Juneteenth, Dulles
Megan Milks

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 Khyla's self-loathing.
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

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of dcmetroblogger.

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