It Was Always a Sunny Afternoon…
It was always a sunny afternoon when I had my body explained to me. Amber’s Mother who was bigger than my Mother was telling us we could no longer swing on the swings.
We could no longer slide down the slides or sprint across the bridges at the play place because we were “too big” because I was “too big” and we were seven. Because I was too big at seven.
It was always a sunny afternoon when Jessica was telling me she had to snack more than me because she was smaller, meaning she weighed less, and I knew this because she told me. Because her legs didn’t take up all of the fabric of her shorts like mine did.
M&M Rainbow Cookies
Fruit by the Foot
She ate in front of me and never shared because I was “too big”.
Because I was too big at seven.
It was always a sunny afternoon when my Aunt told me I was too big to sit on my cousin’s bike and I should watch them ride it instead. Because I was “too big”. My cousin, a boy, could ride around in front of me, because it was his bike. Because he was smaller than me at seven.
It was always a sunny afternoon when I was in Miss. Allison’s ballet or lyrical or tap class besides Gwyneth who had long legs and a disappearing torso. Gwyneth fit all the sample costumes, showed us how they should look on the body when we danced in them, how we walked. Because she was smaller than me at seven.
It was always a sunny afternoon when I was running home from Jessica’s house, down the hill, collecting asphalt rock in my jelly sandals, running into the front door for dinner. It was a sunny afternoon when they were sitting there: the two of them facing me, their folded hands, their tights lips, my Mother’s jiggling leg, my Father’s blank stare, the absence of food on the stove and no sound off the television in the living room. It was sunny when they told me about the divorce. It was sunny when they told me about the divorce when I was seven. It was sunny when I started to bend. It’s always sunny out when it’s raining. It’s always sunny out when it’s snowing. It’s always sunny out when it’s sunny out or when it’s nothing and that nothing always feels like something- a reminder of how it was, of how it started, of what I nurtured, of the things I planted and started growing to keep it going, to keep me infected. Because I thought I was too big.
Because he left me at seven.
I move from Pittsburgh where there are many little girls who look like me. Little girls with long noses and high cheekbones and big eyes and big mouths and fat stored away in places where it feels like it shouldn’t be.
I move to the south.
I move to Charlottesville.
In Charlottesville, the girls all have slim thighs and freckles on their faces.
In Charlottesville, there are black people and there are WASPS. There’s nobody in between. There’s nobody with a vowel at the end of their name. There’s nobody who looks like me.
WASPS. They are swarming. They are all around me.
Now I live in their neighborhood and now I belong to their pool and now I take the same dance classes and now I want to be like
The Sarahs and Katies and Laurens.
The Brians and Carters and Jasons like
The Sarahs and Katies and Laurens.
And I want friends because I never had them
Because I was too big at seven.
I watch the other girls do pulls up in middle school gym class and watch them get weighed
98 pounds…100 pounds…
I wear long sleeves to cover the hair sprouting under my arms and I never raise my hand for fear of showing off my underarm sweat. This is ten, eleven, twelve and thirteen.
The hair, the sweat. I get it all before them.
I cup my breasts and run into bathrooms to change in the locker-room, afraid they will notice me. As if I am not three inches taller, as if they are not three sizes smaller. One day I ask to borrow shorts from Sarah or Katie or Lauren but they don’t fit because my hips are expanding beyond theirs so I have to sit out the class. And I think about how fast they run with their little girl bodies and how slow I’ve become with this little girl body trapped inside a big girl body.
The only other girl shaped like me is a half Italian girl whose name ends in a vowel too. We laugh how none of the teachers say our last name in class, how they list all the other student’s full names and say just our first names when it’s our turn to be called. She has rounder breasts and a wider butt. The other girls don’t want her as their running partner. She’s too slow because she’s got too much fat. She’s so lazy, Sarah says. She’s so loud, Katie says. She’s so sensitive, Lauren says. She’s too close to her family. She’s so angry. She’s so ugly. She’s so Italian. She’s so Italian.
She’s so “unlike you” the WASPS all say.
And I take this to heart and I try harder to be more like them.
And I try.
And I try.
In memory of the
Sink. The sink needs to look busy. Make sure the food was picked apart and instead of putting it in the trashcan, put it down the garbage disposal. Grind it up real nice, real good. Do this just before Mother comes home and by dinner feel sick and unable to join. She will demand you sit with her but you can’t be around it. Cry until your head hurts. You’re never hungry when your head hurts. You will run three times a day in the scorching heat. Begin with the twenty-minute workout video in the early morning before you end the night with the hour-long workout video; by then your legs begin to spasm and your ribs will start to ache. Weigh yourself 5 times a day and pinch your torso in the mirror. Get rid of those thighs. Get rids of those breasts. You can do this for you. This is what you want. Your eyes are starting to dull now. The dark circles have turned brown and your skin is now a pale gray. Very good. Don’t forget to take the scissors out the drawer and try again today. Left arm first, right arm second. Remember the boy who didn’t want you, remember how he got with the girl and how she’d taunt you. Count your carrots, count your ribs, count your carrots, watch your hips. Mom tells you that your look isn’t pretty and you cry and tell her you don’t want to be pretty. Your pretty is dead and you’re sorry that it got this way and now it’s so bad and you can’t stop.
“I couldn’t place you in the sea of kids. You don’t look like yourself.” Mom tearfully tells you picking you up from school. You fly into a rage again. She’s not the one you’re hurting, she’s not the one who’s hurting. She threatens to send you to a place where you’ll have to cut the nonsense. You cry and try to beg her not to take you there. You strike a deal and decide to meet her at the hospital, where she works, to eat lunch with her. You begin to think you can get a grip on this. It doesn’t have to be all bad.
You got her attention. Now maybe you can get his. Your father will be so sorry to see you this way except he never sees you so when he finally sees you he doesn’t notice. You tell him you’ve been doing bad things and you think it might be because of him. He offers you a popsicle and tells you it has 0 calories. You fall apart. He suggests that you gained some weight to your aunt when she asked what’s new and you fall apart some more.
Will he ever see me?
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Something in the Blood
There is something in the blood, and it is sick.
Something aches and boils. It pulses and burns me when I fall asleep.
I no longer sleep.
I spend the morning staring at the ceiling wondering why my blankets feel like they weigh 50 pounds and why my head is filled with oil.
My hair is falling out now so I have tiny bald spots only I can find when I lift certain sections of my hair, my little secrets.
Sometimes when I leave my desk at work, there are strands encircling my chair and decorating the shoulders of my dress. And I’m glad nobody is looking at me lately or making love to me or trying to cast me because I look so bad, feel so bad.
The man at the shoe store watches me struggle to zip up the boot and tells me I look tired and I tell him I’m fine when I’m hard knots inside.
My dress struggles to stretch around my widening hips and waistline. When I remove it, I find chaffed thighs and a reddened stomach. I study the dents from my capped sleeves in the thick of my shoulders.
I have gained weight. I have a puffy face.
This is Hashimotos. This is a broken thyroid. This is a slow metabolism.
This is my personal nightmare.
This is what I deserve.
D E P R E S S I O N
This is your mind with depression.
This is your mind with PMDD- Premenstrual Dysmorphic Disorder.
This is your luteal phase.
It shows you your anger, sadness, distortion every moment of everyday
and you start to believe this is the real you.
This is your body at 30.
This is your body when it wants a baby.
This is a rounder belly, rounder breasts, wider hips.
This is you sad
sad you’re missing your window
mad it’s reminding you in tiny ways.
This is you looking in the mirror.
This is me explaining my body to me
how it feels no different from
when I was too big at seven.