“Shhhh!” I warned my cousins, Nan and Jay. The three of us are crouched in a women’s bathroom stall in Foxy’s, a coffee shop owned and run by my a-gong. I was maybe 8 and my cousins were 6 and 5. Those two extra years gave me enough authority to boss them around with very little protest.
It was summer and as usual, the three of us were stuck spending the day hanging out at the restaurant. Some days I went by myself and got to be a helper, but on days when Nan and Jay came, I had to babysit and keep us out of trouble. My mom and their mom sometimes worked at the restaurant, along with our other aunts. Our official babysitter was A-ma, our grandma, but she usually left us to our own devices, only checking in every so often to scold us about being too loud or being too visible.
So what were we doing hiding in a bathroom stall that day? Lord knows I’d never be caught dead with anything other than my feet that close to a bathroom floor now. But that day, we were about to live my dream of spending the night in the restaurant without any adults. I had just read From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and I was determined to follow in Claudia and Jamie Kincaid’s footsteps, “runaway” and show the adults they didn’t appreciate us enough.
As my a-ma went around checking that all of the appliances were turned off and switching off the lights in the restaurant, my cousins and I slipped into the bathroom and hunkered down in one of the stalls.
“When everybody leaves, we can make milkshakes,” I told them. “Oooh, we could have pancakes for dinner!” My mind was already filling my stomach with all my favorite things that were rarely allowed.
“But where are going to sleep?” whined Nan. She wasn’t as excited about our new adventure as I was.
“We’ll sleep in the booths. Duh!” I shot back. Jay looked at her with raised eyebrows that said, “Yeah, duh!”
“But, what a–,” I put my hand up to stop my cousin from answering. I could hear A-ma calling our names.
“Vivian! Nancy! Jason! Time to go!” she called. “Where are they?” she asked A-gong. Her footsteps were getting closer.
If we could just stay quiet a bit longer, they’d leave us, I was sure. Then my cousins and I could do whatever we wanted–eat the food in the industrial refrigerator, play music over the speaker system, run around without a care in the world.
The three of us sat as still as we could and listened. Oh no, a jostle of the bathroom handle.
“What you doing down there?!” A-ma asked. Without even opening the stall door, she said, “A-gong is going to be mad. Time to go.” With that she turned and walked out the bathroom door.
“I guess we’ll try it next time.” I told my cousins and motioned for them to follow me out.
Next time, I’ll have to plan better.