Pablo Piñero Stillmann has received fellowships from the Foundation for Mexican Literature and Indiana University. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cream City Review, Juked, fwriction : review, The Normal School, and other journals.
Two Stories From The Starbucks in Las Lomas, Mexico City
At one point I start to wonder about this baby. Where is she? (It has been established in conversation that she’s a she.) Don’t Mariela and Sofía want to carry her, baby-talk with her? Wouldn’t it be great for the young women to have Begoña’s child there as a crystal ball to provide them with visions of what they’ll be like when they themselves become mothers? Seems like a no-brainer to bring the baby to Starbucks. I guess maybe she could be ill or taking a nap or something. Babies are complicated.
Then I hear a squeal. The baby! It’s a short squeal, though, so by the time I look over the squeal is over and the baby’s still a no-show. And I can’t be too obvious in the search because no mother wants that weird bearded guy at Starbucks to be looking around for her baby. Besides, it’s that time of the evening when the Starbucks in Las Lomas is packed, so it very well could have been someone else’s baby who squealed. I go back to reading my book and eavesdropping.
Finally it happens. I feel the invisible baby looking at me. In my periphery she materializes from the wall, like a little ghost in a Guillermo del Toro movie. No - she’s being carried by a woman who’s sitting at the table adjacent Begoña’s. The woman faces the wall. She is dressed in black sweatpants and a black sweatshirt, has black hair in a neat bowl cut. The baby peeks over the woman’s shoulder at her mother.
I’d say the woman in black is the baby’s nanny, but that would be a half-truth. She’s what people in Las Lomas call a “muchacha.” A servant. Besides taking care of the baby, she cooks, cleans, and launders. A nanny takes care of a child or children for an agreed number of hours; a muchacha’s life is completely devoted to her employers. I was raised by muchachas. Now my sister, mother of three, employs two of them. They’re an integral part of upper-middle-class Mexico City life, and Pablo Piñero Stillmann they’re supposed to blend into the walls.
The bowl-cut muchacha turns sideways and hands the baby to Begoña who, in turn, addresses only the baby. It’s as if her child has come flying in by herself: “You behaved so well,” she tells her daughter. The baby smiles. Mariela and Sofía smile; they’re melting. The three women comment on the baby’s outfit, the beautiful hair, the way her smile resembles—
Wait. I think I lost the muchacha. Oh. There she is. She’s back to staring at the wall, blending in. As I stand up to leave I notice there’s an iPad propped up on the muchacha’s table. It’s playing a cartoon.