I tried to entertain myself and familiarize myself with the area. I went on walks and discovered that I lived just two blocks away from cannoli heaven, a.k.a Arthur Ave. and made it a personal goal to eat my weight in Italian pastries.
I went out with Miguel, a friend from home who was very supportive and helpful while I settled in. There were no trains in my area, and I still had not taken a train, so we drove to Chelsea, where we ate at the New York Burger Co. and walked along the Hi Line. Miguel bought me my first batch of flowers, a small bouquet of orange limoniums that made me happy every time I looked at them. During the drive home I blasted my music while he held his phone up for me to follow the directions, and that drive was one of the best times I had.
Things were still a bit awkward. Although I speak Spanish, I am super rusty and often have to ask people to slow down, so there was a bit of a language barrier. Madeline and I are also very different people, so finding things in common was a little difficult, but our interaction was minimal.
Madeline had resorted to nitpicking over things that didn’t matter. I didn’t watch TV, and didn’t have one in my room. She found that perplexing and thought I was odd for it. Once, mid-conversation, she grabbed a scale and put me on it in the middle of the living room to see if I weighed more than her. I didn’t. And if I ever had a wedgie, a tag showing, food on my teeth, frizzy hair, or anything along those lines, Madeline was sure to tell me. Plus side was I always looked fabulous when I left the house.
The kids were also very rowdy. When I didn’t have to leave early, I was often woken up by their shouting. The oldest of the kids was a 14-year-old girl with a filthy mouth and an attitude problem. She spoke to Madeline in a way that would most definitely get my 30-year-old self slapped, and I told her so in front of her mother a couple of times. She didn’t care and told me that this was just the way she talked.
We had one incident when, one morning while I was making myself breakfast, I had to scold her for calling her 9-year-old brother a fucking faggot repeatedly. I was the only adult in the room, and it had to be called out. I immediately went to Madeline and told her about the incident, and she understood, but the 14-year-old took it as a cue to be rude from that point on.
One night, I came home after a very rough day at work. I had asked Karolyn repeatedly to give me a list of the customers she had told me had no contact person, but no such list ever appeared. It took a visit from my district manager for me to receive a list, not of customers without a sales associate, but a list of the top 100 customers in the store. Meaning I was not going to get my own list, I had to create my own customer base.
On this night, I came knowing that Madeline was working. She worked nights and the kids often went to sleep with all three TV’s on, that were permanently tuned to the Disney channel. Madeline always cooked dinner and would leave me a plate. I think I went to grab a bowl or something and closed the cabinet, and the 14-year-old, who insisted on sleeping in the living room even though she had her own room with a queen sized bed she never used, snapped at me and asked if I could slam it any harder.
So I did.
We got into a shouting match, and she called me a bitch, and accused me of trying to run shit (example of why I don’t raise other people’s kids) and told me to go back home already. I told her I wished I could. That I didn’t sign up to deal with her attitude and it was her mother who had asked me for help. She insisted Madeline only needed help with the younger kids, that I had no business telling her how to behave, and I reminded her that calling a 9-year-old boy a faggot, a fucking faggot, was unacceptable, period.
She still insisted on calling me a bitch as she continued to fight to get the last word, and I called her unimaginative, and gave her a long list of other words she could call me: cunt. slut. whore. I pointed out the many ways she had been looking for an excuse for a fight.
I called Madeline immediately and told her what had happened. And I told her that if she needed me to leave, I would sleep out of my car if I had to. She begged me to stay, to reconsider. “I help you, and you help me,” she told me, and the next day she pulled me and her daughter into her bedroom, and told the girl that yes, she had a filthy mouth and that she had her own room to sleep in. I apologized for overreacting, and we shook on it.