“Why didn’t you tell me how fat I was?” I ask my friend Ray when she shows me a photograph taken before December’s staff party.
“You’re not fat, just a little chubby.”
“Give me that,” I say, grabbing it from her.
She stands up, snickering as she walks away. “Wine?”
“Is the Pope Catholic?”
In the kitchen, Ray de-corks a bottle while I stare at the photograph. I can see the faint outline of my stomach beneath the grey sweater I’m wearing. I must have had some sense I’d put on weight; even my khakis are baggy.
Ray passes me a glass of the Gouguenheim Malbec—our wine of choice—when she returns to the couch and sits down beside me. She grabs the photograph from my hand. “You look fine. Stop obsessing.”
I take a sip of wine and have the urge to grab the photograph back from her. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me.”
“And what was I supposed to say?”
“I don’t know, something.”
“And how would you have reacted?”
I pause. “Not well, probably.”
“Exactly.” She takes a long drink from her glass and reaches for the remote control on the coffee table in front of us. “What do you want to watch?”
I shrug. What we watch really doesn’t matter. I want to talk about the way I look in the photograph, how the way I really look doesn’t match the way I thought I looked.
Ray stops moving through the channels when she finds Project Runway. It’s a rerun, but she wants to watch it anyway.
I slide my hand over the love handle at the left side of my stomach, clasping the skin. I guess there’s more there than I remember. But, how could this have happened? I was so thin in college.
“We need snacks,” Ray says at the first commercial break, her back to me as she stands up and walks to the kitchen again.
That’s just what I need, more snacks. I should tell her I’m not hungry, but I don’t and, when she’s beside me again, I reach for the sliced cheese—a Chistou—she’s placed on the coffee table. I have absolutely no control and begin shoving two to three slices at a time into my mouth.
Ray lets out a soft giggle. “Hungry?”
“I guess so,” I say, but the truth is I’m not. And, I don’t know why I’m eating. I want to look at the photograph again, but she’s placed it on the end table to her right, and I’d have to reach over her to get it.
“That’s cool,” she says, when one of the models hits the runway in a dress made entirely of reeds.
I grab two more slices of the Chistou and stare at the television set. I’m not really paying attention to the models, or the reactions the designers have to their work on the runway. I take another drink from the glass of wine in my left hand; if I drink it quickly, I think, I’ll disconnect, from this body I clearly have little, if any, control over.
Wine: Gougenheim, Malbec
- Jesse W. Lane