Readers Report Back From… Humiliation


A collection of short pieces written by Rumpus readers pertaining to the subject of “Humiliation”

Edited by Susan Clements.


In Ms. Fischer’s sixth period English class I pronounced attache as if it rhymed with Apache. Sometimes when I can’t sleep the memory haunts me still.

In 2003 I told Lisa Cooper I had no idea what Jordan almonds were. That bitch is smart, and she looked at me like I was nuts.

Also, I made that joke just now. Sigh.

When I was five I peed my pants in the office of the dean of students of a fair-sized but not-good university. I think his secretary cleaned it up, which makes it worse. And speaking of things that happened when I was a child: I’m pretty sure I once drank out of a urinal before I knew what urinals were, and someone saw me. But, really, what was it doing in a hallway? I’ve thought about going back to the building to check, but I don’t want to know, really. I thought it was a water fountain.

Three years ago I said something that sounded totally racist to a guy who happened to be Asian and who happened to be wearing a yellow polo shirt. I hated his shirt: that’s what I meant.  I don’t hate Asians. I swear.

Okay, I hate one Asian. But she’s a awful. Any normal, non-racist liberally guilty white lady would hate that girl. I nearly ran over her with my bike once. That was only because I’m not so good on a bike and was not a hate crime. Plus, she got out of the way before I hit her. In fact, it would be more racist not to hate her and almost hit her with my bike, right?

Also, I fell off my bike.

I farted during Holy Communion and told everyone it was my sweaty foot in my Birkenstock. Every part of that sentence is horrible.

But not as horrible as than the time my shirt fell off my shoulder and exposed the majority of my left breast. I was at a museum and some guy—who I’m pretty sure was wearing a yellow polo shirt—said much louder than was necessary “Hey, the nudes are the next hall over, lady.” I mean, really. Who wants to be called “lady” by a strange man who’s just seen your boob?  Are these the boobs of a lady?

Actually. Don’t answer that. I don’t want to know.

— Lee Ella Oglesbee

* * *

I’m driving down a main commercial strip with four of my students when we see a person inside a yellow, foam-rubber outfit advertising for some business. A puffy box surrounds his torso, including his head. Clothed in yellow fabric, his arms and legs jut out from small openings in the foam rubber. The pitchman looks like Spongebob without the face.

“Man, that has got to be hot,” I say as we approach Foam Rubber Person.

The kids agree. We all look closely as we drive past.

 “Did that guy have an opening for his head?” a student in the back asks.

 No one can seem to remember.

 “Okay,” I say, “we’ve got to figure this out. Take the next right.”

 The girl driving makes an abrupt turn to the right. We swing around the block, doing three more rights and ending up back on the main drag. I tell my driver that, as much as I’d like to let her look, she needs to keep her eyes on the road. I don’t know how I could justify a crash if it happened.

 We stop at the light and everyone leans forward, squinting at Foam Rubber Person. He’s spinning and waving at passing cars, and we can’t answer our question. The light turns green and we approach our target. At the last second he spins away from us. We all let out a groan.

 “Okay,” I say, “let’s try again.”

 We circle the block and approach our yellow target one more time. On this pass I have the driver slow way down, and we crawl up to the person. Looking over we see a small mesh screen at eye level, an opening probably six by six inches. The advertiser looks straight at our car and stands still. Behind the mesh I see two unblinking eyes as we drive past. The car fills with vicious, dark laughter, the kind that comes when you don’t realize that it’s probably your turn to be humiliated next.

— Thomas Sullivan

* * *

Before I was old enough to have active underarm hair follicles of my own, I was vigilant about my mother’s. The woman rarely shaved, it was a disgrace!

In the summers, when she’d throw on one of her dated, 70s-era, tan-and-red striped tank tops and culottes (the horror!), I’d place myself strategically between those prickly, exposed strands and the eyes of any stranger. At church potlucks and my brother’s sports banquets, I was always on edge. Covering.

She had other things on her mind—making her own yogurt from scratch, running a weekend soup kitchen, writing a thousand-page dissertation on Plato’s dialogues, and making me feel like god’s gift to the world.

To her, womanly rituals were a nuisance. To me, at age 10, my mother’s shunning of basic personal maintenance was what set our family apart at those potlucks and banquets. And her awkward attempts at idle chit-chat—from someone who hadn’t turned on a TV or read a magazine in years—didn’t help either.

One day I took charge. Mom was at the dining room table writing a card for some kid who’d graduated—a friend of my brother’s, I think. I wasn’t feeling particularly bold, but the time had come to say something.


She gave me the fullest, most loving, devoted, expectant look. “Yeah?”

“Um . . . before we go, um . . . could you . . . shave?”

She chortled. But I also saw the tiniest—just the tiniest—trace of shame in her eyes before she looked back at the card and licked the envelope shut. “Yeah, don’t worry. I’ll do that.”

I don’t think we ever discussed the oddness of that request. Because it wasn’t until high school, after my parents separated and mom was laid off from her part-time professorship and offered tenure track at a tiny college in rural Arkansas—an opportunity it pained her to take but she had a daughter to support—that I realized what a thankless chore it is to shave ones armpits. What a minor dent it makes against those deep, dark tresses, what burning pains shoot through the ingrowns and how rarely people notice or care.

When I taught myself to shave it was imperfect, it hurt and it was embarrassing. And my mother, if she hadn’t been 800 miles away, would have had the last laugh.

— Erica E. Phillips

 * * *

It’s always about a secret. Not, in every instance, having a secret revealed, but just the possibility of one kept. Or the mere need for the secret, which sometimes the concealer cannot name to herself.

One summer afternoon in 1983, my mother was arrested for shoplifting. She phoned me at the news desk in tears. The manager at Eagle Foods, she said, stopped her at the exit door and demanded to search her purse.

She resisted at first, then gave in.

“You’d better find what you’re looking for,” she huffed.

He did. Five packs of unpaid-for Salem cigarettes.

Rather than haul this distraught woman to jail, the cop gave her a notice to appear in court and let her return to her car, where my grandmother waited.

“I don’t know,” Mom told me, sniffling. “I don’t know how they got there.”

Our heavily churched Illinois town’s tabloid specialized in rapes, murders, car crashes, house fires, and, especially, vice.

I waited outside adult-bookstore raids to capture images of shackled clerks as detectives folded them into squad cars. Photographing the accused, whose grainy portraits often landed on page one, I felt a weirdly powerful surge of glee. It was a feeling as strong as my joy, during covert visits, thumbing magazines in the bookstores that stayed open.

Secrets made public.

My stepfather Jim wanted to sue goddamned Eagle Foods. Frame-up! His wife, after all—at Jim’s insistence, with effort that involved hypnosis, acupuncture and a special diet—had quit smoking months ago, proudly dropping from three packs per day to two, and then one. Anyway, she had no reason to steal. They weren’t poor.

Her brand: Salem.

I looked up the police report, which detailed how a stock boy had watched the shopper glance nervously around before stuffing the cigarettes into her purse. “Crimes like this,” her lawyer told me, “may have sexual overtones.” He negotiated a no-contest plea, $35 fine, and court supervision.

Menopause, the lawyer must have meant—I had read the research—and maybe, in a way, he was right. Maybe everything has sexual overtones. I believe she stole to savor in private what she once enjoyed openly, what she no longer wanted to pay the price for, even though she could. And I realize how much in those days I was my mother’s son.

— Randy Osborne

 * * *

(1982)  One of my famous cousins is getting married again. Mom and I hear about the wedding, but our invitations never arrive. I torment her into calling to ask that we be included, pushing until she acquiesces, although she swears she won’t go. Which is fine with me.

I’m 17 years old and living with her again, after a dismal stint with my erstwhile father and his new family. My mother’s apartment is 350 square feet.  There’s a hot plate and a tiny refrigerator in the hall closet, and the bed—our bed—is unfolded every night from a ratty, brown tweed sofa. There is nowhere in the apartment I can’t hear her breathing.

I spend days looking for a job that doesn’t require a high school diploma and nights hitchhiking down Sunset Boulevard to Gazzari’s and the Rainbow, where I hang out in the parking lot when I don’t have enough money for the door.

The invitation arrives two days before the wedding. The card stock is thick and creamy and the envelope is lined with shiny paper. I borrow a slinky green dress and invite the drummer from the Gazzari’s house band to be my date. He picks me up in the alley behind my mother’s apartment by leaning on the horn.

There are photographers when we arrive at the sprawling Brentwood mansion where the reception is being held. The drummer disappears in the direction of the bar and I wait at an ornately dressed cocktail table for what seems like an eternity. There are so many celebrities it’s like watching TV. When the groom’s brother slides into the seat next to mine and suggests we go out to his car for a bump, I eagerly agree. Mark is debonair in a tuxedo and sleekly goateed. He rests his hand lightly at the small of my back while we wait for his car to be brought from valet.

Twenty minutes later, we’re parked on a side street and he pushes my head toward his lap without a kiss or even a word.  To be clear, I don’t resist. I understand this currency and I’m willing to use it. When he’s finished, I crack the window and spit into the street. My most vivid memory of the night is the gelatinous mouthful that got stuck on the window and slowly dripped down the passenger door.

— Shanna Mahin

* * *

There are things she could tell you.

Things like I want to leave this place

or There’s so much I hate about you, 

but tell me your heart still does that when I walk through the door, too.

She could put together statements like Please don’t. Come BackI want you here.

Or maybe just words. Ones similar to Please. Wait. Forever. Stop.

She could say all those words and sentences and raise her voice.

Call after you. Call to you. Call for you.

Instead, she’ll squint her left eye—the one with the freckles at the corner—

and nod her head at that angular slant only her swan neck can execute,

staring in your direction. All those words she won’t say,

all those statements and sentences, they are all rooted in a tiny word: hope.

And, if it stays in its own form,

never morphing into fact or truth or action, 

hope is humiliating. When it stays still and lies down in words like that,

sleeping there as a tiger would, waiting selfishly for other words to pick it up—

words like yeshere I amI promise

that tiny word reeks of humiliation.

And her breath is far too sweet to rupture with hope.

— Melanie Simonich

 * * *

He was lying there, looking at the birds nesting out the window. He couldn’t believe that this was her room, her perfect room. Her cowgirl boots in the corner and her oil paints on her desk and a little pile of receipts always piled up on the bookshelf.

He shifted his gaze from the birds down to her. Her muscles told stories of climbing mountains and farming in valleys.

He reached over and touched her face. He let his hands wander, down her neck, over her breasts, pausing at her stomach and then dipping into those perfect folds. Her eyes opened. She looked at him and smile. He went to kiss her and she turned her head to the side.

“I’m not interested in kissing you. You can touch me, but I can’t kiss you anymore.”

He rolled over, away from her.

They went downstairs. They drank black coffee and ate oatmeal. She was good at cooking food that rugged people eat.

They were acting as though it was normal for her to push him away. As though he just accepted it as one of the many terms of their relationship.

He went upstairs to her room.  She stayed in the kitchen and washed dishes. He went to throw away the receipts in his pockets and saw the condom wrapper in her garbage.

She does not love him. She never has. She never will. She has been honest with him. She has told him this, but he has never believed her, until now.

This room is so familiar to him, and to countless others. She loves none of them. He stared at her boots and at the pile of receipts on her bookshelf and at the oil paints covering her desk. None of this was his. None of it ever had been.

He walked to the bathroom and took his contact solution from her sink. He stared at the cup with toothbrushes in it. There were three.

He walked downstairs. He put on his coat.

“I’m leaving,”

“Thanks for coming over. It was good to see you.”

He opened the door and looked at her. He was never going to sleep in her room again. He was walking away with his contact solution in his pocket. He would have told her all of this, if it would have mattered. Instead, he just sighed and walked away, squinting into the sun.

— Maura Cowley

* * *

Teacher sat us in a semi-circle in the playground’s backfield, near a chain link fence, her back against the flexing chains, a hay field, a street and a red gas station behind her. You could hear the passing cars.

We looked toward that border from the brown grass, all of us children in children’s ways: eyes peeled, praying for the playground, furrowed brows figuring out strange things. Low to the level ground but growing.

In us were future corporate lawyers, professional quarterbacks, burnouts, clowns, cross-country cyclists, mothers and fathers and lonely bus riders. Beards, perfume, teeth whitener.

Teacher said, “Think of space. What do you think? What is there more of out there? Stuff, which is matter, or simply empty space? Everyone who thinks it’s mostly empty stay seated, and everyone who thinks there’s more stuff in space than space sit over there.” She pointed to a distant spot on the lawn.

I thought of space. All the things in it. All the things that could be in it. Where it ends. If we could gather it together, maybe we’d find there’s more of the hard stuff, planets, stars, unseen somethings, more than space in space. The empty part is small compared.

I was the only one who moved. I moved and sat cross-legged and waited for the teacher’s revelation. “So only one then?” she said loud. “Of course there is more space in space than things. That’s why it’s called ‘space.’ ” Some kids laughed as if they’d already figured that out.

That’s when Tim T stood up and joined me on my side. Tim T and me liked to look up dirty words in the Spanish dictionary. We liked to spit for distance. Joke around.

“Do you still think there’s more stuff than space?” she asked.

“Maybe somewhere. Far away.”

“Wrong. You don’t understand the concept, I think.”

I began to sweat. “Come join us,” she said. I felt hotly sick. The sun held a magnifying glass to me and stared, lighting the grass into flames, lighting the hay, the gas tanks across the street exploding in the heat. Everything was burning wet. I remembered Icarus, his melting wings.

Me and Tim T moved back. I picked at the grass, paying no attention, scalding. Tim T made a joke.

I thought of people somewhere soaring around like Icarus. But not falling. Flying. Climbing out into space.

— Aaron Moncivaiz

* * *

About a year ago, one of my favorite writers (I don’t want to name any names, but his most famous book rhymes with Cletus’s Bun) came to my town to do a reading. I knew I probably wouldn’t get to talk to the writer, since I was merely a grad student and he would have hundreds of hellos to say and books to sign. I also knew that a good friend of mine, we’ll call him Dave (his real name is Brad), would get lots of face time, since he was not only an even bigger fan of the writer than I, but also the author of an excellent book. I promised myself that if I had the chance to talk to the famous writer, I would say something blue-collar and easygoing, and not mention how much I admired his work, which he would surely be sick of discussing.

The famous writer did a morning panel before his big evening reading, and I arrived early to get a seat in the front row. Dave walked in right before the panel began wearing a suit and slicked-back hair (both very unlike him), and when he was introduced to the famous writer, I watched as he smiled so tight his teeth couldn’t chatter.

“Here,” Dave said to the writer. “I made you this.” He then handed the writer a blood-stained bear claw knotted in a dark string necklace.

I was too far away to know for sure, but I think the writer said something like, “Wow. Thank you. That’s really fucking weird.”

After the panel, Dave offered to introduce me to the famous writer (though he is sometimes a bearer of strange gifts, Dave is nothing if not generous), and as Dave and I approached the writer, I remembered that I had to say something blue-collar and fun, not weird or fawning. (In retrospect, I should have relaxed—Dave essentially gave the man a fingernail necklace and he was cool with it.)

Dave got the writer’s attention and said, “I’d like you to meet my friend, Johannes.”

“Hi,” the writer said and reached out to shake my hand.

I took his hand, and, for reasons that will forever elude me, said, “Your work, I love.”

I don’t remember exactly what happened after the Yoda syntax took over, but I know that the writer disappeared before I had the chance to say anything else.

— Johannes Lichtman

 * * *

My family tree has many folds. Half-brothers and step-dads. Babies carried around on the pointy hips of big sisters who are really their moms. As a teenager I was always mildly unsettled visiting my extended family. Humiliation was cured with a strong silence.

Driving with my mom across western Minnesota back to the cities I thought about how emotions fucked everything up, really. “I know you’re smart,” my mom said out of the blue, “but I just have to say it, I hope you’ve learned that having a baby won’t make a man stay.” She was totally off, but I shuddered at the thought.

I spent my high school years walking dead. I maintained a state of armored stillness. God, I thought, how humiliating it would be if people knew I was gay. I wanted outta there, but like my family I knew how to be quiet better than I knew how to escape. I suffocated desire and replaced it with austerity. I had already learned about wants and needs and duty.

The mornings before school were bright and crisp, everything vibrated. My anxiety, too, was bodily. On the bus I collapsed into a ball into the 90-degree angle of the seat, legs perched up against the seat in front of me, following the curve of the other person’s back.

At lunchtime the commotion in the commons drowned me. I dipped my spoon into my soup and saw that the center of the galaxy was in there. I checked the clock and put my backpack on.

In the afternoon, the fluorescent ceiling lights seemed extra-bright. I pushed my fists into my eye sockets and watched a horizon file out, and then crumble into colors. Forced to speak, my voice came out hoarse. I paused, coughed, and started again. I imagined cobwebs growing over my larynx.

I had a crush on a girl with long black hair in my English class. She only came to school about half the time, and when she did she didn’t bring a backpack, just a purse with cigarettes in it. Lying in bed at night I imagined her crying on my shoulder, bringing her lips up my neck to my ear, telling me that we couldn’t keep quiet anymore. “Don’t you get it?” she whispered, “silence isn’t a cure for humiliation, it is humiliation.”

— Carly Raquel

 * * *

I’m riding my bike along a two-lane road in the Oregon autumn. Sun shines through the emptying canopy. I watch the line on the side of the highway and stay on it or to the right of it when I can. There aren’t many cars on this road. That’s why my husband and I chose to ride here.

When the going gets tough, I conjugate irregular verbs in Spanish. It keeps me from dismounting my bike and throwing it into the trees and filing for divorce.

“Get your fat ass off the road!” A man’s angry voice. White from the sound of it. A little twang. Not much.

The lane widens and I ride along as far right as I can. The rocky bank along the shoulder is lined with trees all the way to the river. Sonny Bono comes to mind.

My husband has gone ahead. He’s strong and rides his bike more than I do.  I told him that I’d be fine so he could go on and do some hills without me.

The cruel voice is hidden inside a big truck. White Ford F-150. Green and Gold decorations. It’s an Oregon Duck truck.

I hope the guy will keep moving, roar around me, leave me with my humiliation. I hope that’s enough for him—enough to satisfy his rage.

It isn’t. He slows down and speeds up, and slows down. I stop. I’m afraid.

Another car is coming up. I hear it first, turn to look, thinking about how much I hate Lance Armstrong, my husband, and pretty Oregon roads. I can barely see the car through my tears. I hate that I’m crying so I imagine that I am crying like Demi Moore did in the movie, “Ghost.”

I realize, then, what is happening and I smile at my savior in the car as the driver of the truck moves on. He might get honked at if he doesn’t get his fat ass going.

— Jenny Forrester

* * *

 When I first moved to L.A., I dated—as one stripe of socially ambitious twenty-something lady does—an actor. The term “dating” may be a stretch, considering our public outings consisted mostly of fast food meals followed by furious parking lot makeouts, but we were involved.

His claim to fame was a short nude scene in a Sam Mendes movie, and he was milking that flash of buttock for all it was worth. His acting was laughable and wooden, and though the gigs weren’t exactly rolling—or even trickling—in after his big part, he was convinced he was the next Clooney.

We were both originally from suburban Atlanta, and we bonded over how much better off we were for having left the south. I was coming down from four years in New York, where I’d all but collapsed under the weight of my failure to do anything impressive. Both of us longed to be something better.

He was writing a screenplay, and had taken a job working at a tile factory in Culver City so that when he sold it he could say that he wrote it while he was working at a tile factory in Culver City. Everything he did was ludicrously predicated on what it would say about him when he was famous, but I overlooked that. Because I liked his pecs and the way he admired my writerly sensibilities—and who knew, if that unlikely future came true, there could be a part in it for me too. We danced around the idea of being exclusive. This went on for months.

Eventually I cracked. I composed a Serious Email about how much I loved being with him, but needed more. The email was part goodbye, part Hail Mary, all putting my heart on the line. I agonized over every word. I must have proofread it fifty times. “You and Me” was the subject line I’d chosen—a tragic ode to what would never be. I finally finished it, hit send. Immediately went to my sent items to reread it.

The subject line? It wasn’t “You and Me.” It was “Your Balls.” YOUR BALLS! The most heart-wrenching email I’d sent in years, and I’d been made a fool of by Gmail’s autocorrect. So much for the poetry of unrequited love.

And don’t ask why Gmail remembered the subject line “Your Balls.” That’s for a different story.

— Sara Campbell

 * * *

I suppose I should have been humiliated when my husband of fourteen and a half years walked out into the living room of the rented beach cottage in Florida and announced to my father and brother that it had been nice knowing them, but that we would be splitting up and he was leaving now.
My dad, in his sixties, and my brother, in his thirties, were each sitting in a rattan club chair with a double old-fashioned glass of Maker’s Mark and soda. It was about 10:30 and four tired, sunburned, sandy children had all been fed, bathed, and were finally asleep, and the men were still recovering from the efforts that had taken. Even though they weren’t really involved. It was the sort of end-of-the-day ordeal that wears you out just watching.

I came out of our bedroom after my husband, as I had needed to change out of my nightgown to put on some real clothes to drive him to the airport so he could leave me and our three little kids. At the beach. With my parents. and my brother, his wife, and their toddler.

When I came out of the bedroom, my dad and my younger brother were sitting in their respective chairs, drinks in hand, not speaking. I said, “Well, I am going to drive him to the airport now,” and my brother said “Why don’t you let me do that?”

That sounded like a better idea, really, but I had become so used to not being any trouble to anyone, that I didn’t agree immediately. Punitive men teach you that you are always inconveniencing everybody. Like your husband has decided to leave you and three little kids for good, to make it in the world on your own, but you would hate to put anybody out by not driving your own abandoner to catch his flight away from you and his kids to supposed bliss.

But I wasn’t humiliated, really. I just know that once my brother drove him away from me and out of my vacation and my life, I went to bed, and I slept all night long.

— Claire

* * *

I didn’t end up an unemployed thirty year-old who lives with my parents because I had a plan. While my friends were getting promoted at PR firms and building irrigation systems in Africa, I was wearing a My Little Pony T-shirt drinking Miller High Life in my childhood room. I’d quit my job in the creative department Manhattan ad agency to focus on my career in stand-up comedy. After a cockroach caused me to jump off the stage and sprain my ankle, I decided to get alternative income.

Thanksgiving was hurtling towards me like a flaming gourd shot out of a NASA space shuttle. I knew being around my relations was going to be tough. Especially since my high achieving mother kept putting pamphlets under my door that urged me to get my “paralegal certificate.”  That fateful Thursday I headed to my Aunt’s house in North Jersey. I was dressed in an Ugg Parka and had two inch roots. I looked like Tanya Harding was dressed as Robin Hood.

“I remember when you were seven. You told us you were going to be famous. What are you up to?” asked a distant cousin.  I should have strategized a vague response to this question the night before like, “I’m consulting with a wide range of companies.”

“I left my job at an ad agency and I shouldn’t have,” I said.

“No, you shouldn’t have,” said my Aunt. I took the opportunity to throw back a few Pinot Grigios in an effort to survive. Then came the clincher: I was told I had to sit at the kiddie table because there wasn’t enough room with the adults.

“I’m thirty, I am not moving,” I snapped. I swallowed the last of my dirty Grey Goose martini. The room fell silent. My uncle forfeited his seat.

“We thank you dear Lord . . .”

“Dear Jesus, Thanks for nothing,” I interrupted grace.

“Stuff it, you drunk,” Dad said.

“Yous guys don love me.”

“If you’d get a job, we’d at least like you,” Dad said.

The next thing I remember was watching the Little People Big World marathon and screaming, “I’m going to live with these dwarves. They’ll give me a job on their farm.”

The next day I woke up and dodged my family as I crept out the door with a stack of resumes. I was never going to be put at the kiddie table again.

— Lianne Stokes

 * * *

We’d exchanged eye contact, so when he leaned toward me in the express line, I smiled.

“What are you going to do with those Oreos?”

My spine felt hot. “I’m going to eat some of them.”

“But they’re not good for you.” He held a coconut water and box of granola.

“If you eat two a day, the box lasts weeks.” In the past I’d wanted to stop eating altogether, ostensibly because it saved money—I was conveniently underemployed at the time—but mostly because I felt like a failure. Six months earlier, I had burst into tears in front of a stranger’s house, two blocks from my apartment.

“Yeah,” he said, “but think of all the health costs you’ll be paying later.”

My face flushed. I could have been shelving in my high school library, he a loud sophomore. (“See that girl over there?  Anyone could have that girl. But the question is”—and here he leaned across the study table, cheeks sculpted like a doll’s —“who would want her?”)

The guy in line kept talking. I grew politer and politer.

“Have a nice day…?”

Goddammit. Why? Why say it? He should have a fucking awful day!

The guy gave me an odd, searching look, as if he wanted me to stay.

(I thought about punching the sophomore, but good library aides didn’t do that, plus it would be on my permanent record and I had college admissions. So I pretended I heard nothing.)

If my life were a movie, the lovable nerd protagonist—down fifty pounds and insecurity, full of feminist rage—would stop and say, “Actually, no. I came in here for groceries, not a lecture from you. So you can take your expensive coconut water and the road bike undoubtedly parked outside and shove it.”

Cue audience cheering.

It doesn’t matter that I happen to have lost that much weight since the library years, but Hollywood would play that up. A makeover story, what’s supposed to be the best kind, where the actress learns to dress and Becomes a Success. A feel-good sleeper hit.

I walked home.

Later, I stared at my groceries on the counter. Did I want dinner? Was I hungry, really? I’d eaten pasta for lunch, like, five hours ago. I put dinner in the fridge and went upstairs.

Then I came downstairs and ate anyway. And I enjoyed it, motherfucker.

— Heather Lefebvre


Rumpus original art by this guy.