The Nazis Next Door
When I was in middle school, I made pocket money by babysitting for the two boys who lived across the street.
Their mother, Carina (not her real name), was petite and elvin, with a wasp waist, platinum blonde hair, and a plunging streak of cleavage no shirt could contain. Part Stevie Nicks, part Marilyn Monroe: a grown-up manic pixie dream girl. She wore silky palazzo pants in neutral shades, and flitted barefoot around her patio, never without a Zima in hand.
Her husband, Jeff, was so handsome it made me uncomfortable. He had a cool-guy goatee (this was 1994) and longish salt-and-pepper hair. No Dad bod; a former college soccer player, Jeff stayed in shape by lifting weights in the garage, where he also smoked pot. His job was nebulous. Sales? Engineering? Sometimes he was “away on business.” Sometimes he had “client dinners.” All anyone in the neighborhood knew was that he could afford a lifestyle that included frequent international travel and didn’t require his wife to work outside the home.
Other families’ living rooms in our nondescript suburban subdivision sported bargain-basement sectionals in shades of beige and burgundy, but Carina’s house was all white. White walls, white hardcover books on Renaissance sculpture and jazz, white statuette of a headless Nike on her white mantel. At Christmas, an artificial tree; white needles, white crystal ornaments, gifts swaddled in white paper.
While my mother bought exclusively skim milk, Carina’s fridge was stocked with whole. When I’d babysit, I drank glass after glass, reveling in the naughty creaminess of milk in its purest, whitest form.
Seventh grade. Saturday night. Carina and her husband out to dinner, the boys sleeping peacefully upstairs, though the little one hadn’t gone willingly. The house had a tendency to feel creepy at night. Alabaster walls, somber hardwood, the ceramic replicas of Roman statues throwing winged shadows into sharp relief.
When I’d had my fill of Lifetime network’s soft core murder porn, I wandered into the sitting room: eggshell linen sofa, sagging candles in the fireplace. I ran my hands along the book collection, tilting my head to read…