewise of unambiguous cuteness.”

3) “My sentiments regarding this one over here can only be described as ‘acute.’”

Herman was desirous of his own children, and spent a great deal of time evaluating the offspring of others, as though childrearing were a market he would like to someday penetrate.

On the subject of penetration: Herman, without fail, forgot to bring condoms with him on dates, while nevertheless remembering

○ TO make dinner reservations

○ NOT TO order entrees containing tree nuts, shellfish, dairy, or any of your more arcane allergens

○ THAT you had once mentioned that you found Oriental lilies “charming” and

○ SUBSEQUENTLY TO procure a bouquet of said lilium before the dinner, most likely from a bodega that also peddled several varieties and flavors of condom that poor Herman would neglect to notice.

This “condomnesia,” as you were fond of calling it, was not unrelated to Herman’s reasons for bringing you to Cobble Hill Park that day.

You see, Herman had “ideas” about women and their biological timepieces. And while you had been quite successful in repelling the forays of his penis by maintaining a generous stock of prophylactics in your purse, this sort of ideological assault always caught you somewhat off guard. And so you began smoking cigarettes out loud, just to feel the glares of all the new mothers upon your skin.

It felt like nourishing sunlight, to you.

Herman, sensing tension, tried to draw your attention to a young girl playing next to a garbage can.

“Look! She is a perfect facsimile of you, at that age.”

“You’ve never seen a picture of me at that age.”

“I am extrapolating.”

“I was an ugly baby. I had persistent diaper rash. On my face.”

You began mulling over the idea of throwing your cigarette into the garbage can, in the hopes that it would start a trashcan fire and set off a stampede of maternal panic. But before you had a chance to finish the cigarette, you felt a very firm hand upon your shoulder.

“Why you gwan smoke where de children playing?” said the hand.

You rotated at the waist.

Standing behind and over you was a stern-looking woman, her hair bundled aloft in a bright and motley stole. She moved toward you—well into the area that even a New Yorker would reserve as their “personal space”—and without breaking eye contact proceeded to snatch the cigarette from your mouth, drop it in the grass, and grind it into the soft dirt of your composure.

“Missy, you heart as black as dem lungs,” she spat.

And then she strode off after her ward: the very girl that Herman had been likening to you.

You waited for Herman to voice some sort of grievance about this exchange—about the violence you had just been subjected to—but only an eerie silence was forthcoming. And when you looked over at him, to solicit a comforting comment or tension-mollifying nonsequitur, you were startled to find that he had metamorphosed into a half-eaten tuna fish sandwich: two pieces of that awful wheat bread with seeds in it, and old iceberg lettuce, smeared across the sidewalk. The pigeons were already moving in on him, and David Attenborough was narrating.

“The birds approach their mark with wordless coordination.”

That was the second time you heard about Jamaican nannies.

*

The third time you heard about Jamaican nannies was several days after that. You were arranged crookedly on a barstool at the Zombie Lounge, wearing no panties to speak of, loudly demanding your Martinis “both shaken AND stirred,” and either

1. Endeavoring to get laid

2. Endeavoring to make ironic sport of a young man who was, himself,(1)

3. Repeatedly (2) until your own desire for (1) had been thoroughly impugned.

What followed was a pastiche of the typical social interactions between young men and women of inadequate sobriety and varying levels of personal restraint. Dirty double entendres, raucous giggling, and embarrassing tumbles off of your stool. The only variation on the theme of “waking up under strange sheets in a strange bed” encountered the following morning was that you woke up under a strange conference room table, in a strange conference room, windows interlaced with miniblinds.

Once vertical, you peeked through these blinds and deduced that you were approximately 10 stories off the ground, somewhere in downtown Brooklyn. Stranger still: you were wearing panties, now—an unrecognizable gold thong.

A trip down a vaulted elevator and a review of the lobby directory revealed that you had just spent the night somewhere in the offices of the Queen County District Attorney; you had lost your purse and an earring and quite a bit more dignity than you had possessed to begin with—which hadn’t been much. Which is to say that you were in a deficit of dignity, when you stumbled into a subway at Borough Hall.

And here is where the inevitable happened:

Sitting opposite you in the car: a beautiful black woman, her locks bundled aloft in a bright and motley stole, a skein of yarn situated primly in her lap, crocheting a pair of baby booties.

And have you ever been on the subway when a sparrow accidentally wanders aboard, and begins fluttering around in a panic? Half of the people begin to panic, as well, while the other half instinctively pretend not to notice any commotion as the bird clumsily tries landing on various commuters’ laps. It is already a surreal enough scene, without the added narrative framework of a hangover making everything seem even more otherworldly.

Which is why you didn’t even flinch when the sparrow finally found purchase on your shoulder. It sat there for a few moments, catching its breath, before turning to your ear and informing you, in the voice of Sir David Attenborough, that the Jamaican woman sitting opposite you was named Lora.

*

She was named Lora. You would hire her, according to the sparrow, in a caretaking capacity—namely, as your Nanny. Lora would accompany you to social functions, much as she would chaperon a toddler to the park, in order to monitor your behavior for excessive insalubriousness. Whenever yourdrinking would begin to outpace your hepatic capacity, Lora would step in on your liver’s behalf. She would blend puritanical sternness with unconditional love in a manner that lent priority to neither side of that precious specie. She would treat you like the full-grown woman you were, but only inasmuch as you behaved as such. Cigarettes would disappear from between your fingers. Dunkin’ Donuts would forfeit its primacy in your diet. Panties would be derigueur, and they would be freshly laundered at that.

At this point, the sparrow assumed a slightly graver mien to tell you that, in spite of the extraordinary rapport between Lora and yourself, there would come a night—one of those nights during Hanukkah, when the streets of Brooklyn are as cold and slippery as a landlord’s soul—upon which the two of you would attend an art opening in Williamsburg. There you would make the acquaintance of a young man who, in the sparrow’s words, would possess “such an excess of charm that he longed to rid himself of it.” You would begin flirting with the boy, and he would reciprocate in such an engaging fashion that you would find yourself matching his intensity. In just a quarter of an hour, the nascent bond between you would grow to the point that the young man would invite you to the restroom, to enjoy some cocaine with him. You would glance over your shoulder, nervously, only to find Lora wagging her finger at you, completely aware of your intentions. A rift would emerge. Heated words would be exchanged. You would fire Lora, saying that you “weren’t a baby anymore,” absconding to the restroom with your newfound beau. The boy would recognize the fire in your eyes, and treat you to a night of such extreme multi-partner photo-documented debauchery that the whole next issue of Vice magazine would be devoted to your exploits. Having woken up in the same DA’s office conference room for the second time, physically and emotionally devastated, you would stagger home and dig up Lora’s contract, where her address was written. You would take a Z train all the way out to Jamaica, Queens, for the first time in twenty years of New York living. You would find her home with some difficulty—a white-paneled box with a pastel awning, on a block of identical boxes.

And here the sparrow shifts to present tense:

You ring the doorbell and she answers, one of her nieces cradled gently in her arms. You try to speak, but the words are suddenly larger than your throat, and your only recourse is to break into tears. Knowingly, Lora pulls you to her and embraces you, strokes your unkempt hair into order.

You ring the doorbell and she answers, one of her nieces cradled gently in her arms. You try to speak, but the words are suddenly larger than your throat, and your only recourse is to break into tears. Knowingly, Lora pulls you to her and embraces you, strokes your unkempt hair into order.

“I want my Nanny back,” you gasp.

“Oh darling,” Lora sighs. “It’s too late for that. I don’t wanna be no grown woman’s Nanny. I just want to be your friend.”

Then the two of you sell the rights to the movie to Universal and move to California and start some kind of organic food company together. A gluten-free roti or something?

*

When you got home you found a sticky note on your door:

hay you left your phone

and purse at the bar

also you forgot to tip

on like a 70 dollar tab?

stop by after 2pm

zombie lounge

 

You sat down on the stoop and thought about dialing Herman. But then you realized that you had no phone and so you decided to take a nap, right like that: head against the railing, hips spooning the stoop, knees akimbo in case anyone was interested in your new gold panties.