After Kate pulled out of her driveway she unbuttoned her jeans so they wouldn’t keep digging into her belly as she made the drive across town. Standing up she could get away with these pants, unfortunately sitting down was another story. They were the only pair left that she could get into anymore, and they were getting tighter by the day. Everything felt tight, her clothes, her jewelry, even her skin. When she caught a glimpse of herself in the rearview mirror she could see that her face looked swollen and almost puffy. She wanted to turn the car around and go home, to strip off what she was wearing and climb back into her baggy sweatpants and tee shirt. But there was no choice, they were out of even the minimal basics like milk and bread; she needed to go to the market. She pulled into the parking lot of the brightly lit A&P and discreetly re-buttoned her pants before getting out of the car and walking quickly into the supermarket, grabbing a cart by the door.
Every time she reached for something or bent down to get an item off the shelf, she felt her jeans dig in or her shirt lift up revealing more of her stomach than she wanted. She looked around to make sure she was alone and tried to readjust her clothes, pull up her jeans over the roll of fat across her middle, untwist her blouse, tugging the material trying to stretch it over her bulging body. With each aisle she felt bigger and bigger. The uncomfortable feeling of not fitting into her clothes, not fitting into her own body, not to mention her life, intensified with each step.
Because it was her life that was really the thing that didn’t fit anymore and she knew it, the truth was unavoidable when she was forced to face it. She didn’t belong here, didn’t belong in this body or this supermarket. She wasn’t supposed to end up like this.
As she unloaded her cart onto the conveyor belt she had to fight back the tears. God no, don’t let me lose it here in front of all these people. A panic welled up in her like a rising tidal wave and it was all she could do to swipe her debit card and bag her stuff, rushing to get out of there before the torrent overcame her. She kept her head down and tightly gripped the handle of the cart as she briskly pushed it across the parking lot. One by one she practically tossed the grocery bags into the backseat, not caring what was in them. She barely reached the safety of the driver’s seat before the tears would wait no longer and came pouring down her cheeks. As she drove out of the A&P parking lot crying her eyes out, she again unbuttoned her jeans and this time unzipped them too, feeling the need for total relief from the confines of pants that no longer fit her any better than her pathetic day to day existence.
When she was safely at home in her baggy clothes again with the food put away, she sat at the kitchen table and tried to calm down. She tried to sink back into that numbness that she could always manage to find once she was alone and away from the rest of the world. Kate ran her hands across the battered old pine table, as if trying to ground herself with each stroke, fingering each familiar scratch and furrow that was worn smooth with years of use. She’d once thought growing older would be like that. All the rough spots, all the scrapes and hollows of experience or loss would fill in, growing softer and smoother as the years went on. But that’s not what happened. For every deep groove that was worn flat some new mark was made, gouged fresh, jagged and rough. Life didn’t get easier, it was even harder than she’d ever imagined.
She ran her hands over her own body now, feeling the rolls of fat undulate like rippling waves. Her chin, once slightly pointed and a little bony, was now round and full, bulging above her sagging neck. Where did it go? Where did her body go, her life, her future?
Kate knew it wasn’t too late, but it was later than it should be. Yes, she could change things, almost everything in fact, for the better. But it would never be as good as it once was, and more importantly, it wouldn’t ever be as good as it should have been if she hadn’t let herself go in the first place. That was what got to her the most, if only she’d taken care of herself all along and never gotten fat to begin with, she might have aged gracefully. She definitely would have, she was sure of it.
Instead she gave up. She got scared and intimidated by the simple things in life that everyone else managed to handle – college, marriage, motherhood, career. She failed at all of it and now it was becomming obvious she was drowning her shame with food, smothering herself into nothingness. No, it was worse, she didn't fail, she didn’t even try to succeed to begin with. Either way, the end result was the same. She had no education, no career, no marriage anymore, one dead child and another that was as foreign to her as if she were a creature from another planet.
Enough. She was going too far, thinking too much. Kate stood up and walked over to the counter where there was one grocery bag left unpacked. She carried it upstairs and headed to her bedroom. As she passed by Nola’s room she could see the sliver of light from beneath her closed door. “I’m home – there’s bread and cold cuts downstairs if you want to make yourself a sandwich.” She heard a barely audible “okay” and with relief continued on down the dark hall. She was glad Nola didn't want to talk. Not tonight. She climbed into her unmade bed and reached for the remote. Mindless sitcoms and a package of cookies. One more night wouldn’t make a difference.
Tomorrow she would do better. Tomorrow she would wake up early and make breakfast for her and Nola. Something healthy, something they could sit and eat together at the old pine table, scratches and all.
how many dishes do we need? - Twenty-three years ago when I first moved into Michael’s small urban apartment he had 4 plates, 3 bowls and a few mismatched mugs. So I added a set of din...