Tag Archives: anger

She and His

Be kind, be kind.  Must always be kind.  Be kind onto others.  Which is not the same as being kind onto yourself.

The silly self:  It’s like a whimpering babe, looking at her with confused eyes.  Why aren’t you coming for me?  Don’t you know how much I need you?  Poor thing, so dumb and innocent, it knows not its ignorance is bliss; but need, need, need.  I need you, need you, need you — to be you.

But she forsakes it.  It can make it on its own.  That’s the Darwinian rule that she had obeyed for years; the rule that had been done onto her, when her mother fled her marriage and parenthood in the family’s fourteen-year old Honda to live in Portland, with a lover — a vegan milkshake store owner.  For her, it wasn’t:  Do onto others as you do onto yourself.  (Some people can be so selfish, mother!)  But she had had a life-long history of being better to others — better for them — than to her whimpering self.

There’s time enough, she thought; and maybe later she could retire to finally tend to her needs.  By then, the self would be so tired (although she swore she had been tired ever since she was thirteen).  But she would tire herself out enough to retire, with babies and her future husband’s nightly strewn socks all around their bedroom.  Until then:  She had to be kind.

A decade ago, she used to be angry.  At all times, at nearly everything.  “It’s my prerogative!  I am what I am,” said the ego.  Except that it was all wrong:  She was kind.  Always kind.  She was the daughter of her father — a gentle man who, despite the damages done onto him, had never done it onto others; and being his next of kin came with the same unbalanced, unjust genetic mechanics of selflessness and never knowing how to ask for a favor.

But even though, in her youth, she would hold onto the anger, she felt it falling flat every single time, after the initial sensation in her body.  Like an off-key tune, it was uncertain and wavering; blue and slightly disappointed.  Like a story without an arc:  Who needs it?

“This is how I’ve always fended for myself,” she would defend the anger to her departing lovers and move the hair out of her eyes with a furious head shiver.  The lovers couldn’t understand why she insisted on living her life in so much difficulty.  Not everything had to be understood so thoroughly, so completely.  She “should learn to let go”.

Fine by me!  Go!  Go on and leave!

But they would miss her, she was sure of it; because in between all those hollow spaces of anger, she always offered kindness.  Kindness pro bono.  Kindness at the end of every day.  And besides, she had always made it clear they were never the point of of her unrest.  Instead, they could revel in her love, her compassion or her charity — all depending on the degree of availability of her kindness.  So, how difficult could it be to be loved by her?

But you should go!  Go ahead and go!

In those moments, she recalled an actress in a film that her mother seemed to be watching every single time she’d walked in on her.  The actress was good at crying well, with no resistance in her face.  And on that particular line, “Go!  Just go!” the actress would close her eyes completely, like someone aware of being watched.  And she, catching a glimpse of both actresses in the room, would always wonder:  “Why the fuck is she wearing full make-up, in a heartbreak scene?”

The departing would never find another her, she thought to herself; and she was right:  They wouldn’t.  But with all the others — who weren’t her — things were slightly easier and more vague.  Others left room for misinterpretation, so that the lovers could live out their love in mutual illusions, until the first point of cross-reference.  Hearts could be broken then, expectations — disappointed.  But they would’ve had some wonderful times by then.

And yes, with time, easy became boring; but boring — gave room to calm.  And into the calm, it was easier to retire.  Because in the end, we were all simply so tired.

So, be kind.  Must always be kind.  She almost terrorized her lovers with kindness, which was shocking to the recipients, in every beginning.  It made her unusual, unlike all the others.  The lovers could not have suspected, though, that she was merely collecting a reserve of it for when the going got harder, because it always would; and because the first time the anger came up in each affair, it stayed.  One note.  No arc.  Just co-habituating with the rest of her, not necessarily parasitically.

Some lovers would attempt to rescue her from the anger.  (Sometime, infatuation liked to pose as love.)  These more ambitious ones would suffer the most, from her resistance, from the complexity of her constant devotion to truth.  And only when they, finally tired from it — or of it — raised their first objections, she flaunted all the moments of previous kindness in her self-defense.

How she hated herself for turning calculating, pitiful and shrill!  After those endings, she would have to find healing in closure that took more time; because self-forgiveness was harder to summon by someone who did onto others better, than she did onto herself.

But they all would remember her kindness at least, she told herself.  In the end, they all would.  And, again, perhaps, she was right.  But no one could ever survive the lack of self-love.

 

I could do this one, why not?  She’s kinda cute.  Hot, actually.  She’s hot, and that’s so much better anyway.  She’s not one of those gorgeous girls who thinks she’s outta my league.  Fuck those bitches!  They get too expensive, anyway.  But this one is not like that, man.  I wonder if she’s the type that doesn’t think she’s beautiful at all.  Which makes it even easier.

I should ask her out.  ‘Cause I could probably do this one, easily…  Hands down!

Okay, maybe not “easily”.  She called me “Patrick” last night.

My name is Dave.  

Shit, man!  Just look at her!  Leaning over the edge of the bar, so obviously flirting with Stan.  Stan is old, but he can get a girl nice ‘n’ liquored up, I guess.  I tolerate Stan.  And that’s as far as I go with people.

Stan is, like, seriously deprived of love.  His woman is a total bitch to him, you can tell by the way he cranes his neck whenever he talks to a broad.  Any broad.  Like a fuckin’ abused dog that expects to be hit between his eyes for chewing on her slipper, just ‘cause he just wanted to taste the sweat of her feet.  Stan’s woman must castrate him every day, for breathing too loudly or for not looking the part, or some shit.   And I bet she thinks she should be with someone better.

Look at him!  Just look at him now!  God!  He’s shaking just ‘cause this girl is nice to him.  God…

I hate dogs!

Maybe Stan’s got a giant one.  Chicks always say that it’s not important.  But that’s just bull, if you ask me.  I’ve seen ‘em looking at me when there is no point of going back and I’m staring them in the face, erect but less than a handful.  Nerve-racking enough to shrink anyone.

“Ohm,” they say and look up at me with that face, as if I got them the wrong thing for Christmas.

I wonder if it’s those fuckin’ pills.  I told John, I’d rather be bald.  But then, his woman chimed in:  “Jenna”.

“I wouldn’t fuck Prince William, with that hair of his,” she said.

First of:  Who wants to date a chick called “Jenna”?!  Or “Trisha”?  “Trish”.  Sounds like a diner waitress with three grown children by another man, at home.

Anyway, “Jenna” has this habit of going out to our fridge, in the middle of a night, in nothing but John’s wife-beater.  She’s a bartender, comes over after her shift.  Drunk.  I hear them fuck.  I try to tune ‘em out, so I blast some ESPN, or fucking Transformers 3, I don’t care.  Whatev.  But it’s like this chick’s got police sirens for her moans.  And the really fucked-up thing is:  They really turn me on.  It’s like having a live porn sound-feed from across the hall.  So, I’ve started waiting for John to finish his first round; come out to the living-room, turn on the TV and I watch her, as she runs to the bathroom.  (Why do chicks always have to pee after sex?  Does urine kill sperm?  I fuckin’ hope so!)  But then, she comes out, all flushed and glossy from splashing water on her face and thighs; all the fattier places bouncing on her body.

“Jenna”.

…Frankly, I don’t like fat girls anyways.  Fuck ‘em!  I’d rather keep aiming high.  But the skinny ones are always meaner.

John told me “Jenna” likes big ones.  Makes her ears plug up, she says.  And she’s got this vein that pops out in the middle of her forehead.  Makes John worried she’ll hemorrhage to death on day, if he keeps winding up her sirens like this.  So yeah, it matters, he says.  Size matters.

“Jenna” lies to my face.  Says it’s all about the man’s hair:

“I’d rather fuck a bald guy than Prince William.”

So, these days, whenever she comes over, I watch TV with my cap on.  “Jenna” has these sick nails and she always paints them red; and she likes to rough out the top of a man’s head, then pull his face into her breasts and smother his silly grin with them.  But not me!  Not this guy!…

Ah, shit!  Just look at this one though!  She’s still talking Stan up and I can see that jittery part of her thighs from the way she hangs on the bar.  This one is hot.  Kinda like “Jenna”.  That’s the problem.

And I can tell she is not like one of those chicks back in college who liked to brag about sex all the time and confuse the attention they aroused — for being liked.  Those chicks had seriously low self-esteem.  But this one doesn’t talk sex.  She moves sex.   And we are all deprived.

I blame our mothers.

(To Be Continued.)

“See the Stone Set in Your Eyes, See the Thorn Twist in Your Side — I Wait…”

The shades were closed.  The house was dark.  It had always struck me strange the way she’d keep all windows locked down, in order to keep the cold air inside.  The manufactured cool would dry out her skin and the house would smell mechanical.  She’d complain, blow the arid air through her deviated septum; then slather her age spots with some sort of bleaching cream.

She lived too close to the dessert; and only late at night, she’d give the house fans a rest.  Their constant humming would finally die down, and suddenly the sounds of gentle quietness in nature would be overheard through an occasionally open window.  The skin of my scalp would relax at the temples:  I would forget to notice my constant frown during the 20-hour long humming.  My face acquired new habits since living in this house, and I was beginning to forget the girl who had been asked to pay the price of her childhood — in an exchange for the better future.

But on that day, it was too early to allow the nature to come in, yet.  And as I entered the empty house, I immediately noticed the hum.  I had been gone for half a week:  too short of a time to forget the climate of this house entirely — and most definitely not enough to forgive it!  I took off my shoes, remembering the stare she’d give her visitors whenever they were too oblivious to obey.  Slowly, I began to pass from room to room.

The light gray carpet that covered most of the house’s footage was immaculately clean.  And if there was an occasional rug — under a chair or a coffee table — it usually marked an accidental spill of food or drink by a very rare house guest.  I’d be the only one who knew that though:  I’d witness all their hidden faults.  And she would run the vacuum every night, pulling and yanking it in very specific directions.  Those vacuum markings had to remain there undisturbed; and only those who didn’t know better were kindly permitted to destroy them with their footsteps.

I opened the bedroom’s double doors first but found no courage to come in.  Instead, I stood on the cold titles, on the other side, and studied the footsteps by her bed.  There was a cluster of them, right by the nightstand.  Is that where she had been picked up by the paramedics?  I looked for outlines of boots imprinted into the fur of the carpet.  I thought I saw none.

The living room carpet seemed undisturbed.  The markings of the vacuum, which she must’ve done the night before, were still perfectly parallel.  The cold tiles of the kitchen floor had no residue of food.  She’d wash those on her hands and knees with paper towels.  And she would go over it until the wet towel would stop turning gray.  No dishes in the sink.  No evidence of an unfinished meal.  No evidence of life at all.  I began to wonder where she’d collapsed.

The door to my former bedroom was shut.  Most likely, it had remained so since I’d departed.  I made it to the office — the only space where some disarray was less prohibited.  The bills where broken down by due dates and neatly piled perpendicularly, on top of one another.  Her husband had a habit of resting his feet on the edge of the corner desk, as he played on the computer for hours, until she’d fall asleep.  Then, he’d come into my bedroom.

My bedroom.  Its door was closed.  I turned the handle and expected for the usual catch of its bottom against the rug that she insisted on keeping on the other side.  Strangely, it covered up no visible spots.  I pushed it open.

It was a sight of madness.  One woman’s rage had turned the place into a pile of shredded mementos, torn photos and broken tokens of forsaken love.  The bedcovers were turned over.  The sheets had been peeled off the mattress two-thirds down, as if by someone looking for the evidence of liquids near my sex.  The stuffed toys which normally complete my line-up of pillows were now strewn all over the floor, by the wall opposite of my headrest.

On top of an overturned coffee table I saw my letters:  My cards to her and hers — to me.  She’d even found the letters in my parents’ hand, and she shredded them to piece.  Nothing was off limits.  No love was sacred after hers had been betrayed.

I stepped inside to see the other side of one torn photograph that flew the closest to the door.  At first, I tried to catch my breath.  A feeling on sickly heaviness got activated in the intestines.  In murder mysteries that she adored to watch with me, I’d seen detectives scurry off into the corner furthest from the evidence, and they would throw up — or choke at least — at the atrocity of crimes against humanity.  Apparently, my insides wanted to explode from the other end.

I paced myself.  Carefully, that I, too, would not collapse, I bent down and picked up the shredded photo.  It was my face, torn up diagonally across the forehead.  On the day of my high school graduation, her husband had come over to the side of the fence where we were beginning to line up.  I can see the faces of my classmates in the background.  They smiling at his lens.  They are supposed to, as he — was “supposed” to be my father.

He was not.  And I’m not smiling.  I’ve raised one eyebrow, and my lips are parted as if I’d just told him to fuck off.  Not even there, he would allow for me to be without him.  Not even there, I could be alone for long enough to remember the girl who’d been asked for her childhood in an exchange… for what?

“Give Me Hope, Help Me Cope — With This Heavy Load…”

I saw him nearing the intersection, about half a block away, on foot.  At first, I watched him pass my car, along the pavement: An ordinary man, like so many others.

His hair and beard were completely white (and I’ve always found it impossible not to trust white-haired people, for they seemed so much wiser than others).  So, immediately, I thought of him not as much as handsome but somehow dignified; trust-worthy.  Surely, I thought, he knew something I didn’t.

He wore a pair of well-ironed black slacks and a white dress shirt, unbuttoned at its collar.  A pair of polished, laced-up shoes and a yellow manila envelope under his armpit:  But of course!  He had to be an important somebody!

Maybe he was someone’s tax accountant, I thought.  Or, a divorce attorney walking over the final papers to a drained, tragic face of some recently single mother.

The fact that he was passing a gas station specifically for cop cars helped my fantasy, too.  I had just noticed it the other day:  What looked like a parking lot behind a film production building was filled with the killer whales of LAPD being served by a single, rusty gas pump.  I didn’t know that the same people granting us our justice also had to pump their own gas.  It made sense, of course; but my initial assumption that they were tended to, by someone else, made the idea of my world slightly better.  Or, more just.

(That’s when I looked away:  I was waiting for the traffic light to change.  It hadn’t yet.)

I had just passed that one crowded intersection where every LA egomaniac insisted on wedging in the giant ass of his unnecessary Hummer, thinking that the yellow light would last forever — just for him!  Instead, he would get stuck there, right in the middle of the mess, blocking the rest of us with an awkward tilt of his giant ass.  Oftentimes, driven to the ends of our nerves by all the heat and strife already, we flip out, honk and scream at him, with lashing words and foaming saliva.  Aha:  Another day, in LA.

My own rage is so powerful, at times, it scares me:

What if I don’t manage to come back to the saner side again?  What if I go way too far?

They had just erected a significant palace of yoga, precisely at that one intersection, where most of us are ready to lose our minds.  (And those people granting us our justice:  Why aren’t they granting it at that specific spot in the city?!)

On the other side of the street sits an ill-used parking lot, permanently fenced in by a giant net.  Its neon orange sign reads “FENCES”.  No shit!  There is never enough parking in this city, and there is never enough space.  Or, there is too much space — and not enough humanity.

But then, again, no one ever promised this city would all make any sense.  No one ever promised for it — to be just.

And maybe, that is why it’s always so much harder to come back here, every time: Because we tread at the very end of our nerves, due to all the heat and strife, and some of us go way too far.

The white-haired man was walking slowly; and that was somewhat unusual, of course.  But then again, he was nearing that one police station in Hollywood, where quite a few of my acquainted restless souls have spent a night or two, after losing their minds a little.  Maybe he was someone’s DUI lawyer; or perhaps, he was delivering someone else’s bail.  As he neared the pedestrian walkway, with the quickly expiring countdown on the other side, he began to squint his eyes:  Eleven, ten, nine…

(And did I mention he was wearing glasses, with an elegant metallic rim?  Yep:  Definitely, an important somebody!)

“Ohhh…  Ohhh, nooo!” he suddenly began to cry, quietly, almost under his breath.  He wound up each word in a register unsuitable for a dignified, white-haired man, like him.

He stepped out onto the road and began to cross.  Seven, six, five…  He crossed right in front of my windshield.

“Ohhh, nooo!” He squinted again.  “They took my car…  Oh!”

I looked in the direction of his grief.  The curbs in front of that one police station, in Hollywood, were completely empty.  It was that time of the day when the rules demanded for us to give each other more space.

“They took my car…”  The white-haired man continued, and in the way he stumbled onto the pavement at the end of his walkway, I thought he was way too close to collapsing on his feet:  Way too close to his insanity — as he had gone way too far.  

“I can’t take this — anymore…” he wept.

It separated inside of me and dropped — some dark feeling that comes from suspecting that nothing in the world had promised to be just.  And that departure of my own hope scared me:  What’s life — without hope?

Someone honked behind me:  The light had changed, and I had to give them way.  I had to give them enough space to pass into the lives that stressed them out ahead.

 

“And It’s a Hard, It’s a Hard, It’s a Hard, It’s a Hard: And It’s a Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall!”

It was her first fall in LA-LA.

“What is — this place, out here?” she thought, when she noticed that beauty wasn’t throwing itself, suicidally, into her face.  Or, humanity, for that matter.

“May I, at least, have some humanity, around here?”

On those first mornings when she woke up in soaked sheets, she would slide open the windows to air-out her bedroom.  But it made no difference.  The heat would keep hanging at the ceiling of her top floor apartment — much more spacious than the one she dwelled in, back in New York.  And by the end of the day, its molecules smelled of smog — and of her own sweat.

And the sweat was different here, too.  In the heat of August that made New Yorkers flee the City, she loved to venture out into the streets, still just as crowded, but mostly with baffled tourists — not locals — who would jump out of her way, startled by her outraged footsteps.  She would walk around for hours, feeling the unmistakable humidity that made the City smell like rotten garbage and, yes, human sweat.  And while she stood on subway platforms, she could feel the drops of her own perspiration slide slowly from her ass cheeks to the back of her knees, under her long skirts.  She felt the whiff of sex, hers and others’:  And it promised — more life.

There seemed to be some unexpected romance in those days:  For the first time, she finally felt like she was belonging.  But how could she belong in a place she was leaving, so soon?

The one-way ticket already had been bought by her mother, who upon hearing the news of the divorce, put away her dramatics and got stoic, for a change:

“You’re coming to California,” motha said over the phone.

“You make me sound like a folk song,” she thought, in response.  Yet, she obeyed. 

It was the wisdom of the women of her motha’s clan — to never plead or grovel for a man to change his mind.

She was going to California.

There would be plenty of chaos upon her landing:  Finding an apartment seemed easier; for there always seemed to be plenty of departing who packed up their shit into double-parked U-Halls, sweating and swearing at the city’s expense.  But the city’s leasers seemed indecisive and slow.

“Everyone keeps acting as if they’ve got better choices, out here,” she told her best friend in New York.  “Or, they just namedrop.”

Like the little man with glistening eyes who, despite being bound to a wheel-chair, managed to lurk over her when interviewing her for a roommate position.  On his living-room wall, she could see a framed, autographed poster of a recently released indie flick that was pretty well reviewed in The Times, that summer.

“I produced that,” the little man said, reminding her of one those exotic birds on the Discovery Channel that puff themselves up into alien shapes — just to get some tail.  From under the smeared lenses of his glasses, his narrow eyes were sliding up and down her body.  His face was glistening with sweat.  She got up, feeling like she needed a shower at the closest motel she could find, on Sunset Boulevard.

“Well, what do you think?” the little man wheeled after her, to the door, lurking.  “I could make you a star!”

She walked out.

“Really?” her best friend said calmly.  “Do they actually say things like that, out there?”

And then, there was the job search, in which every lobby looked like a waiting room for an audition or a cattle call.  And no one else seemed to be breaking a sweat, after driving in the apocalyptic-degree heat.

“We aren’t making any decisions right now,” the interviewers kept saying.  “But we’ll keep your resume on file.”

“Then, why did you waste my time?” she actually said to a group of young entrepreneurs who looked like the cast of Entourage and, after sliding their eyes up and down her body, asked her to tell them “something they couldn’t have known — by looking at her”.  (She told them she was good at harakiri.)

She walked out, got back into her car and wasted more time.  The heat outside was still insatiable!  And in the midst of it, everyone was always up for a hike.  Or “a coffee date, sometime”.

The rain would finally come by the end of October.  And it wouldn’t stop.

The roads would get shiny at first, and for the first time, since landing, she would smell the nearing of another season — not of her own sweat.  The nights would get cold, and she would insist on walking, to any outside cafe, on Sunset Boulevard, and getting soaked. It was the first time she would cry the tears worthy of the women of her motha’s clan:  They weren’t filled with self-pity anymore, but with rage.  And rage — was always better, for survival.

 

Finally, there would be a callback for a maitre d’ position at some pretentious overpriced restaurant, on the West Side, with a diva-chef in the kitchen.  She would swim in her motha’s decade-old clunker to other side of the city.  Driving in the middle lane seemed safer, but some maniac in a German car would always honk and zoom past her, on the right, and give her car a full rinse with the filthy water from the gutters.

“You’re terribly overqualified,” the general manager with a bulldog’s jaw would tell her, at the end, after the two-hour drive.

She got up and tried to make it to the door without breaking down into another outraged tear shed.  Her scuffed shoes made a chomping sound:  Her feet were soaked.  So was her hair.

He would follow her, to the door:

“We’ll keep your resume on file though,” he’d say.

“Please, don’t!” she actually said.

Because it was the wisdom of the women of her motha’s clan to never plead for a man to change his mind.

She walked out.

“Don’t Let the Bastards Get Ya Down: Turn It Around with Another Round!”

I was saying, “Sir!  What in the world is going on here?”

I was leaving a store that specialized in selling some of the best (in others’ and my own opinion) technology, these days.

Normally, other people’s ratings don’t affect my opinion much:  I wait to make up my own mind.  With this particular store, however, that specializes in selling some the best technology, I’ve waited long enough to become its customer — and a devoted believer in its product.

So, I was leaving this particular store that specialized in some of the best technology, these days, when a man with a Portuguese accent caught up with me, in the doorway.  He was wearing a baby-blue polyester shirt, with white-lettered “Brazil” tattooed over his left breast.

I was in the midst of texting one of my artistic friends about my recent purchase (as of five minutes ago), when the creature patted my elbow:

“‘Scuse me, miss?” he said.

I turned:  He stood at my eye level (and I — was wearing flats).  Somehow, I must’ve gotten hung up on his height, because I forgot to respond.  The creature proceeded to tell me that he was working for the company whose product I had just purchased and he pointed to my cellphone.

Honestly, I couldn’t understand the gist of a single sentence he spoke.  Perhaps, there weren’t any sentences at all:  Just fragmented thoughts expressed with a hysterical tone.

“A scam artist!” I thought immediately and hid my recent purchase (as of ten minutes ago) inside my purse.  My cellphone hadn’t hit the bottom of my bag yet, when the mistrustful Soviet citizen in me was already on the forefront.  With a deadpan expression of someone who had been fooled way too fucking much in her life — and who had finally learned her lesson — I studied the hysterical creature, fussing at my eye level.

“May I see your phone?” he said to me.

“May you blow me?” I almost responded.  Yet, I obeyed the call of my grace and said:

“No, you may not.  Sir.”

The man in a baby-blue polyester shirt got immediately aggravated and reached for my elbow again.

“Please, step inside the store, miss!”  he slurred, with his wet mouth.  His further, fragmented explanations followed; yet still, I couldn’t understand the gist of a single sentence.

Full-blown wrath was now heating up the contents of my scull, and I felt myself blush that horrific blood-red shade of the Soviet flag:  I was about to blow.  Still, I obeyed the call of my grace and shot an “S.O.S.” gaze to the sales rep guarding the door of this particular store that specialized in selling some of the best technology, these days.

“Why are they allowing for solicitors, here?” I thought.

But the face of the clerk, although indifferent at first, was now getting twisted into an expression of shock and slight disgust.

The grip on my elbow tightened.  I looked over:  The short creature was hanging onto me, like a pissy Chihuahua.  And there was something hateful, something very violent coming through on his face.

“Do you get laid much?” I almost asked.  Yet, I obeyed the call of my grace and said:

“Sir!  What in the world is going on here?”

More of his fragmented thoughts followed:  Something about receipts, and blue stickers; and something about theft.

“THEFT?!” I echoed.

A few curious or disgusted glances bounced off my skin:  This particular store that specialized in some of the best technology was packed due to a release of a new, better — best! — gadget, that week.  So, the scene unfolding between me and the short creature in a baby-blue polyester shirt was now getting plenty of bystander witnesses.

Had it not been for the tiny salesgirl with angelic blond curls and Scarlett Johansson’s voice dashing across the store, I suspect this scenario would not have turned out well:  The wrath boiling the contents of my scull was beginning to blur my vision and raise the decibels of my voice.

“Sir!” she said.  “What is going on here?”

Amidst the fragmented thoughts that the short creature began spewing out at the girl, I was beginning to hear my verdict:

You see:  Having obeyed the call of my grace, I had asked this salesgirl to email me the receipt for my purchase, so we could “save the trees”.  The creature in a baby-blue polyester shirt was a security guard, and this particular store that specialized in the best technology, these days, was going through the highest degree of theft, in its history.  Since I had no receipt to present to him, I became his obvious target for the day.

The two of them began sorting the situation out:  That same tiny salesgirl had sold me my recent purchase (as of twenty minutes ago), and she was testifying on my behalf.  It was her fault, she said, that she hadn’t followed through with some other procedure in the case of customers with altruistic intentions as mine:  Customers that insisted on obeying the call of their grace.

Apparently, she — was still in training.  And she was “SO sorry!”

The short male, still hanging from my elbow like a pissy Chihuahua, was quiet.

“Sir!  Please let go of my arm!” I slowly annunciated through my clenched jaw.

Once released, I scanned the faces of bystander witnesses.  They, along with the sales clerk guarding the door, had long lost all interest.  At that moment, utterly ashamed and disgraced, I could’ve blown.  Instead, I obeyed the call of my grace and walked out.

“A Rusty Heart Starts to Whine, in Its Telltale Time…”

“That’s just UNACCEPTABLE!”

He was foaming at his mouth, at the front desk.

A little man.

His face, red from a lifetime of terrible diet, was boiling with outrage.  Everything in the world seemed to have gone askew for him; and overhearing the routine of his ready complaints, I could tell this was not the first time he ever voiced his grief.

Quietly, I slipped past the heavy doors of this mountain spa resort and I lingered by the doormat.  I had come here for silence.  It wasn’t really the noise of all the others left back in LA-LA that I minded.  They could just go on and on, for all I cared, about their dreams and their sex lives.  About their dreams of better sex lives.  As a matter of fact, I preferred they went on and on:  It gave me something to write about, during the day.

But the noise in my own head was rattling my balance with an ache:

Survival.  Dignity.  Freedom.  Art.

“I DEMAND my refund — or you’re gonna have to talk to my lawyer!” the little man was getting carried away with the routine of his ready complaints.

I had always wondered what it was like to live one’s life by fronting.  It sucked, I recently thought, that we all had one hell of a time negotiating our boundaries with other people.  I wished it didn’t have to be so strained, so testy.  Couldn’t we just leave each other enough space and air:  Enough dignity?  Enough freedom?  But this clan of others that lived their lives by fronting: It must be miserable to be perpetually expecting some sort of injustice.

Still though:  I was fascinated.  So, I lingered by the doormat.

A couple of drinkers hanging at the bar shot their confused glares in the direction the front desk:  They would’ve been much more interested in getting involved had they not drank too much free wine at a tasting earlier that night.  Or maybe, just like me, they had come here for silence.  I couldn’t see the bartender.  The lounge was empty.  And the only other civilian caught in the avalanche of the little man’s outrage was the nighttime clerk, at the front desk.

I had seen her early in the morning when I arrived, and she graciously allowed for my early check-in.  Her kind smile reminded me of someone I couldn’t quite remember.  A cloud of curly strawberry-blond hair framed her freckled face, down to her collar bone, and it suited her well.

It suited this place, to where many had come for silence:

Compassion.

“How late is your spa open?” I asked her, at the time.

“It’s open 24/7,” she responded.

I looked up, puzzled.  I had already arrived here with gratitude, and this was causing me a bit of an overload.  She smiled kindly, reminding me of someone I couldn’t quite remember.

“We’re all adults here,” she said.  “Right?”

Now, she was sitting in her chair, looking down at her desk calendar as if meditating.  I realized this entire time the little man had been screaming on an old-fashioned, ivory phone mounted onto the wall.

He, by now, was a goner:

“You know what?!  I’m gonna call THE POLICE!”

The nighttime clerk noticed me, lingering by the doormat, and she smiled kindly.  Bingo!  She reminded me of someone who had helped me once through a transition in LA-LA (of which I had many, in between my needs for silence).

I nodded at the nighttime clerk.  It sucked, I thought, that she was having one hell of a time surviving the avalanche of other people’s entitlements.  And I wished it didn’t have to be so strained for her, so testy.

I smiled, kindly:

Compassion.

“LOOK!” the little man — that poor lost soul! — was now screaming out every word.  “I’VE DONE THIS BEFORE!”

But of course:  Everything in the world must’ve gone askew for him; and overhearing the routine of his ready complaints, I already knew this was not the first time he ever voiced his grief.

“Excuse me?” I said to his wife — a woman a stocky stature — who was blocking the stairway with three giant, overstuffed pieces of luggage, while she lazily scrawled through her BlackBerry messages.

The woman looked up.  I had expected a scowl.  A boiling outrage.  Instead, she looked at me with such a sheepish apology, I wished it didn’t have to be so strained for her, so testy.  And she smiled at me, ever so slightly.  Ever so kindly.

Suddenly, I remembered:  I had seen her earlier, at a seafood restaurant right above the roaring ocean.  All the windows of the place were flung open, and not till later I realized there was no ambiance music to distract us from silence.

It seemed we had all come here — for silence — from the noises in our heads:

Survival.  Dignity.  

Some of us didn’t live our lives by fronting.  Some of us were still prone to gratitude:

Freedom.  Art.

And especially those who got caught in the avalanche of outrages by little men and women — by the poor lost souls — still deserved our:

Compassion.

“Been Waiting for a Long, Long Time — Just To Get Off and Throw My Hands Up High!”

Okay, okay, okay, okay, okay, okay!  This morning, I did wake up mellow and all.  I even meditated before brushing my teeth:  Staying flat on my back on a mattress notorious for having less give than my floor, I stared at the ceiling and counted my breaths.  In — hold — out:  one.  In — hold — out:  two.

Maybe I should take the hold out.  In — out:  one.  In — out… Shit!  It feels like I am about to hyperventilate.

Okay, I better hold.

Well, that didn’t work.  My breathing has been suffering from a bit of shortness this month:  Rent is due in a coupla weeks, and if you ever dwelled in LA-LA, you know that in the last weeks of August, the town goes dead and its army of freelancers and independent contractors are better off leaving town — or they go homicidal with despair.

Still in bed, I switched my tactic.  On my notoriously firm mattress, I assumed the position of an upside-down starfish and I recalled hearing a successful man point out the main recipe for his prosperity: GRATITUDE — he said last night.

Aha! I’ve suspected that much.

Gratitude is habitual for me, and this year I’ve had to practice quite a bit of it:  Somewhere in the transition to my life of a self-published writer, a self-taught blogger; to the high-wire act of a freelancer and the truly delightful experience of single-girl-dom that crashed onto my head unexpectedly, in the midst of all that, via an abrupt decision by my partner to depart — summoning my gratitude has been crucial for keeping tabs on my sanity.  ‘Cause I’m an angry little girl who’s got one hell of a spirit in her — and way too much to say!  And if not channeled toward crossing oceans and conquering fears, that wrath could easily metamorphose into a cancer.

Face down, on my notoriously firm mattress, I began making a list of all the things for which I felt — or could feel — grateful.

Well, let’s see:  There is health.  And, then…

“But:  WHY?!  Why is this child screaming at the top of her lungs?”

I noticed the shrill sound earlier this morning.  I had to:  It was the very reason for my being awake.  With intervals filled with other mellow sounds of my neighborhood — the jiggle of an ice-cream cart and the remote hum of a drill — this little girl had been screaming as if she was being exorcized, at the start of the day.

And it wasn’t really a cry of pain:  Past that I could NOT have meditated.  Instead, it was more like a holler to test the strength of her throat, to flex her lung power.  She would start out low, as if cooing; then unexpectedly wind it up, switch the registers until it would sound like a piercing shriek meant to break glass and porcelain coffee cups — or maybe even hearts!  And just as unpredictably — she would go quiet.

But back to my list of all the things for which I felt — or could feel — grateful:

Well, there is health.  And then…

And, then, there is this one hell of a spirit of mine!  I don’t really know where it comes from:  Perhaps, I’ve inherited it from all the other angry little girls that preceded me, in my family.  It has been tested by life:  Through generations, we have encountered enough shit to squash it down; to not survive, to retreat.  Instead, every angry little girl would get more fired up:  And that wrath would force us to cross oceans, to conquer fears, to make up new dreams and pick-up new adventures; to get past the unexpected changes; to shrug off our partners’ abrupt decisions to depart and to move on to the next, bettered versions of ourselves.

And we would scream.  I’ve heard my motha do it:  She would start out low; then unexpectedly wind it up, switch the registers until it would sound like a piercing shriek meant to break glass — or maybe even hearts.  And she would NOT get quiet for hours, for days.  It would be like a private exorcism, at the start of every day, by a madwoman desperately trying to keep tabs on her sanity.  And if she didn’t give that wrath a voice — it would metamorphose into a cancer of regrets and resentments.  So, she screamed.

As I also scream, nowadays, behind the wheel of my car, driving through downtown at midnight, with all the window rolled down.   

The angry little girl screamed for hours this morning.  She continued to holler, at intervals, as I finally got up from my notoriously firm mattress to do my work; then to hustle for more work in this dead town, at the end of August.  She hollered as I cleaned my place and tied up all the loose ends with the disciplined routine of my single-girl-dom.  She shrieked as I left the house for my morning run, and I could hear her for miles, until I finally switched on my iPod.

When the shortness of breath kicked in again, later in the day, I began making a list of all the things for which I felt — or could feel — grateful.  There was health, of course.  And then, there were things.

But if I visualized those things, the images didn’t last.  They popped like rainbow-tinted bubbles, and each idea of gratitude was replaced by the faces of the other angry little girls in my family who have guided me with our collective one hell of a spirit.  Then, there were the faces of those I had chosen to make up into my own family:  My angry people, my unstoppable comrades, my fellow spirits.  My most valuable possession, they are — the reason and often the source of my prosperity.  And if I look at it like that:  I’m a very successful woman, already.

Still, that’s no reason to stop summoning the gratitude, at the start of every day.

And when that doesn’t work, I can always give voice to my wrath and start screaming:  to flex my strength, to hear the echos of my power, and to get to the other side of it — and to always overcome.  Otherwise, the wrath would metamorphose into a cancer of regrets and resentments.  So:

It’s better to scream.

“Now: Shut Up And Drive, Drive, Drive!”

It’s the never ending construction of the 405 that can make even a saintly woman lose her mind.  And Lord knows:  I’m not a saintly woman.

Oh, no:  I tread really closely to my insanities — a diameter of a hair away, to be exact — tippy-toeing at the edge of my flaws that are enough to drive a man crazy, as well.

And I like taking a peak at that side of me:  It is permanently fearless.

It reminds me of wild passions in nature, and of other untamed women in my family’s previous generations.  They too drove their men crazy, with their moody hair and contradictory temperaments.  Some of them rode horses; I — straddle the seat of my car.  And since they have never spoken to me in my nightmares, I assume these women communicate to me — in my waking dreams and acts of courage.

And it is not the congestion of traffic, due to the never ending construction, that can make even a saintly woman lose her mind.  It is the aggression of others, always negotiated through acts of sickly cowardice; and it crawls under my clothes and starts nibbling at my capillaries, like an army of fleas I’ve picked up at some brothel in Reno.

There is noting more ridiculous — and nothing more reckless — than a man flipping out behind his wheel, honking and screaming with his crooked, slobbering mouth spraying spit.  He seems to jam his whole body into the joint of his honking arm, as if punching his girlfriend in the jaw.  Or his child.  And then, he speeds around:  first, yanking his car into traffic, then zooming past the cause of his entire life’s unhappiness, as it seems.

“This could be — where you die,” I catch myself thinking, calmly.

But he finally takes off — liberated! — wagging his middle finger in the air to point out yet another injustice in his life.

Or another’s stone face as he pretends not to see me when I attempt to merge onto the freeway, in front of him:  No fucking way!  He stares ahead, hideous in his acting unaware; and I know there is no emotion more cancerous than his glee at getting in my way.  No fucking way!  He would rather I crash and take him with me — than give me room.

No fucking way!

For as long as I have now lived in this city, this freeway has been sitting here as a parking lot of the worst in human behavior.  At first, I would try to comprehend what exactly made these other drivers commit such schizoid acts:  Haven’t they ever been affected by tenderness or humility?  Was there something about this demographic, or the hour of the day?

But that can make even a saintly woman lose her mind — and I’m not a saintly woman!

Still, I would wear these fuckers’ aggressions on my skin, like an army of flees nibbling at my capillaries; and I would walk into meetings and auditions, to my friends’ houses, looking for the closest bathroom, to rinse myself off.  And then, I would wonder why there was no joy left in my art.

Nowadays, I breathe through it.  I watch my aggression trying to rise up and I push it down and out with an exhale.  I sit back, muttering prayers of forgiveness. And if lucky, I lock my eyes with the guy in the midst of his private exorcism, going berserk in traffic:

“This could be — where you die.”

One got to me, the other day, in 110-degree heat that only that side of the 405 can accumulate.  We had all been sitting in the parking lot before the merger, unanimously late to our meetings and auditions, to our friends’ houses.

“Sepulveda,” I thought, suffering from a lapse of judgement.  So, I got off — and there, I got stuck.

Slowly, we were climbing down the hill along the congested boulevard, due to yet another never ending construction related to the 405, when I noticed a white van inching toward my bumper.  That type of a vehicle is always creepy:  with no windows on its long, dented body with chipping paint, it surely must be up to some sketchy contraband.  The red, puffy face of its driver seemed constipated; and he scowled in my rear-view mirror every time I stepped on my breaks, before a red light.

For a least half a mile he would jerk his face into that scowl, inching toward my tail; stepping on his breaks with enough abrasiveness to make that whole thing bounce on its wheels.  And I could see his screaming with that crooked, slobbering mouth.

“What the fuck does he want me to do:  sit in the middle of the intersection?!”  I got caught up, I confess, and I felt my own aggression rise up.

Inching toward Wilshire, melting in my seat, I noticed a middle-aged Middle-Eastern woman, timidly trying to merge into my lane from a side street.  Letting her in would mean missing yet another green light.  But the woman’s face of a basset hound would get stuck with me for days had I ignored her.  I knew that — so I let her it.

“YA FUCKIN’ BITCH!”

I heard that!  The whole of Brentwood heard that!

In my rear-view mirror, the red, puffy face started going berserk:  He was swinging his whale-like body, clutching onto the steering wheel, as if trying to tear it out.

I parked my car.

Pulled out the keys.

Walked over to the white van.

The only thing I could feel was the sweat that had accumulated between my thigh in this 110-degree heat and began crawling from under my miniskirt and down each leg.

The coward’s window was rolled up.  I knocked on it.

“This could be — where you die,” I caught myself thinking, calmly.

He stared at me, stumped for a good while, blinking his bloodshot eyes above the open, crooked mouth.  I knocked again.  He blinked — again.

Who knows what I had in mind:  The coward never opened his window.

And even though I walked away thinking, “This could be — where you die,” I knew that I just rode out the courage inherited from the insane, untamed, wild, passionate women in my family’s previous generations, mad enough to drive a man crazy; and in that mode — I was permanently fearless.

“I Told You: Leave Your Situations at the Door!”

I don’t want to wait for a change.  For a change, I don’t want to wait for a change — I want to create it.  I want to make it, because I must make it — in life.  Too long!  It has been too long of a wait:  for a change.  

I had been carrying my suffering like a sentimental load inside tattered baggage I must’ve borrowed from the top shelf of my parents’ closet.  When I was initially packing it up, back in the most formative years of my youth, curiously my father looked over my shoulder, handing me my items with one hand and patting the crown of my head with the other:

“You sure you’re gonna need all of this, little sparrow?” he would ask repeatedly, yet still contribute to my baggage, a handful of issues at a time.

I would get hold of his items, twirl them in my hand; sniff, taste, measure:  “Hmm.  Dunno!” I would say.  “Might need it later.”

My youthful impatience, my childish wrath would prevent me from weighing my future load against my strength.  Instead, I would get inventive at digging up some forgotten familial issues from the corners of my motha’s drawers.  And with my father as my shadow, I would wander around the home I was leaving — out of my stubbornness, not my self-esteem — and take a few things off the walls and, with his help, reach for the highest, forgotten shelves of our bookcases.  Instead of testing the baggage with an occasional test run, I kept on stuffing it.

“Might need it later,” I kept thinking, not even knowing that it was way too much pressure to place onto one’s “later”.

On the day of my departure for what I thought would be a better life — a better “later” — I even managed to look under all the carpets and rugs of our familial home, swooping up a few more microscopic particles into the side pockets of my baggage:  Might need those later, as well.

“Oh, and don’t forget this!” motha would shove a few more things into my baggage on my way out.  She would see me off at the threshold of our familial home; and every time I turned in a lapse of courage, she would wave her kitchen towel at me:  A flag of Don’t Ever Surrender!

The journey would turn out to be more epic than even my youthful imagination could think up; and it would be so magnificent at times — better than I thought when I thought of my “later”.  I would never come to regret the steps I had taken back then, in the most formative years of my youth; and I wouldn’t despise the directions I had chosen to follow — mostly out of stubbornness, not necessarily my self-esteem.  Because in the end, it would’ve all been worth it:  My life — my “later” — would be my own creation.  My choice.

Along the way, I would continue to pick up a few more issues for my loaded baggage:  Might need those later.  And it would take the initial thrill of the journey to settle down before I would become aware of the compromised lightness of my step, the increasing calluses and the now chronic backaches.

“Am I really gonna need all this stuff later?” I would wonder for a moment, but then carry on carrying, mostly out of stubbornness — NOT my self-esteem.

And when another youthful thing would pass me with a lighter baggage on her back, secretly I would admire her step; and I would wonder about our difference.  Must be a familial thing, I would conclude, then rummage through my baggage in search of an issue I could blame it on.  For a moment, the blame would soothe the envy, but the weight would not let up.  And I would spend more stretches of my journey in anticipation of the next rest stop.

Yes, I was getting tired.  I needed more stops, more time to get up; more courage to summon that stubbornness I had been confusing for self-esteem.  The load would begin to affect my choices:  I would start looking for shortcuts.  Better yet, I would ask other travelers for their evaluation of the course ahead.

“It’s just that… I have all this baggage,” I would explain, introducing the heavy load on my back as some alter-ego of mine.

I would begin to doubt my choices, to question if my “later” was still worth the pains.  Suddenly, I would find myself wasting time on indecisiveness — a quality that tarnished my self-esteem.

It would be thrilling, though, when for a while I would be accompanied by a love.  He would offer me a helping hand, and although I would accept it reluctantly, I had to notice how much easier it was to travel without baggage.  Quickly, I would get addicted, if not to that same helping hand, but at least to the illusionary promise of it.  But still committed to my baggage, I wouldn’t notice the burden it would be causing to my love.  And when that love would depart, sometimes, I would ask to carry some of his load as well:  Might need it later.

It would take a few more loves — loves that were in love with their own baggage of suffering — before I would wonder:

“Perhaps, it is time — for a change.”

Gradually, at first, I began leaving some issues at my rest stops or pretending to forget about them when they were carried by a love.  And then, a new habit kicked in:  Once twirled in my hands for the last time, an item would be disposed.  Because rarely did my baggage prove itself worthy of my “later”.

And for a change, I began wanting to change.  Not waiting for it:  Not rummaging in my baggage for promises of closures or resolutions.  Instead, I’ve gotten into a new habit of letting go — for the sake of change.

So, enough now!  It’s time to let go, time to unload.  It’s time — to change, for a change.  

“Hey, Baby! Hey, Baby! Hey!”

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:

“BABY!”

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.