Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl – Age 12
Well, she was.
All I was trying to do was decide on which ice cream treat I wanted.
Yet every time I went into that store no matter how fast I made my purchase or what I purchased, she followed me around the store and curled her lip up at me like I stunk.
Kids are rambunctious, have no censor, and can be loud and unwittingly annoying. Of course I wasn’t one of those kids. Okay well sometimes. Maybe.
That day I walked directly to the candy and snacks section of the drug store. I don’t know how much money I had. It wasn’t much. It was never much. So my decision-making time was going to be cut exponentially by the fact that I had real and fairly severe limits as to what I could choose from.
As I peered over the prices and products, mentally whittling my choices, I felt eyes on me. Hers. The hell? My temperature was rising and I could feel myself tightening my jaw. Here we go again.
I headed to the ice cream, my sisters chattering and seeming not to notice her virtual omnipresence. I don’t know if I mentioned to them my chagrin or just wore it on my face. I headed to the ice cream cooler anyway, prepared if they had made their selections, to leave with nothing, so incensed was I at this cashier’s behavior.
I stood over the cooler deciding. As I opened it, she appeared again: “Keep the cooler closed unless you intend to buy something,” she snapped. I looked up at her with closed lips. I wanted to explain that I was simply retrieving the ice cream treat I had chosen. I wanted to be respectful to my elders though it was clear she was not much older than my oldest sister–who was in her early twenties at the time. My eyes, instead, read blank but my heart was beating fast.
My sisters and I paid for our selections; she didn’t want to give us bags. My mother said always leave the store with a bag–that way no one can ever claim you stole your purchase.
By now I was fit to be tied. I gave her a last look, this one was not a blank stare but was brimming with all the venom I could muster. Before I could practice the decorum I had tried so hard to uphold all this time: “Bitch!”
It slipped out without warning. My sisters burst into laughter. First of all because I had said it. I just wasn’t that kid and they reminded me at every turn. And because it came out so adult-like venomous.
“Dar, who you talkin’ to?” they snickered, “Why you say that?”
“You cussed!” they sang the s’s for emphasis.
I stuttered for a second, but my heart wasn’t beating nearly as fast anymore.
West Indians remind us that God only had to say, “Let there be light” to make light appear. The mere utterance of words has the power to influence or change actions, ideas, and outcomes: Wordsoun’ ‘ave poweh.
Uttering that ugly word sure made me feel great that day!