by Lorna Garano

“That man loves you,” my mother said, and I knew it was time to wrench the conversation in another, more mundane, direction like the latest episode of Project Runway or how I was thinking of repainting my living room.

There were two reasons for this. 

First, as a general principle my mother thought love meant being willing to kill for someone, particularly as revenge. Love was always in doubt until it was proven by murder, verified with a bloodied body—or at least the pledge of one. She would tell my sister and me often how she would kill anyone who hurt us, shoot them down, gut them, do prison time for it if it came to that. I didn't like the idea of Tom blowing off someone's head in my name. Not just because it was distasteful, but because he was so skinny that I couldn't help but see him being knocked over by the gun's recoil and then stomped to death by the imagined perpetrator.

Second, what my mother was really saying is that I was lucky to find a man so enamored of me at my current weight. I was over 200 pounds, well past the point of any credible use of euphemism to describe my body and deep into the realm of unlovable, at least by any man without some sort of fetish.

So, I waited a few seconds and said, “Did I tell you we're thinking of repainting the living room? Maybe a peach with a green accent color.”

            “Oh, that would be nice,” she answered.

            We found something to watch on TV and were pretty much quiet for the rest of the visit. When she walked me out she tried to pretend she didn't notice how the car wobbled when I got into it and how I had to unspool the safety belt to its full length to get it across me.

            I drove to the stop sign at the end of my mother's street. No one was behind me so I kept my foot on the brake and clicked through a CD collection I kept in the car. Just when I'd thought I'd found what it was I wanted to listen to a horn blared from behind me. I looked into the rear view mirror and I pressed the gas. When the road bifurcated into two lanes the car behind me pulled up on my left. A teenage boy, his face flecked with acne sat in the passenger side and when he looked at me he broke into the smile that I knew meant that I had become amusement, that nothing I could ever say to this kid would make me anything other than a breathing joke, an animated gag.

            I sped up and when I pulled into the Food Basket the sky was starting look like it had splashed with ink. Tom would be home soon. He would go into the kitchen and cook dinner for both of us. Healthy stuff. Not diet food. The dinners he wanted to eat even though he was skinny. I grabbed a handcart and headed to the frozen aisle. I navigated right to the freezer case that held the butterscotch and vanilla ice cream sandwiches and headed to the check out. The cashier was young and he had hair that had been cut so that it lay at the top of his eyelids. He didn't look at me.

            I drove around to the back of the store and parked next to a dumpster. Then I unwrapped the first of the ice cream sandwiches and turned on the heat. That's when I looked at my phone for the first time. Three messages from an unknown number. I finished the first sandwich in three bites and then I unwrapped another one. I was supposed to go to a job interview today. The responses to my online resume and portfolio had been what I expected. Voluminous, Tom called them, but Tom didn't know that all the interest would fade when a potential employer saw me. I knew the look. I practiced it sometimes in the mirror.  Let's face it, there was something offensive about someone my size as an interior decorator. I should have gone into accounting, programming, something that had no aesthetics. Interior design was a decadent choice for someone who at last count weighed 230 pounds. It was a mismatch: my size and my design sense. I erased the messages without listening to them. I would delete the emails, which would probably start out polite, self-effacing— Do I have the right time?—and would turn cold.  

            I finished the last ice cream sandwich, threw the box and wrappers into the dumpster and drove home to Tom.

            The lights were on in the living room. They illuminated the curtains I made from linen I had painted with intricate patterns that looked like henna hand designs. Tom heard my car and opened the door for me. As soon as I was in the house he hugged me, tight. I loosened my legs only the slightest bit and he pulled me closer, both of us pretended he could hold my weight.