Flesh Fat and Bones
Tricia stared at the large mass of flesh fat and bones. She knew that inanimate objects didn’t have a soul, but to her, it was pure evil. Why? This was the only question she could think to ask herself as she looked at her reflection in the mirror. “Why was I cursed with this body?” she groaned. She consumed 1,500 calories per day and walked briskly for 30 minutes three times per week. She rarely ate fried chicken or Oreo cookies. She did drink way too much alcohol, but really, that was her only vice. She loved to drink. Whiskey and ginger ale was her drink of choice, but when she was pretending to be civilized, or reassure herself that she didn’t have a drinking problem, she chose a sweet Riesling or a glass of Malbec. Of course, "a glass" wasn’t exactly accurate. She drank wine by the bottle, not by the glass.
Turning away from the mirror, she walked into her closet to choose her outfit for the evening. Tricia organized her closet by sizes. The size 18 section was the smallest, because although she frequently weighed in at less than 200 pounds, she rarely stayed there long enough to do much shopping. The size 22-24 section had the most options. These were the sizes where her body felt most comfortable. She regularly traversed the wilderness between a ten-pound weight loss followed by a fifteen-pound weight gain. This pattern kept her pretty much a prisoner in this area of the closet. There was a tiny additional section dedicated to sizes 26 to Oh my freaking God! Tricia found it easy to get to this size. Whenever life dealt her the occasional hay-maker, she would forget about the 1500 calorie rule and eat whatever she wanted. She would have a donut with her coffee in the morning and a cookie at lunch and a nice slice of something gooey and sweet for dinner. This cycle would go on for about a month and then suddenly her pants wouldn’t fit, and she found herself in that small dark corner of shame in her closet. When those clothes started to feel snug, that was usually the wake-up call she needed to get back on the wagon and return to familiar territory. Tonight was a size 24 night. Oh well.
It was important she get her look just right tonight. She would be the center of attention. She shook her head with dread when she thought about it. She believed that someone with her personal appearance was most suited for life behind the scenes. Unfortunately, her skills and competencies often landed her in the front of the room, not the back. She was a high performer, a brilliant facilitator, and an excellent communicator. It was true. All of this talent and brains stuck inside this lump of a body. It just didn’t fit. It really wasn’t fair. But as Tricia’s older sister once told her, “Be glad you are smart sweetie, cuz you ain’t cute.” Tricia often thought of her older sister Rachael, a woman who clearly won the genetic lottery. She had honey brown skin, thick beautiful curly hair and a body that was curvy in all of the right places. She learned at an early age that men with money and a penchant for “exotic” women loved her. And she tried her very best to love them right back. She left home at age 17, three weeks before her high school graduation. She had a habit of dating older men with cool cars and swanky downtown apartments. Her mother objected strenuously until the straw finally broke the camel’s back and she told Rachael the next time she stayed out all night she shouldn’t bother coming home at all. Well, the next time arrived, and Rachael wisely took her mother’s advice. Mother lived by the creed, “I will make you believe that fat meat sho’ is greasy.” In other words, she meant what she said. The last time Tricia heard anything about Rachael, she was on her third husband and living in some trailer park in Florida. Tricia, on the other hand, was living in the posh suburbs or Washington D.C., driving and Audi A8 and taking vacations whenever, and wherever she pleased.
She had prepared this simple black dress weeks in advance. She squeezed it over her head and smoothed it over all of her lumps and bumps. She used to try to contain her massive form inside of Spanx and other restrictive under garments, but finally realized she wasn’t fooling anyone. She was fat, and no girdle was going to change that, so she might as well be comfortable. Panty hose with a little spandex for tummy control was as far as she was willing to go. The finished look was respectable. She was clean and neat, that was the best she could do. She sported a simple short haircut, pearl necklace and earrings and very little make-up. She always made sure to pick the most flattering shade of lipstick though, because her smile was dazzling.
Tricia gave up on having a relationship with a man in her mid-thirties. It was just too hard. Despite what people say about inner beauty, a sense of humor, and a great personality, what men really want is some smoking hot chick with a nice amount of junk in her trunk. Tricia’s junk was spread out all over and that just didn’t work for most men for very long. She couldn’t hold their attention, so she just gave up trying. Tricia embraced being single and quite honestly couldn’t imagine her life any other way.
Tricia was one of the last to arrive at the gala. As the honoree it seemed only fitting that she would make a grand appearance. It really wasn’t exactly grand, though because of all of the grunting, groaning and heaving it required to get out of the chauffer driven sedan. After she righted herself she walked as gracefully as she could into the ball room. Her smile lit up the place. She shook hands, smiled and waved at familiar faces, and made her way through the crowd. She was feeling euphoric. She noticed a few odd glances and quizzical expressions here and there, but she didn’t care. It was her night. She had draped her evil heaving mass of flesh fat and bones into this special dress for this special occasion.
As she drank her third glass of wine, she heard the master of ceremonies announce her award. She quickly sat her glass down as he called her name. She made her way down the center aisle her eyes bright and her smile even brighter. She took her place at the podium and looked out over the crowd. They were so happy for her. She was a woman they admired and held in high esteem. Tricia’s smile faded. This was a moment of triumph. This was a moment of protest. She produced a butane lighter she had tucked into the sleeve of her dress earlier, and brought the flame to life. She looked at the crowd. “If you only knew,” she said, before the flames engulfed her simple black dress and all of the flesh and fat and bones inside of it.
My heart is pounding from the adrenaline rushing through my body. “Steady, girl. Stay steady,” I mumble to myself. I take a deep breath and draw the cool evening air into my lungs. It slides down like smooth butterscotch syrup over vanilla bean ice cream. I smile at the feeling. I can hear the buzzing, ticking and hissing sounds of the late November evening in northern Virginia. It is very different from Chicago, where I grew up. By late November we would be wrapped up in scarves and pulling our hats down low in a feeble attempt to protect our skin from “the hawk”—the wind that blows in from Lake Michigan. The only sounds we would hear would be the howling gales as they tried to force their way into the cracks of our wool and fleece armor.
But here, tonight, all is well. It is a crisp autumn evening. I try to steady my nerves as I stand exposed, lurking under the elevated deck of my prey.
I am going to kill him. I do not mean this as a figurative “Just wait until I get my hands on you! I am going to kill you!” I mean a literal “Just let me get my hands on you! I am going to kill you!”
The lights are slowly extinguishing inside the house, and the point of no return is rapidly approaching. I know what is taking place inside the house because I have been through it before. First, there is dinner. He will either make something really simple like mac and cheese from a box, or he will re-heat some leftovers from one of his client lunches. He always has leftovers from client lunches because the cheap bastard doesn’t believe in paying for his own meals. “Why pay?” he would say. “There are so many people dying to get into my pants, I could eat free lunch for a year.”
Dying to get into my pants was his expression for people trying to do business with him. The man at the Genius Bar: dying to get into his pants. The woman in the shoe department at Macy’s: dying to get into his pants. Every relationship he had, whether fleeting or life-long, was merely a dance with all of the people who were ‘dying to get into his pants.’
After dinner he will spend a couple of hours on the couch, playing fetch with his amped up Boston Terrier, Sophie, and surfing the Internet. At 11:00 p.m. he will watch the first fifteen minutes of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and then begin the ritual of retiring to bed. He will put the harness and leash on Sophie and walk through the house, turning out all of the lights. His last stop will be the sliding glass doors that lead from the kitchen to the outside deck. He will leave the deck light on and walk Sophie down the stairs to the backyard. These are the same stairs where I am waiting.
I see the lights go out—one by one—until just the deck is illuminated. I can hear the doors open, and I sense his weight stepping onto the planks above me. I hear him make that obnoxious phuck-phuck sound he makes with his pursed lips to summon the dog. Normal people would just whistle or call the animal’s name, but not him. No, he has to pucker up and make that annoying sound reminiscent of the last remnants of mayonnaise being sucked up from of the bottom of the container.
“Come, Sophie,” he finally says when she completely ignores him. “It’s time to go potty so we can go nighty-nights.”
I hear Sophie’s steps, lively and erratic, as she races toward the gate that leads to the stairs. I wait to hear her come bounding down, but the steps suddenly stop. “What are you waiting for?” I hear him ask. “Let’s go.” I hear his feet advancing toward the bottom of the stairs, and with a slight whine, Sophie follows behind.
I take in another deep breath and steel myself for what is to come. I have to kill him. There are laws in the universe that must be honored. The law I am working with right now is the payback is a bitch law. If you screw me, I screw you right back.
He is just a few feet away now; I can smell his cologne. It has faded from the day, but the aroma still lingers. He has reached the bottom of the stairs, and Sophie is sniffing around for the perfect place to relieve herself. She looks at me with the quizzical expression I used to love. I loved everything about Sophie. She was my dog, really, not his. She was mine, right up until the day that I died.
It was an evening much like this one. I was sitting in the garage, in my car with my eyes closed, rocking out to P!NK and Kelly Clarkson. The engine was still running. He hated it when I did that, and he told me so numerous times. “Why don’t you just come in the house?” he would huff. “You are wasting gas, and that music is too loud.”
I sat there a few minutes, and then suddenly realized the garage door was down. I never close it because the car was running, and that wouldn’t be very smart. I punched the button on the door opener, but the door did not rise. I reached forward to depress the ignition button to turn the car off, but the car continued to run. I began to panic and my breathing accelerated. This was, of course, the worst thing possible as the carbon monoxide was filling my lungs. I was light-headed, and my fingers were not working properly. I could not roll the window down; I could not open the car door. The only thing I could do was sit there and feel my life slowly leave me.
It took so long to return here tonight because of my angst over what would happen to Sophie. I did not want her to be traumatized. I did not want her to wander the neighborhood and fall prey to the animals that rule the night. I had to make sure that she would be safe. So I have made a few trips back over the weeks, just to make sure she would recognize me. Whenever he took her out for a walk, I walked beside them to make sure that she knew I was there. She did. Every time she saw me, she would cock her head to the side and stare at me. “What’re you doing, Mom? Where’ve you been?” her look would say to me. When this is over, I will walk her to the neighbor’s house and ring the doorbell. They will find her and, subsequently, they will find him.
How did we get to this place? How did two people who have lived together for 15 years come to cause each other’s deaths? I am not sure, but as I sat in that car, fading from this world, I knew that he had done it. He staged my death so that he could live his life without me. He could not stand the sound of my voice or the sound of my snoring any longer. Did we fight? No. Did he cheat? Who knows? People are only as faithful as their options, but I did not care to find out. He did not mean that much to me. In fact, he meant very little to me at all. Most of the time I was pretending that he wasn’t there. In my imagination I was a cool, single hipster living with her feisty Boston Terrier, Sophie, and that man wandering around the house was just the hired help.
Clearly he was having similar thoughts about me.
It is time. His death, like mine, will be just a tragic accident.
I rip the gutter down, spout away from the house, and shove it toward his head. He turns around just in time to see it crashing onto his face. He stumbles and falls forward onto the patio, cracking his head hard against the brick pavers. He is dazed. I grab the garden hose and walk over to him as he lies prone on the ground. I put my full weight on his back and push his face down as I release water onto the ground beneath his nose. A pool of water forms and he is struggling to raise his head, but he cannot. I can hear him gurgling and gasping for air as water fills his lungs.
As soon as he stops moving, I release him. I am exhausted.
“Come, Sophie,” I say, and she follows me next door.