Home > 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl(8)

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl(8)
Mona Awad

“Is he cute?” she asks.

I think of the pictures he sent me the other day. One before the accident and one after. I looked at them once and never again.

“He looks like Morrissey, I guess.” It’s not that much of a stretch. Morrissey is balding, sort of.

“Morrissey’s not looking so good these days,” she says. “So you’re sending him one back?”

“I’m still trying to decide,” I tell her. I show her the pictures taken thus far. The one my mother’s boyfriend took of me in the forest leaning against a dead oak, gazing wistfully to the left. The one I took of myself in the bathtub full of strategically petaled water. The ones Mel took of me in the living room under my mother’s print of Monet’s Water Lilies, my upper half eclipsed by my mother’s cat seated on the armrest, my lower half artfully padded with Indian cushions. “I don’t understand what’s wrong with any of these,” Mel said after we were done. “You look beautiful in all of them.”

China flips through the photos now, frowning. “You’re a little blurry in these. Also you look sort of mad.”

“Do I look fat though?”

“You look mad.”

“How mad?”

“Like, pissed. Seriously pissed.” She flicks through the pictures again. “In this one, you look scared.”

She drops the photos, and flops onto her back next to me. “You know, my dad has a pretty good camera,” she says.

“Really?” I turn to look at her—eyes nose lips chin so cutting and sharp, her bones in an elegant origami configuration on my bed. If she took the photo. Did my eyes. Helped me choose my clothes. She’s really into art, so she probably knows all about angles. I feel a surge of something like hope.

She nods at the ceiling. “We wouldn’t even have to use flash, I don’t think.”

We. My heart lifts. “We wouldn’t?”

“What are you, an echo chamber?”

“Sorry. It’s just I’ve really been stressing about this.”

She frowns. “Why?”

“I haven’t really told him about me, exactly.”

She picks up the photos and starts flipping through them again. “What do you mean about you?”

“Well, like, my weight.”

She looks at me a long time with a raised eyebrow. She hands me back the photos and rests on her back. “I’m starving. I wish we had zucchini blossoms. I’d fry the hell out of them. They’re my thing right now.”

“Oh,” I say.

“Or Chinese. I could really go for some Chinese.”

“When?” I ask her.

“When what?” she repeats.

“Should we take them? The pictures, I mean.”

“Whenever,” she says, yawning.

Now, I think. With my eyes like this. Except I really need to think about location. Wardrobe. “What about Saturday?”

“Saturday should work,” she says, her eyes fluttering closed.

“Like, around one?”

“One,” she repeats, closing her eyes definitively. I watch her until I realize she’s sleeping. I do not want to be someone who watches her sleep. So I go into the living room and just sit there until I hear her rustle awake.

• • •

All evening, I avoid mirrors even though I’m dead curious. I smell like China, who boys burn pictures of, they’re so mad at her for not loving them back. I’m full of Drink Me and with my eyes all smoky, I’m totally not hungry at all. I feel almost like I could be China, like I could fold all my limbs into a chair with grace, grow faint from the smell of mushrooms like she told me she did once—they had to call an ambulance and everything. I go to my room and play the CD I’m in the process of making for China until it’s time to talk to The Cosmic Dancer, and then I tell him all about how I wore PVC to lit class. And I describe the outfit in every particular.

And he’s like, “Man, I wish I could see that,” and, “Wow, Bettie, I’ll bet every boy at your college is totally in love with you.”

“I don’t know about that,” I say. And he’s like, “I do. Every time I hear you describe yourself, I get hard. I seriously do.”

And even though we both know that this is anatomically impossible given his paralysis, I say that’s so sweet of him.

He says he doesn’t know if it’s sweet, but it’s true.

And then I tell him I have this friend, China, who’s going to be taking my full-body pic on Saturday. Some people say we look like sisters, I tell him. Like we’re doppelgängers or something. I tell him about the time she took me to Death and I tell him about the time she smacked a cigarette out of my mouth. And I tell him how today she dragged me into a bathroom stall and did my eyes all smoky like film stars from the thirties and forties. And he says, “Oh, Bettie, I wish I could see you.”

And I say, “I wish you could too.”

“I feel like we have this connection, you know? . . . Like, this deep, deep connection.”

And I agree. We do. And he tells me how I’m going to be his miracle. How the sight of me will make him walk again, will make him so hard he’ll cream his pants, and I let him go on and on like this, describing how we fuck on the Ganges River, which he says is a holy place of transformation, with the whole of the Hindu pantheon of gods watching. And I look up at the dark ceiling above me and blow smoke rings at where I know Bettie is, tied up in her PVC. I remember my eyes are all smoky. I think of China in her room surrounded by the dragons she told me she painted on the walls, being watched by boys dripping rain like Zen fountains.

“Can’t you just send me a picture now?” he asks me.

I’m just about to tell him that I’m tired right now, when the door to my room opens. “Elizabeth, who are you talking to in here?”

I stare at my mother’s robed silhouette in the open doorway. “No one,” I say, hanging up.

“Not one of those guys from the Internet?”

I say nothing. Stare at her sex-rumpled Liz Taylor hair. Her large body robed in black silk and emanating Fendi, which she can’t afford but buys anyway. There is a lot we can’t afford that she buys anyway: abstract paintings, African masks that aren’t even real masks.

“Who were you talking to just now?” she says.

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