I have become mean lately, perhaps spiteful is the word. I am
performing small acts of subterfuge upon the idiots of the world. More
accurately, I am being passive aggressive. I am stomping on men's feet
when their shifts to make room as I get off the train are not perceived
as significant enough. I am getting in people's ways, passing in front
of rather than behind them where they huddle to view the departures
board. I am buying the last chocolate-chip muffin after overhearing a
nine-year-old girl behind me proclaim loudly that she wants it.
I do not want the chocolate-chip muffin. I have come here intent on
purchasing a single cup of coffee while waiting for my flight to board.
A few spots down in the snaking line stand a mid-thirties husband and
wife, bedecked in pleated jeans and t-shirts—location t-shirts (his
says The Grand Canyon, hers NYC)—matching blond-grey hair, they
could almost be fraternal twins, were it not for noses declaring
different ancestry; and they are barking at their two young daughters
who are shoving each other around by pushing at one another's
overloaded backpacks. The younger one, Lidia, who desires an oatmeal
raisin cookie, is the underdog. It's the older one who's really the
problem. Her name is Khyla. Khyla wants the last chocolate-chip muffin.
Khyla will not be getting it.
Lidia is small; sweet; pretty. Khyla is pudgy, bossy, a mess, her thick
hair stringy in clumps, her taunts brash and boyish, neverending, only
getting louder and more giddy. Hey, Peon! she yells at Lidia, shoving
Lidia's monstrous backpack to the left so Lidia loses balance and jerks
forward, out of the line and into the pinched airport foot traffic.
Watch Where You're Going! Khyla ejects hideous bleating laughter that
cuts through the din like a goat commandeering the loudspeaker.
Khyla reminds me of me, except that she doesn't really. It's just that
I know that if I were her, I would not have deserved the last
chocolate-chip muffin. I would have been knocking down some girl on the
soccer field, because I was bigger and could. Here comes Bonnie, skinny
little Bonnie, slow Bonnie who doesn't really want to be here, but
who's making her goshdarned best of the situation, skipping along and
occasionally getting in a kick now and then, her soccer jersey
engulfing her tiny body, her pert, thin hair bouncing sanguinely in its
ponytail, la de da, la de da, kick kick, and bam: Bonnie is on the
ground crying, and I am in time out.
Like me, Khyla will get older and learn the ways of girlhood, which do
not include bullying or clumps of hair. She will always be a big girl,
and although her new dress will look so glam, so exciting, like the
most perfect thing she ever could look like, in the comfort of her very
own mirror, it will loom massive and clumsy in the bathroom mirror at
school whenever she finds herself standing next to one of the little
girls who swarm her classes and many extracurriculars. Her face will
redden, and she will wish she had worn something more nondescript,
baggy jeans, a t-shirt. Over the course of a year, Khyla will shrug
herself from the loud foreground into the hushed, modest background;
she will lower and soften her voice, work hard to strain her bleating
laughter into something actually palatable. Her face will remain
embarrassingly large throughout her life.
My sympathies lie with Lidia, for it is she who will bear the brunt of
I sit down with my chocolate-chip muffin and worry over whether to eat
it or not. I did not want the chocolate-chip muffin, but now it is
here, before me, in its squat brown bag with kelly green accents. I did
not want the last chocolate-chip muffin, for I am not eating much these
days. I have just sent a swollenhearted crossword puzzle to the girl I
love but can't have because she is, what is the word? Taken. Which
seems impossible in a world where people are so complicated.
One of the clues to my swollenhearted crossword puzzle: "Something I
sometimes stop doing." The answer: Eating. Another of the clues: "What
I am good at, a master of." Self-deprivation. These clues were my main
revelations, childishly designed to make myself seem more intriguing,
working together as some kind of subterfuge intended to elicit guilt at
her role in my self-harm. It will be her fault if I whittle myself into
nothingness. It will be her fault if I do not nourish myself while
unrequited. And she will know, when I return home from this trip, that
I am serious, because I will be small and thin and sickly, with a
curious intensity that knows no match.
If I eat the last chocolate-chip muffin, will these blackhearted
revelations have been lies? The envelope is currently en route. If she
hasn't read it yet, hasn't yet chewed out the answers, it may be true
that eating the chocolate-chip muffin will not count. Maybe I want to
eat the chocolate-chip muffin. I am eating the chocolate-chip muffin. I
have eaten it while writing this. The chocolate-chip muffin is in my
guts, upsetting their balance, bringing them back to life.
Megan Milks is a Ph.D. candidate in the Program for Writers at the
University of Illinois at Chicago. She has work in or coming from DIAGRAM, Opium, Thirty
Under Thirty, and The &NOW Awards:
The Best Innovative Writing.
She co-edits Mildred Pierce Magazine.
To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/201003june.htm
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