For Kelly Davio
The doctor said not to, so I went ahead and gave up. Because when the doctor looked concerned about the diagnosis, contrary to education and training in keeping a straight face when dealing with both the ridiculous and the death sentence, I knew I had permission. So I went ahead and gave up.
Giving up is like flying. You are untethered to ordinary tasks: don’t open mail, don’t go to the dentist, don’t clean your apartment, don’t learn new things, don’t eat healthy. I decided to eat a lot. I had always wanted more and giving up created opportunity. Five months later, I emerge, living, from a haze of sugar and fat. I am 21 pounds heavier than my already heavy prior frame. Five months later, I don’t recognize myself; I didn’t think it would, but it matters.
I try everything. Weight Watchers, juice fasts, cooking healthy foods, starvation, but I always end up eating whole pies and plate size cookies and deep, overfilled bowls of pasta in creamy sauce. I go to Overeaters Anonymous. I realize I am not special. Relief and disappointment battle at first, but relief wins out when I meet the other sick girls.
Sick Girl #1 has breast cancer. She thought that cancer treatments would leave her thin and gaunt, but her stoic doctors give her steroids, which make her hungry, which makes her eat cake and whole pizzas until she is puffy with bloat. She is fat, and she is pissed, because—Jesus—insult to injury. Cancer is supposed to at least make you thin. She cannot die looking like this. She cannot live like this, either. She finds me at OA.
We both find Sick Girl #2. Unspoken, each of us likes Sick Girl #2 better. She is sick because she was fat, and she has gotten even fatter. She has lost one foot and the other is ready to go and a foot is not enough weight loss to make a difference.
We meet outside of OA, usually at Sick Girl #2’s place, because she has more trouble getting around. She has a wheelchair and hand controls in her car, but she is uninterested in adjusting to her circumstances. She is not brave. None of us is brave or inspiring. We are sick girls with resentments and fried chicken and French fries and pans of brownies and bricks of cheese. We are too fat to be poster girls. We are too hungry to stop.
Sick Girl #1 gets sicker. She is off steroids and on chemo and radiation and, even when she eats, she vomits. She does not come to Sick Girl #2’s apartment much anymore because the smell of our food nauseates her. And she misses it. The ritual of engorgement. She misses being fat. I miss liking her.
Sick Girl #1 dies. Just like she wanted, she is thin. We mourn Sick Girl #1. The fat one. In memorial, we expand to fill the empty space.
Lauren Becker is editor of Corium Magazine. Her work has appeared in Wigleaf, The Rumpus, Whiskeypaper, Tin House (online), and The Best Small Fictions of 2015. Her collection of short fiction, If I Would Leave Myself Behind, was published by Curbside Splendor in 2014.