Marisha volunteered to baby-sit me our first day in Vegas, while my mom, sister and uncle looked for a place to live. I begged not to be left behind, knowing my mom would settle on an apartment in the cheapest, therefore dodgiest, part of town if I wasn't there.
As my mother rang Marisha's bell, she attempted to console me by saying, "Don't tell me you wouldn't rather swim in a nice big pool than sit in a hot car." When my face didn't lose its sour expression, she used guilt. "Be nice. Marisha misses the daughter she left in Poland, and you make her feel better."
After three rings of her bell, Marisha finally answered the door—topless. I'd never seen an adult woman's breasts in person and the sight of her brown, sagging sacks made me cringe at the thought of one day having a pair of my own. I looked away in shame, burying my face in my mother's arm. I tugged at her, giving her a telepathic plea not to leave me with this crazy woman. Once my mom left, Marisha forced me to join in her topless extravaganza; explaining that her way was continental and sophisticated, that tan lines were tacky, and that American women were too prudish for their own good.
Our show was well-advertised, because a parade of gentlemen-callers stopped by. It was mostly deliverymen, but a few men came for their lunch break to make sure her pool PH-levels were balanced. When a guest arrived, Marisha interrupted my attempt to break what I thought was the world record of ten underwater flips in a row, to meet the man. I modestly approached with my arms folded across my non-existent chest, she dug her acrylic nails into my sunburned arms until they unraveled by my sides. Then she reminded me that I was too young to have anything to hide, laughing at her clever remark, causing her exposed bosom to jiggle for added emphasis.
Marisha began the introductions with, "Dorota, this is my very good friend, you can call him uncle. She looks just like my daughter back in Poland, sniff, except my daughter had blonde hair, not brown, and green eyes, not blue, and straighter teeth. Darling, why don't you get your new uncle here a drink, and refill mine?" My new uncle leered at me making me feel more naked than I already did. When Marisha and her guest continued their conversation inside the house, I had to wait outside even if I had to go to the bathroom. She told me to pee on the grass, but do not enter the house. As I got older I was grateful that she spared me the site of the rest of her nude body entangled with that of a beer-bellied man, with a sunburn on his bald head.
That night, my mom picked me up an hour later than promised, but I didn't complain, since we got to stay in a motel room. The lack of kitchen meant that I could eat McDonald's rather than my usual dinner of homemade soups containing animal parts normal people threw away. This was the seventh time I'd ever had this culinary delight because my mom deplored fast food, declaring it for lazy American mothers who don't care if their children grow up disease-ridden and mentally-deficient. Mom had a tendency to be idealistic when it came to some things, like eating processed food, but also to be rather lax when it came making sure I didn't hang out with drunk, loose women and the horny men who enjoyed their company.
I spent the remainder of the evening with my head propped-up against the end of the bed and my hands deep in a bag of fries, watching television, happier than I'd been since the arrest.
My mom interrupted my viewing by saying, "I can't believe that you would rather eat this junk than my delicious tripe soup. Let me see what is so good about it." Then she dug her hand in my bag, grabbing not one, but five of my fries.