She squeezes into the plane seat, sweating and out of breath, chewing spearmint gum. Spearmint reminds her of the dock. Age 13, slathered with coconut scented tanning lotion with her slender body, she still felt whole then. Normal. Allie introduced her to spearmint gum, Allie who listened to punk rock and smoked once in awhile. Cool, edgy Allie. She felt accepted with Allie, sometimes even happy with herself.
She lost that self-loving feeling in the 9th grade, and now, an adult, encased in fat, self-doubt and shame, she flies to Stockton to stand over her father as he dies smelling of cigarettes and urine.
More spearmint. Chew away the darkness, the sad madness, and the horror of making normal look angelic with death always tempting her.
Rather than visit her dad alone, she contacted Allie. She hadn’t seen her since graduation and barely spoke since, but she needed an anchor, even one she had once pushed away.
Allie, now a nurse practioner, a single mom, offered to let her stay at her place with the kids. She declined the offer; she long ago stopped staying with anyone, refused to lumber around their houses, trying to pry herself in and out of their bathrooms and breaking their cheap kitchen chairs. Instead she will get a room at the Super Eight and put up with the stares of strangers.
Rage fills her, rage towards herself and towards the perky, lean woman recoiled next to her casting disapproving glances. She feels rage towards the people who dump criticism barely disguised as advice. Rage towards diet doctors who hold out promises not knowing that the right food combination or less carbs or less fat or more exercise will never fix her. Thinner, she felt too vulnerable, too small. She prefers to hide behind the rolls of fat.
Travel always drains her. She now feels relieved that Allie insisted on meeting her at the airport. Exiting the plane, the flight attendants avert their gaze. Children snicker; a senior citizen shakes her head. A teen boy points out the freak to his friends.
She would like a wheelchair, but believes it only makes things worse. She wants strong arms to carry her once again. She wants the dock, rocking with the smell of lake water, coconut lotion, and Allie’s smoky breath laced with spearmint.
Allie, jeans and a white tee shirt, stands as close to the arrival gate as possible without setting off a security alert. Allie leans towards her and she feels a positive surge of home rise up in her, and she regrets the Super Eight.
“Allie, thank you so much for picking me up.” She pants as Allie reaches for her bag.
“What!? Please, you are my dearest and oldest friend, Matthew, sorry, I mean Sarah, it’s going to take me a little getting used to this. Hey, I’m here for you and always will be, no matter what.”
And I knew Allie meant it, and at that moment, wearing my tacky tent of a dress, makeup sliding down my sweaty face and my cock and balls crammed into my panties, for that moment, nothing else mattered, and we were suddenly back on the dock chewing spearmint gum.