Home > 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl(10)

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl(10)
Mona Awad

I can’t tell her I don’t want to broaden my cheek circumference. She wouldn’t understand. Also, with the camera on me, my face stiffens. Feels paralyzed. I force my lips to curl on one side.

“How about now?”

She lowers the camera and looks at the pomegranate-scented tea light I’ve lit and placed on the nightstand.

“Think we’re going to need more light.”

“What if I lean into it more?” I crane my neck forward toward the candle flame.

“Yeah, that won’t work.”

“I thought you said your dad had a special camera. One that can see in the dark.”

“There are no cameras like that, Lizzie.” She flips a switch on the camera and then starts clicking again. This time a flash goes off. Blinding. I reel from it.

“I thought you said you wouldn’t need flash,” I say.

But she keeps clicking and clicking. “What?”

“I said, ‘How do I look?’”

“Like I just murdered your gerbil. Relax a little.” She clicks some more. Clicks and clicks. Too fast. I want to tell her to slow down. Tell me how it looks. Give me a chance to change outfits, lighting, location. Angles. We need to try different angles.

My Wonder Woman phone rings and rings.

“That him?” she asks me, jutting her chin at the phone.

“Yeah,” I say out of the corner of my mouth.

“Answer if you want,” she says.

“It’s fine,” I say. I don’t really want her to hear us talk. Also, I’m afraid if she stops now she won’t take any more.

“Answer,” she says. “I could use a break anyway.” She puts down the camera and picks up my pack of cigarettes.

When I pick my phone up and say hello, I’m aware of how my voice changes. I become the oversexed nymph who will wander the hinterlands of Calcutta with him. The one who is all sinew and braceleted bone. I hear the wistful notes, the breathy affectation I can’t help. I turn away from her while I talk.

“Are you taking the pictures?” he says.

I look over at China. She’s at my desk surfing the net, smoking.

“Yeah.”

“Oh, okay. I didn’t mean to bother you. It’s just I can’t wait to see them. I’m honestly getting hard just thinking about it, I swear. I’m in the middle of creaming my pants right now.”

“That’s nice,” I whisper into the receiver.

“What did you say? How come you’re talking so softly?”

“No reason. I just said, ‘That’s nice.’”

“You keep saying that! And I keep telling you it isn’t nice. It really isn’t.”

“I should go.”

“Wait! When will you send them to me?”

“Later today, probably. Like, tonight, I guess.”

I hang up and turn around to find China still sitting at my computer. She’s found one of the pics Blake sent me in my drawer.

“This is him?”

We both stare at the black-and-white actor’s head shot of him in his wheelchair, the one he still sends out to movie and television producers. He had to quit his job as a soap opera actor after the accident, but he still gets work as an extra, sometimes even a line or two in a movie now and then. Though you can see the wheelchair handles poking out above his biker-jacketed shoulders, the pic is mainly a close-up of his face looking daytime-television intense, like when a bomb has just been dropped in a scene and the camera closes up on the actor’s expression before fading into black and then commercial. But actually it’s the other photo, the one China pulls up now, that I can’t bear to look at. The one before the accident, before the night he got super coked up and decided to climb a forty-foot palm tree and jump. In this picture, he’s standing smiling and naked beneath a waterfall somewhere in South America, wearing a pair of Reeboks, looking only a few years older than I am now. I don’t know why looking at this picture embarrasses me so much. If it’s his eighties hair or the Reeboks or just how at ease he seems in his sunburnt skin, an ease I’ve never known, so at ease he looks almost cocky. That there was a time in his life when he was happy to stand in the bright light of day and bare himself like this, his smile so wide and open, he might be laughing. And that he would send this shot to me now. I much prefer the wheelchair picture, which is more or less just his face, his expression trying for cinematic but mostly just looking broken and vacant. There’s still a lingering pride in the tilt of his chin and shoulders that I don’t know how to process, that is foreign to me. When he sent me the pictures, I didn’t know what to say. At last I said: I like your eyes.

She stares at his photo so long I want to snatch it from her. I want to explain. Remind her that he’s a Lynch fan. Remind her of the Morrissey connection. That he was a pretty big-deal soap opera star in the eighties. He even had sex with Raquel Welch once.

Finally she turns to look at me. “I guess I could go for some Chinese now.”

“Oh,” I say, “are we done?”

“For now,” she says, like I’ve exhausted her.

When the Chinese arrives, I watch her spend a lot of time opening the little packets of sauce. She spends way more time doing this than eating.

“After this, maybe we should try some other things,” I say.

“Like what?”

“Like some different angles. And some locations. And probably too we should try some with the light on.”

“I don’t know about this, Lizzie,” she says.

“What?”

“This whole thing. It just seems weird.”

“What about the guy who was psycho all over you? Vermont? Who burned the photos. He wasn’t weird?”

“I really don’t think you can compare the two.”

“I guess not. I mean, mine lives far away.”

“Also what is he, like, sixty?”

“Forty-seven.”

“And a paraplegic?”

“Quadriplegic.”

“And are you ever actually going to meet this guy? Are you really going to fly to fucking Irvine or wherever he lives? How is he going to pick you up from the airport? Do you even want this guy to fuck you? Can he even fuck you?”

“I—”

“I just don’t see how this is going to work, like, in reality. He’s way old. And weird. And he’s got Baywatch-era hair. This pic situation”—she shakes her head at her egg roll—“is honestly the least of your worries.”

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