My reading was interrupted by a shriek of a boy balancing on his mother’s lap like a midsize chimpanzee. He could’ve been five, had he inherited his father’s stocky stature. But even if he were an overgrown 3-year-old, judging by the size of him, he was already in dire need of outgrowing this habit for women’s laps.
Seemingly, something had crawled up his ass a long time ago, possibly, at birth; because he could not bear to sit on it, still, as the slightly intimidating, but definitely imposing walls of my gynecologist’s waiting room were suggesting. His mother — a hefty brunette with a teased hairdo and a stomach that protruded forward (was she slouching or pregnant?) — was hiding her face behind a fashion magazine. For a moment, in another attempt inspired by his ADD, the little creature entertained a sport of imitating her: With his curled fingers, he picked up the closest publication — Parents — and started flipping its already tattered pages with an unusual aggression, in front of his face.
I had seen this before: this violence to which many children are prone. I would study their small tensed-up faces and clenched fists, so full of destruction, and I would wonder what was brining it on: Was it the result of poor parenting or a messy gene pool? Or was it their preview to the understandable, but never just human anxiety?
By this point, the little creature had entirely given into his, and the glossy pages of Parents were failing to hold up against his violence. The other pretty women in the waiting room, in unaffordable flocks and midsummer tans, had to have attempted to charm him prior to my arrival; because by this point, they were pretending to be undisturbed by the sounds of tearing pages and the grunts of the little man causing them. And they continued to remain unaffected when his next ADD-inspired urge made him fling the dainty pamphlets across the room, one by one, their skinny bodies flailing through the air like the feathers of hunted down birds.
Finally, after the horrified receptionist mumbled an inaudible, passive-aggressive complaint, the boy’s mother lowered her reading material.
“Joh-nathan! Stoop it!” she said, with an accent of an unclear origin, entirely undisturbed by her son’s behavior. At all times, she was determined to have access to one of two emotions: annoyance or boredom.
“Stoop it!” she repeated.
But by then, “Joh-nathan” was entirely under the influence:
“Nnnah!” he responded; and with a masterful eye contact with his mother, he picked up the next issue of Parents and sent it across the waiting room. The mother rolled her eyes (annoyance?), and reached for her giant purse. The multicolored bag was parked between her protruding stomach and the destructive creature on her lap; and the woman began rummaging inside.
At this point I was no longer pretending to read, but studying the interaction: Mother versus Firstborn. As pretty, shiny objects emerged from the giant bag, “Joh-nathan” continued to curl his fingers to grab, to clasp, to tear out — for surely, they had to exist primarily for his entertainment. After applying an unnecessary layer of carrot-colored lipgloss from the tube immediately wrestled out by her son’s hand, the woman returned to shifting things inside the bag, with her lower lip rolled-out (boredom?).
“Joh-nathan” carried on with his terrorisms. Armed with his mother’s tube of lipgloss, he crawled off her lap, ungracefully; then, scanned the room until stopping on my judgmental gaze from underneath the yellow floor lamp. “Joh-nathan” wobbled toward me, then stopped.
“Not cute, for your age!” I thought, and made sure my thought was clearly translated onto my face.
“Joh-nathan” took a few more steps. Audibly, I slammed my book closed. It was a stand-off. A stare down. And no way, no how was this little bugger going to beat me!
Luckily for him, the little man’s ADD got the best of him, and after surveying me and the yellow floor lamp, he plopped down onto his ass. (“Not cute, for your age!”) He crawled past my feet, and past the lamp, toward the corner outlet. Quicker than his mother’s bored mouth could spit out another “Stoop it!”, I blocked the child’s hand with my own, from yanking the plug.
“Dangerous,” I said.
“Joh-nathan” studied my face for a moment then rolled out his own lip into an imitation of his mom’s. Either due to my relentless frown or his shock at the introduction of “no” into his short life, the little man’s head split into two hemispheres, at the mouth; and he screamed out so loudly, that every pretty woman in the waiting room had to wet herself. (We had all been holding it, by this point, until our turn to relieve ourselves into a plastic cup.)
The mother gave me a glare, rolled her eyes, but said nothing. The little man was carried off; and while blubbering into the woman’s chest, he pointed his curled finger in my direction. Soon enough, “Joh-nathan” was back to balancing on his mother’s lap and smearing his wet face on her chest. Both of them would shoot me a couple of intimidating looks, but I was back to being unimpressed, like all the other pretty women in the waiting room — so tired, by now.
I would ignore the loud thud of the boy’s fist against his mother’s breasts, followed by yet another: “Stoop it!”
I would pretend to devour my pages when the terrorizing chimpanzee lifted the poor woman’s shirt:
“Baby?” he said in a baby voice. Not cute! Not cute, for his age.
“Yes: baby,” the mother responded and pouted (annoyance?), confirming that she was indeed pregnant, and not just subject to poor posture.
“Joh-nathan’s” next slap came right onto the belly inside which his baby sibling was using up the mother’s resources and attention:
If only the little man could murder his competition before the sibling had a chance to be born. The woman didn’t as much as block the next blow. Or the one after that.
Suddenly, I realized: Her resignation was fully justified.
Most likely, she had once asked for a simple dream. But it had cost her — the surrender of her youth and beauty, of her joy; and the burden of being in over her head. And now she was waiting for that same disappointed dream to finally run its course, as if it were just another tantrum of her ADD-inflicted firstborn.
And while her son, her new little man, continued to abuse her body — sticking his head under the front of her shirt as if aiming to crawl back inside womb; then rummaging through her bra in search of a nipple — she sat back, pouting. Not cute. Not cute, for her age.