2012-2013 Online Edition - PROSE
By Connor Roberson
“Are you – feeling okay, darling?”
Eliza was always so concerned about me. Always so understanding. Eliza saw the slight crinkling of my brow, the tightness of my shoulders, and she knew that something was wrong. But Eliza did not push the issue. She just watched quietly as I walked around the room.
“Yes. I am feeling fine. Heartsick, that’s all.”
“Oh, you know. Him. And others.”
“I’m sure that you’ll find one,” Eliza said, smiling broadly. She was so pretty.
“I hope so. None of them like me.”
“I’m sure that they do, darling.” Her voice was a honeyed wine.
We were quiet for so long. It was that awkward hour after everyone else in the house was asleep, but before I was done being awake. I lay on the bed for a while, then stood in front of Eliza.
“Why don’t they like me more?”
Eliza’s smile faltered, just for an instant. But I saw it.
“Darling, you – well – maybe this isn’t it, but you’ve been putting on a little weight recently.”
I felt my body in front of the mirror. I was blooming late, I guess. My breasts were only now filling in, but I had my mother’s hips.
“I guess so. I think its just because I’m getting older.”
“Darling, I’m sure it is, but – well – if you want them to like you a bit more, maybe you could just go on a bit of a diet? Nothing major darling, just a little bit. I’d do it.”
I supposed that I could. Food was fine, but I ate way more than some people in Africa, the ones that were still alive but really thin I mean. I could cut back a little; I didn’t get much exercise anyways. I mean, I must eat at least twice as much as I need. I could just cut back a little and maybe smooth out my curves. Boys might like me more.
The next morning, I didn’t eat breakfast. I was hungry from the night before, but it was not even enough to distract me in my morning classes. I had the earliest lunch period, and then I ate until I was full. I had the same microwave tray that I always ate for dinner. Eliza congratulated me enthusiastically. Her smile was so radiant. I knew that this was a good thing. I was only a little hungry when I went to bed, and I easily made it to the next lunch without eating again. I felt strong.
After two weeks, I felt myself again. I was barely any different and felt like my control was slipping. Eliza still smiled at me, but now her eyes were a little more tired. She slumped when I brought the topic up.
“Darling, please, do we have to? Look at me. Do I look like I want to talk about my weight?”
“You don’t look bad, I thi-”
“Well, you’re wrong. Look at this,” Eliza clutched her stomach, rolling it between her fingertips and palms. Her hands flapped the loose skin on the backs of her arms. She stripped nude and grabbed handfuls of her thighs.
“Darling, look at me. If you want to see more improvement – well – eat less.”
I hesitated for a second. I was becoming more uncomfortable with my body. Eliza’s sudden outburst scared me.
“Do I really need to improve? I thought I was doing well enough.
“How much do you eat?”
“I eat in the cafeteria at lunch until I’m full, then dinner like always.”
Eliza’s eyes slanted slightly. They looked more deeply pitted tonight than before. “Full. Exactly. That’s the problem. You look full.”
“I don’t thi-”
“Darling, just eat less at lunch. You don’t want to be full. Take it from me, full is how you got this big.
“I’m not b-”
“Well, darling, handle it yourself then, if you think you can just ignore me.”
“No, no, I will, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
I ate less at lunch. Now I began to see real improvements. My grades went up too. I spent a lot of my time after school in the library now, finishing my homework then researching diets. I wrote in English about nutritional content and developments in diets. I learned to perform math instantly in my head by calculating my calories. I set a goal of a thousand each day for myself. Dinner had six hundred and fifty, so I had to be careful. I drank only water.
Every time that Eliza and I met now, we were nude. She was always unhappy with me. I came home late one day, moved past my mother’s sleeping form on the sofa, and ran upstairs to see her. Every day, she grew angrier and angrier. I could not do enough to please her. I became quite afraid of her.
“Look at me, darling!” she would moan, grabbing at her bulbous sides or tugging on the dangling fat below her chin. “You still eat so much! No wonder they don’t like you, with how you look.”
And I would look at myself and feel nothing but disgust, just like she said. I saw every ounce of my fat spread like tumors around my body. When I lay in bed sleepless every night, I would poke and prod and pinch my body, trying to find some place that was thin, some place that was just thin. Even my knees had some fat around them. I was huge. Alone, in the dark, with mother asleep downstairs and blissfully ignorant of anything in her little girl’s life, I familiarized myself with my abomination of a body.
In class now, I didn’t do as well. I wasn’t sleeping. I cared less and less for homework. After class, when I went to the library, I just sat, just sat and stared. I felt lethargic. My every motion was becoming heavier. Eliza noticed and snidely suggested that maybe it was because I was so weighty. Perhaps my body was having difficulty motivating such fatty thighs, such thick wrists, such a plump stomach. She would grab every part of her bulging body, practically ripping her skin with her unkempt nails, and blame me for treating myself so horribly, blame me for each and every spot on my accursed body that just wasn’t thin. I cried often, but silently, so mother wouldn’t hear. I didn’t want her involved.
Still, the boys ignored me. I didn’t blame them. I was much too heavy. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin, so why would they be comfortable with me? I was so fat. I decided to eat less.
It was easiest to skip dinner. Mother only went grocery shopping when she saw that there were no platters left in the freezer. I didn’t think that she would notice if I stopped eating them. She’s never been around much, because she’s so busy. Only Eliza has time for me anymore, and I didn’t want to see her as much as I used to. She seemed bigger every day, with rolls of fat bulging around every edge of her clothing. She screeched at me. I cried every time I saw her.
“Darling, what the hell is that!” she screamed as I pulled an apple out of my bag one evening.
“It’s just an apple, I saved if from lunch.”
“And how much have you eaten already today, darling?”
“Not very much, not enough, I barely ate lu-”
“How much, darling!”
I looked down at my feet. I couldn’t bear to see her.
“Six hundred and twenty.”
She laughed and laughed, laughed until I’d ripped the apple into chunks with my bare hands and thrown all of them into the trashcan.
“Well, you stupid darling, now you know. Now you know why the boys don’t like you.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Eliza.”
From that point, I stayed below five hundred calories. It wasn’t too difficult. I learned that hunger was only a sensation of the mind, not the body; I wasn’t yet starving, so I must still be healthy. I needed to be thinner anyway. I could eat less than I was, but five hundred was enough to stop the pains during school, long enough so that I could concentrate. I was failing every test I took, but I knew that if I just stayed focused, I could regain control.
Finally, I fell asleep during a history test. I had not slept in two days, and I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. Every question confused me anyway. I felt slow, sluggish mentally, and I knew it was because of my fat. Still too much.
I awoke with strong hands shaking me. It was my teacher, Mr. Fley. The room was empty except for the two of us.
“Are you doing okay?” he asked me quietly, rubbing my arm. I cringed as I felt my own fat sliding up and down on the bone.
“Yes, I’m fine, I’m sorry. I need to go.”
“No, don’t rush. You don’t look well.”
I looked up and saw Eliza’s fat face peering at me, reflected in the second-story window.
“I’m sorry. I know. I know. I need to go.”
He frowned slightly, just a crinkling of the brow, then he stood.
“School ended thirty minutes ago. I kept hoping that you would wake up yourself.”
“Oh,” I said.
He strode to the window and looked out it. I assumed that he didn’t see many people, since it was so late. He pulled the blinds across it and closed them. “At your last parent teacher conference, I remember that your mother came in alone because of…extenuating circumstances. Do you…do you still live in a single parent home?”
I glared at him silently. In my head, I was still focusing on my arm. It was warm from where he had touched me, warm and heavy. It disgusted me, but he hadn’t seemed repelled and had touched it.
“I’m sure that it’s hard for you, to live like that.”
I bit my tongue. There was so much that I wanted to say, so much that I felt the burning need to tell someone. I knew that Mr. Fley was a decent man, a calm man, and one that could help me. Even though I was able to push it inside, I knew that I needed to find help. I needed someone, anyone, besides Eliza, to be in my life.
He could help me. If only I could compel my fat tongue to move. There were words bursting out of my ribs, but I couldn’t bring myself to say them.
“Eliza? Are you feeling okay?” Mr. Fley asked, kneeling down next to me. Again, his hand was on me, sweeping my hair aside gently and touching my forehead. His touch was cold, but felt good. I pressed my head against his hand involuntarily.
“I’m worried about you, Eliza. You haven’t been yourself recently. Have you been eating enough?”
I felt a burning in my throat. This was it. If I could only say aloud what I knew inside, I could go back to how my life was before I saw her fat form tormenting me every day.
I looked over his shoulder and I saw Eliza sitting in the desk in front of me. She was hideous. Her head was merely the pinnacle of a mountainous collection of chins, with thin, greasy hair and small piggy eyes set deep in her fat face. Her limbs were hideous drumsticks of flab that sloshed like jello from the slightest motion. The chair could barely contain her, with rolls of her fat spilling across and under the table. Her mouth was enormous, and grinning.
She cooed at me softly. “Darling, darling, you precious little whore, here he is. Here is the man you can finally take. Are you just going to give up everything we worked for? He doesn’t love you. How could he? Look at me. We are still too heavy. We can still eat less. People survive on far less than your fat self.”
“Eliza? Are you with me?” Mr. Fley said, putting his hands on my shoulders. His touch was electric now. He was ten years older than me, but in the dark room he looked rugged, experienced, caring.
I grabbed his hands in my own, forcefully, and stood up. He was confused but didn’t stop me from pressing my body against his, with his arms wrapped around my back.
“Eliza, what are you – good heavens girl, what are you doing?”
I felt my own claws tugging at his shirt, his huge hands, and his shoulders. Against his broad chest, I actually began to feel small. I felt how his hand, resting where I had placed it on my back, reaching completely across my shoulder blades. I felt each one of my rips pressed against him, while my concave stomach did not.
“Sir, please, please love me,” I murmured, grabbing him tighter when he tried to pull away. I snatched at his hands, tugging them down to my breasts. They were no fuller than my shoulders now, and he recoiled immediately, but I persisted. I could hear her laughing at me. I needed him to love me.
“Sir, please, ple-”
“No, Eliza! Stop this!” he thundered. He stepped away from me, staring in confusion. His hands were shaking slightly.
“Don’t do that!” he said again, quieter this time. “What was that?”
I looked down at myself. Once again, I could see every one of the three hundred calories I had eaten so far today. Every one of them killed me. Mr. Fley looked away, but as I stood silently he gradually turned back.
“You’re not healthy, Eliza,” he whispered. But I saw it, no matter how he tried to conceal it. A flicker in his eyes that I had always dreamed of seeing. I thought that I saw him take a half step forward. I felt radiant. I felt glorious. He was the sun to my moon.
“Please, sir,” I whispered, stepping towards him. In the shining of his light, I saw the harsh angles of my bony body. I saw all of my skeleton and my bony joints. I was so strong and so beautiful, and all my efforts had been worth it. I reveled in his eyes as I imagined they feasted on me.
Then he shook his head and the spell was broken. He took one last look at me, then turned and ran, throwing the door open then slamming it behind him. I heard his rapid footsteps down the hall.
I slumped slowly to the floor as Eliza laughed at me.
I used to need a mirror to meet Eliza, but now she loomed at me everywhere. Any reflective surface was enough to show her enormous face, glaring back at me. I saw her bulbous form in passing cars, out the window, and in my nightmares. She screamed at me constantly now, terrible things. I cried less and less.
I began to see her in the chrome metal of the cafeteria, and so I stopped eating lunch. She still wasn’t pleased, so I tried vomiting. It did no good, of course, but it helped stave her off.
I began to perform better in history, answering questions in class and always turning in my homework on time. Mr. Fley refused to look at me, and always rushed out of class before I could talk to him alone. I wanted him so desperately.
I managed to avoid seeing mother for four days. On the night of the fourth, I had tried to visit Mr. Fley at his house. The trip was terribly hard on me. I had no energy left. Once I got there, he refused to open the door. He had called out to me to stop and despite my best efforts I could not draw him out. I was not surprised. I was hideous. Eliza told me as much, a hundred times a day.
I dragged myself home and, as always, stripped in front of the mirror. Eliza glared back at me, finally silent. My eyes fogged over. When I blinked quickly, to clear it, the fog refused to fade. I lay down.
My vision was still blurry, but as I lay, curled into the fetal position, I stared at the mirror. When for an instant I could see clearly, I saw my own petite form curled naked on the bed. I was just a bag of bones. I was so small. It horrified me more than Eliza’s fat had.
I closed my eyes and cried until I faded and could cry no more.