BY LIZ McADAMS
This is the first of a two-part story. Come back tomorrow to read the conclusion. Copyright is held by the author.
PONDEROUS BULK, Elizabeth thought as she looked in the mirror. The weight hung heavy on her frame, slabs of flesh dangling from her arms, thighs that swayed while she walked. Disgusting, really.
And her face, she thought as she squinted in the mirror — her face, that was the real shame. Once an attractive woman, plump and vivacious; her looks were now long gone, buried beneath the cement of solid flesh.
Eyes that sparkled at one time were now hidden in fleshy folds, blue no longer visible even with the eyeshadow she wore. Her hair was a ratty nest of failed drug store fixes, quick dye jobs over the bathroom sink while she panted with exertion and tried not to pass out from the fumes.
But, it was the best she could do. Visits to the hair salon were a thing of the past – her bulk simply would not fit into the chair. Better to stay home and fumble through Miss Clairol’s false promises rather than endure that humiliation.
Her ass was simply too big.
Sighing, Elizabeth turned away from the mirror. It was time to give it up.
Stuffing her thighs into leggings — specially ordered online in “Beyond Queenly” plus sizes, she pulled a flowering blouse over top, her bosom jutting forward like a mountainous range of cheap polyester.
Great, I look like a circus tent. Just call me the big top. Or, as she glanced at her thighs dimpling through black spandex, I’m the fat lady. The Great Humongo.
And there’s nothing she could do.
Her doctor said, “eat healthy” so a regime of salads was the norm, high protein, low carb was her mantra; faded greens accompanied by slabs of tofu, white congealed flesh resembling her own, or, in rarer instances, blanched chicken breast, a pallid, flavourless source of protein de-fatted and de-skinned to be devoid of taste.
Her exercise program was moderate, as she eschewed gyms and personal trainers, avoiding the stinging humiliation of appearing in public surrounded by scantily dressed bodies, all toned to tightness.
For, Elizabeth did try to walk. Her work was a just two blocks away, and truthfully, there were days when she hailed a cab for the ride home in the evenings, but most mornings would find her shuffling down the street with her sensible lunch of salad and tofu tucked under her arm.
It was her doctor who gave her the idea at her last visit, with her blood pressure reaching skyward and her weight shooting to equal heights. “There’s some medication that might help. It’s worth a try.”
Pulling her purse onto her shoulder, Elizabeth planned walked to the pharmacy, it was only a block away, and her Fitbit told her she needed the exercise.
She stared around her apartment; filled with knickknacks, curios from shops, a piece of jade from China, a rug from Pakistan, a silver cup from Istanbul — all trifles bought through local antique shops, and hinting at a life far more exciting than her own.
She sighed. It was time to leave, and face yet another humiliation.
The elevator was the ultimate exercise in humiliation, however brief; because as the doors opened, and people glanced inside, then ducked out quick, muttering excuses about taking the stairs or forgetting something back at their apartment — their wide eyes told the truth.
No one wanted to be caught in a small box dangling from a steel cable with her. And, as the elevator shifted and groaned as she passed by the floors alone, she understood why. Who’d want to be stuck inside an elevator with a fat lady — why, their combined weight alone would put them well over the safety limits.
Stepping out of the elevator, it was a quick walk down the street to the drug store. Or rather, it would have been a quick walk, previously, before she became so heavy. It seemed a lifetime ago — where did the weight come from? No matter, it was here now, she thought as she leaned against a street garbage can panting, trying, just trying, for a moment to catch her breath.
Her Fitbit chirped as she reached her goal of one thousand steps.
Elizabeth frowned. One thousand steps. She may as well be one thousand pounds, there was nothing she could do to get the weight off.
Pretending an interest in the post office’s window display of bulk packages of toilet paper (how do they manage such things, she wondered), she ignored the sporting goods store across the street. Bikes were on sale — with signs proclaiming Get active! Get healthy!
A bicycle — now that would be truly ridiculous, a tiny seat wedged into her ass, both cheeks overflowing and threatening to swallow the whole thing up. But still, as she glanced across the road, what a feeling to be had gliding down smooth city streets, the wind in her hair, her muscles straining with exertion and the rush of speed filling her very being.
Now she really was being ridiculous, a slow waddle was the best she could do. Giving her head a shake, Elizabeth made her way into the pharmacy.
In the crowded shop things seemed to leap off the shelf as her hips brushed by. Standing in the family planning aisle, inconveniently located beside the vitamin supplements and suppositories, she scanned packages looking for a medicinal fix.
Lose weight fast.
Holding a bottle in hand, she squinted at the ingredients — how was ginseng supposed to work, really? Wasn’t it for memory — she startled as a sales clerk approached. A young 20-something, probably working through college. He smiled at her, “Can I help you?”
“Uh,” Elizabeth flushed. A large part of the shame of being, well, heavy, came from having to tell others that oneself was more than a tad overweight. It was truly embarrassing, and redundant, really. Couldn’t they see?
“Is there anything you’re looking for?” the clerk smiled again, a snide smile, Elizabeth thought, and she was sure she saw his eyes dart to the bottle in her hand. EZ-weight off. Hastily Elizabeth placed the bottle back on the shelf.
“Um, I’m just here to drop off a prescription.” She fumbled for her bag, rooting around for the scrap of paper covered in the doctor’s scrawl.
“Prescription drop off’s over there,” he jerked his head at the sign above a long counter.
As Elizabeth squeezed past him in the aisle, her hips brushed a row of cardboard boxes stacked precariously on the shelf, and an avalanche of condoms in assorted shapes and sizes tumbled to the floor.
“Oh, I am so sorry about that — here, let me—” Elizabeth stammered.
Did the clerk smile at her — an oily smirk of amusement? Not friendly in the least. Of course, the fat lady takes out the contraceptive display, because she’s clearly not getting any at home.
Cheeks burning crimson, Elizabeth bent, struggling to pick up the boxes without becoming short of breath. Gasping, she backed up, and sent another cascade of family planning supplies tumbling to the floor. Who knew there were so many different kinds? Flavours? Textures? And ribbed for her pleasure — oh, my.
“Watch it, lard ass.” His voice came as a whisper — did he really say that? Out loud?
She ignored him and fled the aisle, leaving boxes of condoms and suppositories scattered across the floor, Elizabeth pressed up to the pharmacy counter, scrap of paper in her hand.
“Let me take that for you, hon,” the pharmacist smiled at her, and then glanced down at the paper. “All righty, dear, that’ll be about 20 minutes — will you wait?”
Elizabeth glanced back down the vitamin aisle where the clerk was still stacking boxes of condoms and lube. She flushed, “Uh, no — I have some errands to run first. I’ll be back in half an hour.”
Stepping out of the pharmacy, Elizabeth took a deep breath, trying to fill her lungs, as though she was suffocating. It was stifling in that shop, really.
Now where too?
She supposed she could wander the street, a fat lady meandering down the sidewalk and drawing stares and curious looks. She glanced at her Fitbit. She could walk back to the post office, and pick up some stamps, and see if the bathroom tissue was on sale for a good price.
As she walked down the street, she glanced back at the sporting goods store; laughing at herself over the bicycles. Foolish, really. And better to laugh than cry, she’s already done enough of that.
Strains of middle eastern music caught her ear, faint sitar, and instruments she couldn’t begin to name. Elizabeth looked up, where was that coming from? Perhaps there was a new restaurant around.
Suddenly the music surged, as though someone twisted the volume knob, and Elizabeth stopped on the sidewalk looking around expectantly for a sandwich board announcing daily specials. Strange.
The empty sidewalk stretched before her, and she glanced at the garbage can she had leaned on earlier. A tattered poster reading “Psychic — all seeing, all doing, all powerful” hung limply. As she watched, a breeze passed by, catching the paper and pulling it to the ground, and then slowly slid the poster along the sidewalk.
Elizabeth walked over and stomped on it, pinning it beneath her foot before it could go away. “The Great Ramuh — seer of the unknown.”
What a load of bullocks, she thought, but yet — Elizabeth glanced at her Fitbit. She still had nearly 25 minutes to kill. Why not see the shop? She glanced around as curious passersby stared at the oversized woman in stretch pants straddling a poster, it’d be better than standing around here.
And, she thought, as she picked up the poster, the address was less than half a block away. There and back would be a whole extra block in her exercise program. Poster in hand, Elizabeth set off down the street.
Elizabeth heard the shop before she saw it, or perhaps she smelled it. Reedy sitar and otherworldly voices twisted together with the scent of patchouli, add in the doorway framed in gold paint and red velvet plush in the window display, all showcased to a riot of flickering Christmas lights, and the effect was overwhelming.
Blinking at sensory excess, Elizabeth glanced down at her poster. This was most definitely the place.
Mounting the steps with some effort, Elizabeth pushed open the door amid the jingle of bells, and stared into murky dimness. More patchouli, and dust, and the scent of things long forgotten, time, perhaps, or decay.
Elizabeth startled, and peered around the shop. It looked larger than from the outside, dusty glass display cases held all manner of curios, a row of mirrors hung behind the counter, all reflecting back, what she supposed must be the shop, angles distorted and skewed into unfamiliar places. Shelves filled with trinkets circled the room, and by the front window a low table sat between two plush chairs; catching a movement out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw someone sitting in one, but . . .
“Ah, welcome to my humble abode,” a man rose from behind the counter, jet black hair and olive skin, and, with a magician’s practiced grace, he draped a cloth over one of the mirrors. “I am Ramuh. How may I help you?”
Suddenly feeling foolish, Elizabeth glanced down at her poster. She hadn’t wanted anything, particularly, and now she felt as an intruder. She stammered, “I’m sorry, I was just coming to have a look, I wasn’t planning on—”
“Well now,” Ramuh said, smiling at her, his white teeth gleaming in the shadows. “You found my poster, so you are obviously in the right place. Please, take a look around, there is no pressure to buy here, just enjoy looking at my little treasures.”
“Uh, well thank you.”
Ramuh bent down behind the counter, unboxing something and arranging items in the glass case. A flash of light caught her eye, they appeared to be snow globes, in a multitude of colours, with stands in gold and silver, all encrusted with jewels.
Elizabeth leaned over for another look, “Those are lovely snow globes — where ever did you find them?”
“Ah, my travels go far and wide, I find them in far off places, and bring them to share with others.”
As Elizabeth stared at them, they appeared to change colour, darkening as though a shadow passed over head. She looked up at him, “They are unusual, aren’t they?”
“Each one is unique,” he smiled.
One of the globes in the lower case burst into a riot of colour, flashing yellows and reds, angry orange. Elizabeth leaned closer, “They’re not plugged in, are they? Do they run on batteries?”
Ramuh smiled broadly, “You might say they have their own special power source — they truly are one of a kind.”
She watched transfixed as the globe continued to flash, a strobe light of fiery colours, alternating sequence in patterns of three. “That one’s odd, almost like a warning light.”
“Ah, yes,” he said, laughing. Reaching inside the case, he tapped the globe with his fingers. It suddenly went dark. “This one seems to be a little defective.” Standing up, he smiled at her, “Please, continue to look around, I get so few visitors here.”
To be continued tomorrow.