Disclaimer: This material is raw. It has not been edited or revised in any way. It has not been proofread or spell checked. It appears just as it came out of my head. All feedback welcome.
Her eleven-year marriage was over. Memphis was sure of that. As she watched Evan’s clothes burn on the lawn of their once-perfectly manicured home, she knew that there was no way to reconcile, even if she wanted to. Sure, she could have simply boxed up his Alan Edmond shoes and Brooks Brothers ties, but throwing them out their second-story bedroom window was easier and more satisfying for her. And SHE was putting herself first for once.
They had met while standing in line for cappuccinos at the local coffee shop. After she heard him order “a large amaretto cappuccino with three shots of espresso,” she shouted, “Oh my God! Me too! It’s my favorite drink!” He smiled at her and then told the barista to “Make that two, please.”
They sat the table closest to the fire that wintery afternoon, close to Valentine’s Day. The shop was warm and crowded with college kids, like Memphis, studying and goofing off through the last remaining hours of the weekend.
Memphis was immediately enthralled with Evan. His long, sinewy frame was draped in well-fitting, expensive clothing, including his long coat. Was that camel’s hair, she wondered? As he complained about being in his last semester of his MBA, her eyes examined his face, lingering on his blue eyes and full lips. He seemed so confident in himself with his long right leg crossed over his left. She liked the way he talked with his hands, their slender fingers punctuating words and phrases he thought were important. “And then after I finish this final internship report, I will be moved up to management.”
“Oh,” she said, startled back into the present by the pause in his monologue, “will you be the district manager?”
“No,” he said, slightly frowning, “just the Shipping Manager. It will be years before I can move into a DM spot.”
“Do you think you will have to move away from this area to keep moving up?” she asked, more for herself than him.
“Maybe. I just came back from working several years in Philly. They told me I need an MBA in order to advance.”
She thought excitedly, He’s left the area before. He knows there is life out there!
She said, “I have another couple of years before I finish my English degree. Who knows what I will find for work.” She looked down into her cup to the last few sips of her coffee. Her thick black hair was tied back in a soft, red bow this morning, and a few strands escaped and fell into her line of sight when she bent her head down. Evan watched as she tucked the strays behind her ears.
Memphis could tell that he was interested in her, but she also knew that guys usually were interested in her face and her mind and her laugh. They weren’t, however, interested in her body. At 5’5” and 225 pounds, Memphis was a big girl. She had been overweight since she was a few months old, and she had spent most of her life since age nine trying to make her excess flesh disappear. And yet no matter which diet she followed—Richard Simmons’ Deal-a-Meal, Weight Watchers, TOPS, Cabbage Soup, starvation, and on and on—she always ended up fat again. In fact, fatter than before she tried to lose weight.
In any case, most men liked her personality, but she hadn’t had many boyfriends. She was told, “You’re just not my type” or “I am just not into big girls.” The years of rejection had rocked her self-esteem, and she generally found herself saying yes to any man who was interested, even if she was not. She was afraid, then, that once the coffee was gone and the sun went down that this new handsome stranger would walk out of her life for good.
After a few minutes of silence between them, which was filled in by the din of other patrons enjoying rowdy discussions about philosophy and what happened on the last episode of Friends, Evan said, “Well, I should go. I have to be at the warehouse at 6 am tomorrow. We are getting a shipment of plastic pipe in from Baltimore, and I need to be there to inspect it.” But he didn’t make a move to get up from his chair. He just said there looking at Memphis.
“I have to go back to my room and study for a Literary Criticism exam,” she responded and pushed her cup away, afraid she would knock it over by banging her large breasts against it as she pushed her chair back to get up. She stood there now with her finger tips on the table, afraid that if she looked away from him long enough to put on her coat he would be gone. She was grateful that she had worn her favorite black dress this morning—the long one with the poet sleeves and red velvet trim around the bottom and neckline. It hugged her slender waist and fell loosely over her ample hips and butt. The fleshy crease of her breasts was modestly visible, but she found Evan’s gazing flitting to it from time to time during their conversation.
He stood up, too, pulling on his long beige coat and wrapping his Burberry was it? scarf around his neck. He was tall at 6’2”, and his presence now seemed to overwhelm Memphis. She wanted him to put his arms around her. She wanted him to kiss her. She wanted him to invite her back to his place.
Instead of saying so, she turned to put on her black pea coat, collected her backpack, and awkwardly stood next to their table for a moment. “Uh,” Evan said, “it was nice to meet you, Memphis. Maybe I will see you around.” And he walked across the coffee shop, weaving through Dungeons and Dragons players and students sprawled out on bean bags to the door, its bells ringing as he opened it and slipped out into the newly dark evening. Memphis watched him until he turned the corner onto Dogwood Street and was swallowed up by the grayness. She felt sad and empty and angry and like a failure all at once. Another one, she thought.
She slowly walked through the coffee shop herself, picking her way through bodies and coffee cups and backpacks until she found the door. She had just enough time to walk the two blocks to the corner of Main and Washington to catch the 6:15 bus back to campus. It had gotten colder since the sun went down, and she found herself staring at the sidewalk, looking for icy spots. Her black dress flats weren’t exactly meant for walking through slush and snow. The 6:15 was late, and she could feel her body vibrating in the cold air. She pulled her gloves from her coat pockets and put them on, stamping her feet now and then to keep her body moving as she waited at the bus stop.
By the time the bus arrived, she was both cold and miserable. She took a seat at the front so she wouldn’t have to run into other passengers on what always felt like a long walk to the back. They always looked at her with disdain and annoyance as she sucked in her gut and tried hard not to bump into their arms and knees. As the bus rumbled on through the mostly empty streets, she realized that she should be reliving a wonderful afternoon spent with the sexiest man she had ever met and instead was throwing an epic pity party instead her head. But damn, she thought, would she never be the one? Would no one ever pick her, not for who she could be if she lost weight, but for who she was now?
Soon, her thoughts turned to the food waiting for her back in her dorm room: chocolate chip and macadamia nut cookies she and her friends baked last night while watching American Gothic in the community room, chips and salsa left over from Mexican night on Friday, and a Snickers bar that she kept just for this kind of emergency. Pretty soon she could not hear her voice going on about her failures. Instead, her mind was filled with the smell and tastes of forbidden foods. Junk foods. Foods everyone knew made you fat, but in that moment, Memphis didn’t care about fat, she cared about eating and feel better, just for a little while.
She got off at her stop in front of the main gates of the university. She tightened her coat around her neck and chin to stave off the frigid winds that always seemed to blow on the hilltop. Her mid-size university looked over Watkins, a city of about 30,000 people in the northern panhandle of West Virginia. On most winter nights, Memphis didn’t mind the walk from the bus stop to her room, but tonight she felt so miserable that she just wanted to be in her bunk surrounded by food and homework.
She hustled past the library, one of the only buildings open at 7 pm on a Sunday night, and felt her stomach lurch as she saw a gang of boys standing on the front steps of Main Hall smoking and spitting in the freezing night. She knew they were going to say something to her. She knew without looking up that they were going to make a fat joke. She tried to pretend like she was too cold and in a hurry to notice them, but she could feel their eyes on her. She thought she had escaped their harsh words when just as she turned the corner to go down the steps to her dorm building, one of them mooed.
She kept going, ignoring the laughter that followed. She was easy target, you see. Alone after dark. A fat girl, obviously friendless, should be verbally assaulted, she believed they thought. Each step she took brought on more insults, including oinking and the ever-popular “boom-ba-ba, boom-ba-ba.” She could feel the tears coming, and she tried to gulp them back, not wanting to give them the satisfaction of making her cry. She hustled into the front door of her dorm and rushed back to her room, hoping that her roommate Susan wouldn’t be there with her greasy-haired boyfriend Eddie. She just couldn’t handle either of them right now. She just couldn’t handle more than soft pajamas and a good binge fest.
She sighed with relief upon finding their room dark and empty all but the string of Christmas lights Eddie had rigged up around the room for Susan. She left the overhead lights off and changed in the dim glow. She assembled her food, got her lit crit book, and crawled into the bottom bunk. She flipped on the camp light she had hanging from the bottom of Susan’s bunk and took her first bite: macadamia nut cookie. She was warm, she was safe, no one could hurt her. As she moved on to another cookie and another, she slowly felt better. By the time she had eaten all of the junk food she had assembled, she took the empty cookie plate, tortilla chips bag, salsa jar, and Snickers wrapper to the garbage chute down the hall to destroy the evidence.
She got back to the room, crawled back into bed, and let the remorse wash over her. She tried to read for the exam tomorrow, but Cleanth Brook’s words were drowned out by the demons in her head that were part her and part something else. It is no wonder Evan doesn’t want you. He will never want you. Fat pig. Why did you eat so much? Why did you eat at all? You don’t deserve to eat. Tomorrow, we fast.
She cried herself to sleep, drugged out on sugar and carbs, and didn’t even hear it when Susan came in. Her last thoughts before passing out were I just want to die. I am not worth it.
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