I was once forced to take a babysitting class in middle school and it was one of the weirdest experiences of my life. The teacher was an older woman with a pristine pageboy cut whose eyes were always open just a little too wide. She talked of how babies were angels sent from heaven: God’s gift. I also remember stabbing the guy next to me with my pencil because I found out he clipped his fingernails with a scissor and didn’t bite them like a normal fucking person.
But I digress.
I agree with her on that. Children aren’t corrupted; haven’t yet learned that you can manipulate; haven’t yet learned that everything is in some way fucked.
They’re reality. They’re the only thing that keeps the world going.
I think if babies were born looking like a fucked up Danny Devito or something, there wouldn’t be a point to go on living. If there’s no point to having kids, there’s no point to living.
So when my friend Anders said he was bored after breakfast one morning, naturally I suggested we go to Chuck E Cheese.
“Where the hell are you?” Anders called. I heard him coming near, although I couldn’t see.
I was knee deep at the bottom of the ball pit. A half hour passed. I had transcended time and gravity. I reached a meditative state, and the screaming children were no more.
The problem: I couldn’t formulate how to come back out without seeming like a creep—who had been sitting under all these kids for the past thirty minutes—and, although I felt completely justified in what I was doing, the mothers wouldn’t see it like that.
But, the only way to go from here was up. I would at least do it in style.
“PAT!” Anders yelled again. My arm shot out and grabbed his ankle. I rose to face him. He was completely unphased, the way he always was.
“Creep” was what he said.
When I looked around, I was relieved that none of the parents stared.
I picked up one of the balls around me and started tossing it up and down. It was pretty okay. It was fun. It was a ball.
Things were going pretty good as it went up and down—until I became aware of something to my left coming towards me, crawling. Bad vibes were just written all over it.
“That’s my ball.” I turned to face to see this small gremlin of a child. Despite being five, he somehow managed to have this “May I speak to the manager?” type haircut, and he wore plaid suspenders. His entire existence made no sense.
“I want that ball,” he said again, while making heavy, unbreaking eye contact.
I could feel Anders shift uncomfortably next to me.
“What about that one?” I pointed to a section that probably contained a hundred or so other balls.
“But that one’s mine,” he whined.
I started losing my patience because he wasn’t leaving. “Dude, there’s literally a million just like it.”
He started making that face. The one that scrunched up and started to turn red.
“Hey, don’t cry—look.” I picked up one in front of him and handed it over. He grasped firmly and then threw it down.
“It’s MINE!” he screamed. Clawing at my shirt, he tried to climb my entire arm to reach his crappy little ball.
“HEY!” I yelled and tried to subdue him by further yelling: “Where the hell are your parents?!”
He struggled even though I was fighting back. He was just a ball of frustration, making obnoxious screeching noises that sounded like a sporadically deflating balloon while acting like if he didn’t get his ball or fell from the tower that was me, it’d be the end of the fucking world.
That was it for me. I brought my arms back and shoved him easily onto the platform above us.
There was a moment of silence. The air around us tensed, and I thought time temporarily stopped. His face started twisting.
“No,” I said. His breath quickened. It was the only fucking sound in the Chuck E Cheese.
The scream, I was sure, was louder than his lungs could humanly handle.
I just couldn’t imagine what my face must have looked like.
“Let’s go,” Anders said, finally deciding to speak up. He grabbed me by the arm and dragged me to the other side of the pit while the screaming child continued and stares were drawn.
Anders took me to the back entrance and slammed the door in too many staring faces. I pushed a kid in Chuck E Cheese. We waited for the cops to come arrest me.