Home > 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl(11)

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl(11)
Mona Awad

We pick at the Chinese in awkward silence.

“I should be getting to Java. I’m meeting this guy Andrew there. He’s a friend,” she says. “You’ve got enough there, don’t you? Here,” she says, handing me her dad’s camera. “You can hang on to this and develop them. Just bring it with you next time I see you. You’re coming to class Monday, right?”

“Yeah.”

“We have that presentation.”

“I know.”

She goes to the bathroom to duct-tape her nipples, and while she’s in there, I look at the photos on the camera’s LCD monitor. They’re the same if not worse than the ones I had before. I look startled in most of them. Overexposed. Pissed. My makeup is terrible. I do look like I’ve been punched in the eyes.

She comes back into my room with her dress on up to the hips, her top half totally naked but for the duct-tape crosses.

“Do these look like X’s or crosses?”

I look at her a long time.

“They look more like plus signs, I guess.”

“I guess that’s all right,” she says. “Can you tie me up in back?” She turns to give me her back and holds out the straps of her halter.

I tie her up, gazing at the Asian characters tattooed down her back that supposedly spell out Steppenwolf and wonder, what if they don’t spell out anything? What if she got tricked?

“You should come tonight,” she says. “I could probably get you in if Alaska’s at the door.”

“I better not,” I say. “I’m not feeling that well, actually. And I’ve got stuff to do later.” And I hate that when I say this, she nods, nods in this way like she knows exactly what I’m going to do later. Can actually see me listening to Little Earthquakes on continuous loop while I tear my way through the takeout she left behind.

“Sure,” she says. “If you change your mind about Death, come by. And don’t forget about Monday. You can’t skip, Lizzie.”

“I said I wouldn’t.”

• • •

After she goes, I picture her walking toward the nearby café where Andrew will pick her up, doing it quickly, even on the ice. Her big feet are the only thing big about her and she just turns them into wit. If they were any smaller, I’d fall over. Any bigger, I’d step on you.

Meanwhile, one of her psycho stalkers will be waiting on her front lawn. Nebraska. Or maybe New York. Looking all pitiful in the snowy rain with his waterlogged copy of Steppenwolf. He’ll wait there all night. And maybe when she gets home near dawn, she’ll let him in but only if he agrees not to speak. He’ll agree, of course. He’ll agree to anything just to be near her. She’ll lie there on her bed, surrounded by her flame-breathing dragons, arranging and rearranging her long cool limbs while she tells him about her errand. About the pictures. About Blake. She might say it’s sad. He probably won’t listen anyway. Won’t hear China over the fact of China. Her long limbs too loud, too miraculous.

I call Mel. We haven’t been hanging out as much the past few weeks. When she picks up, she’s distant.

“Just thought I’d say hi,” I say. “What are you up to?” In the background, I hear a swell of somber strings, a voice of immense operatic sadness wailing in the background that I don’t recognize.

“Just studying,” she says. Mel only had a semester’s worth of credits left when she dropped out, so she’s doing two semesters of night school and a summer school stint to finish. “You?”

I tell her I saw China today, and her voice cools even more perceptibly.

“You were right about her,” I say.

“I told you! Honestly, I don’t know what you see in her. She’s . . .”

I wait for it.

“Just kind of plain, really. Boring. And she has no taste of her own! She just copies other people. She just likes whatever the people she hangs around with like. She’s all over the place.”

“Yeah,” I say. This is an accusation that Mel aims at people all the time. I think she thinks it about me sometimes.

“Want to come over? I’ve got Chinese food.”

She can’t, she says. She has a test Monday night and work during the day, so she should probably really focus. Mel works part-time at a doughnut shop. Sometimes, I cut class and go over there, or I go in the afternoon. Mel will join me on her breaks and we’ll eat. Never the doughnuts because we agree that a fat girl with a doughnut is too sad a thing. But we eat everything else. The fake crab salad. The dill pickles. The blueberry muffins. The toasted bagels with salted butter, which we dip into coffees that we take with cream and lots of Equal.

“You sure you can’t, just for a little? I just made a new mix.”

“You better not be making that for China.”

“I’m not.”

“She can’t just have our music given to her, you know.”

“I know.”

“Though I guess she wouldn’t even get it anyway,” she sniffs.

On the other end, I hear what sounds like a lute. A Celtic drumbeat gathering force. Layered female vocals breaking into a siren-like wail.

“I mean, it’s annoying enough to have to see her at clubs.” I know what she means. It’s hard to take, the way China looks under the lights.

After I hang up, I look around my room. At my crackly bed cushions. At my plus-size blouses and skirts rumpled on the bed. At all the old posters of Hollywood sirens my mother once nailed to my walls. I stand up on the bed. I reach out and start ripping them down—first a tiaraed Audrey Hepburn eating breakfast in dark glasses (now with zombies, thanks to me), then Jayne Mansfield sweatered and laughing, then windblown Marilyn in her infamous halter, then Marilyn when she was Norma Jean, pedal pushers and plaid tied over her sucked-in stomach. I hesitate with Bettie, because I’m the one who bought it and taped it up there, but then I reach up on my tiptoes and tear it down too.

I’m still in the midst of ripping, my fists full of crumpled glossy paper and tape, when my Wonder Woman phone starts ringing. I’m hoping it’s Mel, but I know it’s him. Wanting to know if I sent them yet. Oh, he can’t wait. He really can’t. I imagine telling him there’s something wrong with my computer. I don’t know what happened. Some sort of glitch.

While the phone rings and rings, I lie on the floor, close my eyes. I do what I’m trying not to do, which is dream myself into her clothes buckle by buckle, zip by zip, and then into her skin. Until I am her limbs and her long curving back, Steppenwolf branded on my knobby spine. Until I am her lips and her sharply cut cheeks and her eyes clouded in their glittering gray smoke. Until I am her eyebrow arching itself at me from the opposite shore of the room. Sure, I say to this sad girl. I’ll show you. The only thing I keep of myself is my hair, which fans out around me like Ophelia drowning. In the corner is a beautiful blue-haired boy whom I’ve let in out of the rain. I’m letting him watch me sleep. I’m so very kind.

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