Friday, September 16, 2011

400-pound beauty: Part 1 & 2

Back in the yesteryears of fiction (1800s), stories were printed in installments in newspapers and magazines. The serial nature of the short story made readers keep coming back, day after day. 

Section 1 (June 22nd) & 2. 

400-pound beauty

Just like the old days, I climbed through the wooden door to the cellar, walked up the stairs, and sat, feet-first, facing her door.

“Ben, I don’t do this anymore,” Kim said, seeing me.

She was wearing a silver nose ring. Had a new tattoo of a flaming sun below her earlobe. Her hair was blonde, short, craggy, all scissored in peaks. No problem. What was: no more folds, anywhere. She looked so…pert.

“Changed my life around. I’m working. I’m happy. I’m living. I even signed up for a yoga class,” Kim said.

I stood up. The ceiling was lower than I remembered. 

“You should throw those out. Flies,” I said.

“Let those fuckers have the crusts. I barely ate any. Can’t stomach the grease.”

The boxes were stained, transparent. The cardboard lettering had turned puke yellow. They must have been sitting there for at least 2 weeks.

We looked at each other. Then some girl came huffing down the stairs: Lycra and ballet flats, XL t-shirt with the words IT’S NOT PMS. ITS YOU on the front.

“Who’s this?” I asked.

“Jenny,” Kim said. “Ben, this is Jenny.”

“I know about you. She’s not like that anymore,” Jenny said.

“Didn’t you enjoy it?” I said.

Kim looked away.

“She’s never going back,” Jenny said.

“You know I did. But you were always stronger than me. The stares. I never got used to them,” Kim said.

“I can’t either," Jenny volunteered.  "That’s why she’s helping me too."

“It took a year. 12-step plan. No sugar, no white bread. A multi-vitamin for breakfast. Damn near impossible,” Kim said.

Jenny beamed, as if Kim was directing a motivational speech towards her.

“How does it just disappear?” I asked.

“What, the macrophilia? It's always creeping around somewhere. But I've locked it in a safe room. A padded room. You know, with a straitjacket. It's not getting out,” Kim said.

“And replaced it with what? An undying resolve to save tortured souls? Helping other SSBBWs?” I asked.

"It's called being plus-size," Jenny said. The spaces between her words were vacuum packed with self-loathing. "And I've lost 25 pounds last month."

“Jenny's going to get where I am. She's going to be social. Enjoy the company of normal people. The movies. The supermarket. H&M. Ben, I shop at H&M now,” Kim said.

"I am supposed to give you an award for your hard work?" I asked. I gave her my hawk eyes.

"I'm not the same slug you knew," Kim said. "Self-esteem is a powerful antidote." Then she did something slightly surprising. She threw her hair back over her shoulder like: Better than you'll ever be.

“So that’s it," I said.  Where am I supposed to go?”

“I’m sorry,” Kim said. Jenny tried on her best sympathetic face, but my body, I was already pointing away.

“Ben…I have a friend,” Kim said.

I turned back around. We stared at each other.

“How big?” I asked.

“400, give or take 25. She heard about me. Let me give you her contact information,” Kim said.

I looked at the scrap paper, and her scrawl. 356 Bucher Street, apartment 4B.

“I’d be discreet,” Kim said.

I walked out.

Bucher street bent and twisted, a blank landscape strewn with the rubble of ramshackle establishments. Corn husks were kicked and dirtied on the cracked sidewalks; the ears had been stripped bare. The entire avenue, as much of it as I could see, looked hoarse.

The guard at the door of the Liberty apartments had left a half-eaten hot dog at his grimy desk. The bun had molded itself around the meat. Its smell wended its way into the elevator.

I knocked three times on the door. No doorbell; it was more discreet this way. A minute passed before I heard shuffling.

“I don’t know you,” the voice mumbled.

“Do you want to?” I asked. I was squatting, slightly. The walk over was taking it toll.

I could feel her on the other side, taste the stew of her mind. She was simmering, trying to boil away her unease. The latch clicked.

“I saw you on the other side,” she said. “What are you, 325?”

“Weighed myself yesterday. 356. You can’t see it, but it’s all in the thighs,” I said. I smoothed the front of my pants, as if releasing the creases would help her see better. “You’re cute,” I volunteered.

She had a mop of brown hair down to her chin and small, rodent-like eyes. Her biceps looked like Jolly Ranchers, sectioned and firm; her calves were potatoes, lumpy and pocked; her waist was a section from an overripe pear.

“I’m not kinky,” she told me.

“I’m not either,” I responded, even though I wanted her to say the opposite.

“What is it with men, all this weird shit?” she asked, not expecting a response. “Last week, I had someone playing with the back of my ear. Did you not get touched there as a child?”

“Skin’s sensitive everywhere,” I said.

“But my elbows? The inside of my knee?” she asked.

“If it’s with love,” I said. “Personally, I don’t discriminate.”

“Charming. A true libertarian, you are,” she said. There was a unique sort of skepticism painted on her face.

“My mother always taught me to believe the best in people,” I said. “Can I come inside? There’s too much air conditioning in the hallway.”

"Only if you can answer one question: What began with an apple and ended with a horse?" she asked.

I looked at her in disbelief. She had a pointed, bemused expression on her face. And she was standing her ground, filling up the doorway.

"You're like the sphinx in Harry Potter," I said.

"Sorry, I don't read trashy magic books," she said. "Don't think about changing the subject."

I thought. "How many guesses do I get?" I asked.

"Two," she responded.

"And if I don't get it?" I said.

"Shit outta luck," she said.

"Why didn't you ask me before you opened the door? Would have been more mysterious," I said.

"I like toying with my food in person before I eat it," she said. "It's no fun through a pinhole."

I made a fist and ground it into my stomach, thinking. "It's like a fairy tale, or some crap," I said. "Some beggar starts with nothing, and trades up. You've got to be resilient, need luck on your side. There's no harm in trying." I was talking to myself.

She made out as if she was reaching for her phone, but instead scratched her knee. I saw a swollen dark bump right there. "The clock is telling you to sprint," she said.

"I give up," I said. "I'm feeding my apple to the horse." I looked at her and grinned. I gave her my glassy teddy bear eyes. "That's all I got."

"That's no good," she said. "I'm looking for a dervish." Her demeanor suddenly brightened up. Like salvation and a good time were waiting with a cold beer somewhere behind her.

"Once you find out, let me know," she said.

"You're a funny girl," I said. "I like that." I made a move to the door.

She extended her hand and touched my upper chin, and sighed visibly, theatrically. "See you soon!" she squeaked.

With that, the door closed. I heard the latch click into place.

Like the old days, I slumped down and sat, feet-first, facing her door.

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