When my mother first passed away, I was certain that many of her things would remain unused. Like her massive piano, that still sat in my dining room. Or her violin, which I had tucked away in the now dark storage room. Or her treadmill, which, for many years, had been the bane of my existence—it seemed like she never got off the damn thing.
But, in light of recent events and my newfound awareness of my apparent fatness, my thoughts were changing. The treadmill was there, after all. There was no reason not use it a couple times a week… or a couple times a day.
Mostly, I just didn’t think about the reason why. But I can admit it to you now, Janelle: I was ashamed of my body. In a way that I didn’t think was possible. In a way that I hate to think about now, because it reflected such a poor time in my life. For whatever reason, two people who didn’t even matter had made me feel diminished, made me feel like I was only worth what others could see.
Moreover, they made me feel that I wasn’t worth what I desired. I’ve mentioned it a lot in these past pages, Janelle, but I’ll say it again—my main motivation in life was to have fun. And these people had taken the fun out of things—I couldn’t flirt with anyone, couldn’t smile, couldn’t laugh, without wondering whether some part of my body was jiggling, or whether the person across from me thought less of me because of my appearance. They had stolen my fun.
Life Lesson #4, Janelle: Never let anyone take part of you away.
I was resolved to find the fun again. But, as most people do when suddenly confronted with a problem they don’t know how to handle, I tackled it the wrong way.
I bought a meditation stool and a yoga mat—I knew I wasn’t the kind for weight lifting.
I very determinedly did not call the number on the card that Kobe had given me at the bar. I would do this myself, dammit.
I ran a lot.
I ate salad.
I ran some more.
For what seemed like an eternity (but was really only a couple weeks or so), I worked tirelessly on my fitness. I didn’t go out. I didn’t see people. I didn’t go to parties. I just sweated and centered myself and sweated some more.
It didn’t change a thing.
I didn’t understand. I didn’t know a lot about weight loss—I wasn’t a nutritionist or anything—but I knew that, after a couple weeks of salads and running, I should show some result.
Was there something wrong with me?
Maybe I was destined to be a fat b**** (as Lisa had so artfully termed) forever.
I sat for hours, staring at the piece of cake, berating myself. I was too fat, I wasn’t working hard enough, I needed to try harder; it was never going to work, why did I try so hard, what was wrong with me that I wasn’t skinny to begin with.
In the end, I took a bite of the cake.
Then I threw the whole plate in the garbage.
Then I went to the doctor.
Maybe a professional could tell me why my weight wasn’t coming off, why the salads weren’t working. And, to be perfectly frank, I was tired of eating salads—if they were never going to work, I needed to know now, so I could go back to feeling sorry for myself and eating cake.
All this time, I’d been preoccupied with my weight. I hadn’t so much as thought of Max, except as the man that pointed out my inadequacies. He haunted my nightmares and my new issues with self-esteem, but he wasn’t on my mind in any other ways.
He should have been, as the doctor quickly pointed out.
“You’re pregnant,” he said bluntly. “Any weight loss will be difficult right now, and too much exertion could hurt the baby.”
Well. At least it wasn’t destiny that was keeping the weight on.
This revelation inexorably changed my mindset about the world. For the past few weeks, I’d been lost in a haze of self-revulsion and angst and solitude. I’d just been focusing on my body and how awful it had become without my noticing.
Now, I just stacked vacant, shocked thoughts of Max and Baby on top of it.
My encounter with him did not go well. I had called him up, planning to tell him about the baby. After all, he was now well into his elder years, and he was single—he deserved to know that I was pregnant with his child. (Also, it’s a bit disturbing to me now, Janelle, but at the time, I felt a bit indebted to Max. As much as I see him as an a**hole now, I saw him as a sort of prophet, or guiding light, at the time. He had shown me the error of my ways. I thought I owed him something, almost).
After barraging me with insults, saying that I should never have called him, that this was just like women—sleep with them once and they cling on like you’re dating—he walked away.
I almost let him leave.
If it weren’t for your brother, Janelle, gr0wing in my uterus, I would have let him leave. But, even with my poor self-esteem and a mostly non-existent sense of self-worth, I knew that I had to at least tell him what I had come to say.
I looked down, unsure of what to say. I could have argued against him, said that he was the only one I’d ever slept with. I could have told him, truthfully, that he was the only possibility.
But what good would that have done?
No, don’t look at me like that, Janelle. He wasn’t going to be a father to you, no matter what I might have said. That was clear from the first, sharp laugh of derision that came out of his mouth. Even if I had somehow convinced him that it was his child, that your brother was half of him, he wasn’t prepared to be a father. Especially not to my baby.
And, honestly, his words had shaken me. I couldn’t have said anything if I had wanted to. Because what he had said was a little too close to the truth—I hadn’t known that I was pregnant, beneath all my fat. I hadn’t known. How many weeks was I now… at least three months? And I hadn’t noticed. There was something wrong with that, and he had targeted that wrongness with some kind super human, psychic precision.
I tried to leave.
But as I slunk towards the door, no one said anything, but I felt like their eyes were all glued to me. I felt like I was walking within a spot light of sweaty creases and jiggling body parts. When I turned to look, they had all looked down, but I knew. I knew what they were thinking. There goes the fat girl. Just got dumped. Deserved it.
I couldn’t make it the whole way across the room. The weight of those eyes, pinning me down, made me anxious and nervous and I felt wrong in my skin. Suddenly, I was too hot and everything was too close and then…
I was going to puke.
I ran through the main room of the café, into the bathroom, and slammed the door behind me. With heaving breaths, I released the contents of my stomach into the toilet bowl. Bile stung my lips. I tried not to inhale the acid.
It took more than a few, long minutes for my stomach to ease. It took a few more, long hours of sitting on the toilet, my head in my hands, trying to figure out exactly how long the average patron stayed inside a coffee shop. I needed everyone who had been there to witness my unceremonious exit to be good and gone.
Well into the evening, I stuck my head out the door. It was clear.
I was halfway through the main room, halfway to the door and freedom, when I heard her.
She grabbed my hand, dragged me to a table. I tugged a bit on her grip, but she held fast.
I grimaced, looking down. By the Creator, she had seen. She knew my shame. I had to get out of here.
I tried to stand, but she laid her hand on mine again.
I made my great escape, trying not to puke again. She seemed to have such good intentions… but now that I had noticed my fatness, it seemed that everyone noticed the weight. By the Creator, used to carrying around extra weight…
It was hard. It was so hard.
And it wasn’t until I was sitting on that meditation stool, sweating like a pig and feeling disgusting, with nausea churning in my stomach, that I became truly desperate.
The doctor was right. This wasn’t working. It wouldn’t work.
But I knew something that would.
My mother was not a very spiritual person. But she mentored some people who were—some people who, in the aftermath of Mommy’s first close encounter with the Reaper, thought that my mother could use some spiritual intervention. She had never used it—her fear of ghosts and the supernatural kept her from descending to that level. And, what would she have used it for anyway? After Mommy died, she was ready to go too.
But I wasn’t.
And the many potions that her mentees had given her were sitting right on my wall.
It felt like cheating, in a way. Like signing a pact with the devil. It felt like there would be consequences I couldn’t foresee, and that somehow I would regret it. It felt like this was a dangerous game to be playing.
I didn’t care.
I was pregnant, and weight loss was impossible, and I was miserable, dammit. I had always relied on my fun to keep me going, and, in my mind, my weight had stolen that from me. I hadn’t even been the store in weeks—I was desolate.
I was desperate.
For a moment, I stood there, feeling completely unchanged. The liquid was warm as it slid down my throat, and I felt it settle somewhere in my stomach.
The nausea started to come back. Nothing was happening.
In an instant, I was changed.
I was suddenly skinny.