It just so happens that I did not meet her that day. Harrison walked back into the room where my parents had left me, stood tall and revered, and said that Mrs. May had to run some errands. But,
“She’ll see you tomorrow little one, don’t worry,” he assured.
So I waited, until the clock read “5:30”. My mother came through the door; her hair much less regal than before, and grabbed hold of my fragile wrist. So I was to wait until, tomorrow, to see her? To a degree, I was disappointed. It seemed climatic when I was there, in a room, waiting for her to come and not knowing how she would react to my acquaintance. But all good things come in time I suppose.
It was now Wednesday, in the middle of the week, and I was to meet this woman, my parents assured. I was brought to the home for the second time, taken into this isolated room as I recollect, and I was not to meet the other children just yet. Not until I met her.
I should mention that I was a scared little boy now. Not scared of my parents, who treated me like a prize; not scared of the suited gentleman whose smile seemed to be painted; and not scared of being social towards the unknown juvenility that I would soon meet. But scared of Mrs. May after what I was told on that Wednesday morning. I remember cavorting with some amusing toys, when, I put on brakes to the sound of the door. Harrison came over, unlocked it and in came another swell gentleman who matched suit and tie with Harrison, just of different color.
“Ahh Harry, how are ya?” He smiled.
“Sal,” they shook hands tightly, “I’m good, I’m good. And yourself?”
“I’m holdin’ up alright,” he held his jacket with both hands by the collar and pulled it outward, “just holdin’ up. Is May here? I’ve been meanin’ to talk to her.”
“She got here rather late last night. I would expect her to stay home, but knowing her, she’ll be here anyway. Maybe around nine’s my guess?”
“Nine you say?”
They glanced over at the clock simultaneously.
“Only ten minutes until. I’ll wait here then.”
“Sounds good. I’ll go get you a drink,” he turned back to Sal, “anything in particular?”
Sal shook his head left to right and frowned. He sat down, legs crossed, pant legs exhausted with his socks showing, and a magazine in hand. I wasn’t sure if either I was unseen by him, or if he did not care to point me out. Maybe because in that room, the reception area, kids were not normally allowed. So I gazed upon his face for some long minutes until he noticed me. He had an old face, but a face that refused to reveal its age in public; a kingly mustache that curled on the edges, and round glasses that, to me, played no part in his sight evident by how he held the magazine many inches away from his face. He looked down and over and saw me there, with a toy in hand, and a handful of my hair in the other.
“Why boy, what do you do in here?”
“Waiting for Mrs. May I guess,” I spoke my first words of the day.
“She won’t be happy, findin’ one o’her eggs in here, when ya aren’t s’posed to.”
“I didn’t know that I can’t be in here. Mr. Harrison just put me in here and told me to wait.”
He set the magazine down and adjusted the glass circles that covered his eyes.
“You haven’t met her yet, have ya?” He licked his teeth.
“Not yet, nope.”
“Well I’ll tell ya now, and what I say, ya best remember.”
I laid the toy on the floor and listened to the second best piece of advice I’d ever hear.
“Now Mrs. May ain’t like the other sitters you’ve had in your life iffin you’ve had any. She’s hard, and I mean hard. She watched ova’ me when I was your age, and boy did I learn a lot from her. But she is hard, and vicious, and mean, and cruel, and all, yeah yeah, but still, you’ll learn ya’self some.” He laughed a bit to himself, then looked down onto the floor with a gaze that I could not decipher. “And her old way of speakin’ English sticks to ya. It’ll do the same to a young boy like you I’ll bet.”
I lent my eyes to his in such a deep manner that one would think me to be in a trance. His odd words went in one ear, and out the other, with exception to a few words that I understood. He picked up his magazine once more, and prepared for Harrison to reenter the room. I sat there in my solitude and played those words over in my head. Hard, vicious, mean, and cruel. How much could I express my displeasure for meeting a human such as her? Not enough. I resumed playing with the toy, trying to understand why someone of these qualities would take an occupation such as childcare. But my young mind was not yet trained enough to ponder that. The thought blew away, like a stranded paper on these New York streets. Sal had poured his drink down his throat as he curled his mustache and stood up.
“Is she here yet? I see a car outside that looks exactly like hers,” he tilted his body to look out the window.
“That’d be her,” Harrison confirmed.
I felt a rather, unpleasant feeling grow inside of my stomach. Not one of hunger, nor sickness, but of the fear of confrontation. I was finally going to meet this woman; the witch that I had heard very little about, but enough to steer me away. I crouched over to the window, perhaps to get a glimpse of her face before she was to come in, but could not due to Sal’s body covering her with his embrace. When I heard the front door open, I hid behind a large flower pot, with an elderly plant sprouting from it; wild in its appearance, and wild enough to hide me. They walked in together, laughing and talking about some old times and how he, at a time, waited for her to get home as he did minutes ago.
By her voice, I painted a picture of that priestess I once thought of before. It wasn’t nasty at all; it was a light, Irish filled tongue with a tune to it.
“Oh Sal, I remember those days. What is it that has you waiting here for me?”
“Well May, my family is havin’ a get together, and I was hopin’ that you’d give me the recipe for that delicious ham ya so love to boast about,” he said giggling.
“You hound! That’s what brings you here?”
“Yes indeed. Now ya see what the taste of your cookin’ does to a man!”
By their conversation, I sat puzzled. They were speaking with words I could understand, just not in a way I usually heard them being spoken. Not how my mother and father talked. Not how the people on the streets talked. Not how anyone on television talked, except for those black and white shows from years ago. I tried my best though, to figure out what they were saying.
“Then the recipe is in the kitchen if you really must have it. I’m going to go change out of these clothes, then I’ll be down.”
I received my first glimpse of Mrs. May that Wednesday morning. As Sal joyously walked into the kitchen, I saw her travel up the stairs. The stairs were north to me, so I could only see her backside. She was a large woman, maybe due to the size of her brown coat, maybe not, but from my eyes, I assumed that she was large. She had a matching hat, with a few plastic flowers idle on it. And her gray hair. That was all I could see, for now.
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