Home > 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl(4)

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl(4)
Mona Awad

Tonight, as you careen down her daffodil-flanked walkway, you are pleased to find things as you left them. There is the swaying yellow square of light that is her front window. There are the carefully clipped rosebushes you once retched in. There are her mother’s window boxes full of fussy little purple flowers you can’t help but finger, giggling. There is the fat girl filling the side doorframe, waving you away from the front entrance. She’s so happy to see you that she is waving at you with both arms high above her head, cooing, “Not the front door, remember! Here! This way! Shhh!”

“Sssshhhh,” you tell the fat girl, hitting your lips with two fingers.

She looks bigger than you remember, lacier than you remember, younger than you remember too, which is alarming. Are we moving backward in time or forward, you wonder, as you follow her ample crushed-velvet frame down the Escher staircase toward the living room, which is deep beneath the earth’s surface yet somehow still on the ground floor. No matter. Because look, Some People can’t even be bothered to throw an extra Pop-Tart into the toaster when you come over. The fat girl, on the other hand, has lit all of her vanilla-fig scented candles in anticipation of your arrival. She is burning sage and nag champa in little copper holders. She has refilled her mother’s potpourri bowls with Holiday Spice. She is bent over the oven right now, hands swathed in chef-hat-shaped mittens, praying aloud that you like Banana-Rama bread.

“Luvit,” you tell the fat girl, and collapse onto the rose-patterned couch, making all the Indian print cushions crackle and hiss.

How it warms your heart to watch her race to and from the kitchen, bearing plates piled with things she knows you love: rocky road fudge bars; peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwich triangles without the crusts—you hate the crusts, the fat girl knows and remembers, unlike Some People, who do not care to know or remember.

“I would have made more,” she says, “if I’d known you were coming.” Next time maybe let her know just a little bit earlier? Just so she can be better prepared?

“Sure,” you assure the fat girl. “Hey, you got anything to drink?” After the day you’ve had, you sure could use something stiff. “Hell of a day,” you tell her.

“Tell me, tell me,” entreats the fat girl, pouring you the last of her mother’s rosé, which is the only booze of hers you didn’t polish off the last time you were here.

“It’s just . . . no one listens, you know?” you tell her. No one really listens. Especially not Some People, you say, as you take the chilled goblet from her plump, pink hand.

Now, the fat girl knows very well whom you mean by Some People. She hates Some People. In fact, even the mention of Some People makes her Betty Boop eyes go black and flinty.

“I listen,” says the fat girl.

“You listen,” you tell her. “Love how you listen,” you say, giving her a wobbly smile and a wink that makes red blotches bloom all over her neck and chest.

“S’matteroffact,” you tell her, reaching over and fiddling with the little red bow nestled in the black webby lace above her breasts, “s’one of the reasons I came over.” You have a new set of songs you composed, and you would like the fat girl to be the first to hear them. “Furst,” you assure her, holding up two fingers.

“Really?” she breathes. Oh! Oh! How you have made her night no her week no her month no her year!

How different her reaction from the reaction of Some People, who only rolled their eyes and muttered, Here we go, when you offered to play your new collection (tentatively titled Novembral Musings). Who filed their nails and frowned through whole tracks into which you had squeezed out every last bit of your soul like drips from a well-wrung rag. Your biggest fan, the fat girl—she listens. She gets it. She bites her lower lip in order to keep, you must assume, from crying. She lies on her back on the floor (“so I can really listen”), closes her eyes, and nods gravely along to the loops of feedback and fuzzy distortion.

“Wow,” is her first word. Spoken in a fervent whisper, with eyes still closed. Wow, wow, wow, breathes the fat girl, pressing a hand to her red-blotched chest. And when you ask if she’d like to hear more, she does not roll her eyes and say, Christ, there’s more? like Some People. “I’d love to,” says the fat girl, like you even had to ask.

Epic. Primordial. Gritty. Incandescent. These are just a few of the adjectives the fat girl feeds you along with her Banana-Rama bread, her peanut butter and raspberry triangles, her rocky road. She says it’s like you have Leonard Cohen’s touch with lyrics coupled with Daniel Johnston’s sincerity coupled with a Rimbaudian aura of tragedy yet with Nick Cave teeth. She doesn’t tell you not to quit your day job, like Some People. Instead, she counsels never to give up, her gaze wet, dark, and adoring as a dog’s.

You lay your head in the crushed-velvet lap of the fat girl. You tell her how it’s difficult not to give up . . . when there are Some People who don’t appreciate you.

“But I appreciate you,” she chimes, running plump fingers softly through your thinning brown hair.

“Well, Some People don’t,” you tell the fat girl; she gasps, all shock and indignation.

“Well, Some People have terrible taste,” she sniffs, which is what you’ve thought all along. It’s amazing how you and the fat girl always seem to think the same thoughts at the same time. Like you share two halves of the same brain or something, you tell her. And she agrees.

“Like we’re kindred spirits or something,” she whispers, lowering her eyes. And then, after a moment, she looks at you again. “I wrote something,” she says shyly. “For you.”

She wasn’t going to read it before, but she feels it might go with the creative intent of track eight. She wonders if you’d like to hear it.

“Sure,” you tell her.

You do not hear the elegy of the fat girl, which she reads in a quavering voice from a journal patterned with Celtic faeries. You are too busy watching her, being transfixed. How her hands tremble, how the red blotches on her cheeks and chest bloom bigger and brighter (you make her so nervous!), how she peers shyly up at you from time to time through a curtain of dark hair, her eyes moony and bright. And you don’t know what it is, if it’s the dirty mothers or the vodka or the rosé or some sort of black magic, but you can’t take your eyes off the fat girl; she has transformed, as she always seems to do around this time of night, into something you could almost love for an hour.

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