Pat is fat, so what? Aren’t most humans aware that different shapes and sizes from theirs exist? Don’t they ever eat double cream or ever fancy curves? Fat is in all things and everywhere. But Pat struggles; she’s saturated by the name calling by the thin dieters with strengthened abs and by the biceps pumpers who sculpt their thighs.
These finger pointers spit their most hitting words for Pat to chew on; Pat the ball, the venison casserole, and so on… Under the giggles she’s everyone’s laughter, she’s heard it all as an easy target to hate and to compare one’s self loathing against.
Dejected, Pat stands at a fork in the road, in the middle is a cemented wall. One side ignored, the other stared at. To enter the lion’s den with courage she recalls that the bullies are scared too. Scared of being victimized by the shame game in which they are participating. Pat’s persecution is only a consequence of their calamities and insecurities; it goes around…
But no one knows that. To get home, Pat’s feet drag stones on the way up to the tenth floor of a building with a broken lift. She always books two seats for her silhouette in cinemas and on trains she stands. And while the first day of the college ball is approaching fast, for Pat there is still no skirt that fits in high street shops and neither is there a date willing to ring her bell.
With whirling judgements in mind, she’s frightened to not fit in but her anger stands out as a rounded face underlining her sadness. She’s hungry for worrying at echoing voices who accompanied by images of her flesh being compared to manufactured prototypes, haunt her at night. As a result, for relief Pat indulges in chocolate brownies with triple scoops of vanilla ice cream, quickly followed by more guilt and regret for last night’s tart tatin with whipped cream and caramel coulis.
Pat holds on to all of it. This morning already while washing her teeth she thought of it, what they said, what they could do; where would that end and how would she finish? No idea. She tried willpower, vegetable meals and even running; none lasted long. The thing is she’s heavy; she’s filled with emotions ready to burst out.
Rachel has spent fifty years alive, that includes the last thirty years she spent altering in between the status just married and just divorced. She hopes to make Clyde her fourth and last husband. The first one was an unskilled artist dreaming of caviar canapes and smoked salmon buffets when he could barely afford a tin of plain sardines. She ditched him and the tuna salad that he was preparing while she worked to pay for his tubes of paints, which he merely wasted in what seemed to be the art of lying on a couch minus holding a paintbrush.
Shortly after, her second husband was the opposite; forget the romantic naked portraits requests. They were replaced with a text message that talked about being late… again. Quickly she wondered if she married a voicemail or if it was just the side effects of eating caviar and smoked salmon… alone. To distract herself, Rachel employed a gardener who rapidly became the third husband, even though it didn’t end well after she exposed his flirting with a florist whose unwrinkled skin wasn’t even matured.
After that betrayal and her life record, not surprising it was the start of Rachel’s midlife crisis as her self esteem wore very thin. Rachel used to be a weather presenter for Duh Duh News on Channel Zero. All eyes were rolling in until the ratings went down, that’s when Mr.Duh Duh the news director, subtly requested Rachel to have botox, she refused. She also voiced the fact that exposing her decollete may increase the number of viewers but it decreases their attention to her spoken facts. Therefore the Zeros fired her, the official reason was; Rachel broke the rules of our honesty code of conduct by daring to speak the truth.
Furious to be unable to break new ground in a rigid establishment, she quit her career all together. And her diva lifestyle dropped, since she makes ends meet with a job for which she is way too qualified; distributing flyers outside a weather museum.
Rachel was on the verge of selling out her values to upgrade herself to a plastic look, when thank goodness she met Clyde just in time to stop the ‘get younger brainwashing machine bug’ from catching up with her. Clyde rejuvenated Rachel’s youthful years better than any night cream she had ever tried. And she can’t be blamed for allowing herself to feel refreshed by adoration, foot massages, love letters and unlike the last husband, Clyde thinks of florists visits as cheesy.
Clyde is thirtyish. He fits in between the untalented laziness and the workalcoholic materialist exes, and there is no risk of him cheating. Taciturn, he doesn’t instigate any waves in his relationships. He always needs one to feel one so he sticks to it. He strives to keep his words in check and the give and take, balanced.
To keep the peace he strategizes; Clyde overlaps lives, he sneaks behind the scenes; no matter how much energy it might end up costing him. He did cheat but Rachel doesn’t know it, it was in his previous committed relationship; his passive attitude witnessed the fire of passion extinguish and rather than feeding it branches, he poured water over it. The burning wood was kept for his next spark, Rachel. Meanwhile, Clyde stayed months past the expiration date with his last girlfriend, then he finally left, once Rachel was hooked on him.
Pat, Rachel and Clyde lives intertwined on Christmas Eve.
With roads and sidewalks whitened by snowflakes, the festivities for Rachel were originally planned to be celebrated overseas where she annually visits her parents at their sunny property. Clyde has no relatives, he was to spend the most charitable days of the year in company of an insect waving at him on a laptop screen.Then he’d be assembling puzzle pieces, catching up on the latest movies while picking a cold turkey and cheering at it with plenty to refill a champagne flute. And occasionally pushing down dislike buttons on people’s invasion of Christmas selfies on his social media feeds. At least, that was what Rachel was told he would do.
But Clyde’s plan was Pat, she was on the other side of town. That day with the wintered state of roads and half the transport service shut down, unlike those who knew how to drive safely on ice, most were stranded at home. Pat still lived with her parents, each Christmas they spent a week at some friend’s chalet in the French Alps. Usually Pat goes along however after what happened last year she can’t stand the friends…
Every bloody year they can’t help themselves, they feel that Pat’s fat is an invitation to make rude comments, and last year it was, “I empathize with you sweetie, see that photo, see the cellulite, Roger glosses over it, he thinks it’s a camera defect but unlike him I wear my glasses! Isn’t it Roger…, your glasses?! Last summer I went from size 10 to 12, yeah sweetie 12! Some carrots, a drop of lemon water and you see… you see sweetie? There, there!… That’s me here see I was fat and after! Slim, slim, slim! Ask Roger if you don’t believe me.” says the insensitive woman while winking at her dull husband. “The stones went as quickly as they came! You should try this diet too sweetie, see for yourself, it’s effortless! He he he…” As if Pat hadn’t tried every diet already. The ghastly woman insulted not only her body but her intelligence too. Pat wondered how ignorant the woman must be to believe that a carrot and a slice of lemon was going to modify her genetics, her slow metabolism and years of bad habits.
That’s why when Clyde invited Pat over for Christmas, the choice was a straightforward one; she accepted. Pat met Clyde many years ago, he looked at her soul prior to her flesh. At first she had a crush on him, it wasn’t reciprocated. However, as time went by their bond transformed and her heart matured him into the older brother she often wished to have, like a bodyguard, a name to refer to in case of verbal attacks.
Pat and Clyde planned she would go to his apartment by taxi and they would celebrate together like in the old days; like they’ve always done; commenting on old photos, recalling the stupid things they’ve done and replaying their past tragedies while dreaming that in the future they’ll do this and that. Fired up with excitement, Pat’s been looking forward to Christmas with great anticipation for the conversations that will last till dawn, the sunrise that announces it is time for bed, a trip to the store for coffee and eggs, and then maybe an after party.
At this stage of life, no one had taught Pat that some memories are built for one to look back in time, melancholic with a tenderness topped up by regretting thoughts; as if we should have cherished these moments a bit more before they were forever gone. Yet, she was about to learn from the unerasable crossed line Clyde was about to draw on their friendship, that when joy is easily available, sometimes we take it for granted until it has departed.
At 9pm Pat arrived by taxi at Clyde’s address. In vain she rang the bell. She emptied her handbag three times; she’d forgotten her phone. A lucky break was on the verge of a breakdown; she called from a nearby payphone and there was no reply. Outside Clyde’s home, Pat sat on a bench next to the payphone, she was panicked; the taxi driver was paid with the last cash she carried. Besides, in the area there were no ATMs in sight and no shop opened. An area where she found herself stranded, stranded for being fat.
All the while, Clyde was laying on a vintage Chesterfield, relaxed outwardly but petrified inwardly of his lies being uncovered, he was faced with a dilemma. Rachel was relaxing next to him. “Surprise, surprise! I’ve cancelled my flight to spend the holidays with you honey… Here I am, I’m yours, I’m your Santa Claus!”, she arrived about five minutes before Pat rang the bell. The situation got out of control, Clyde disconnected the interphone and turned off his mobile phone.
Pat spent Christmas Eve wandering in the freezing streets, merrily in the early hours an elderly couple walking their dog gifted their hospitality with a paid taxi fare. Darkened, Pat’s heart broke and she swore in each of the endless voicemails in which she vented her mounting frustration at the help of names calling, “You snake!” and straightforward hostility, “Get lost! Go bite yourself ‘till red with your own venom!” Etcetera… In brief, Pat has seen shadows and lightings coming from Clyde’s apartment, and guessed, he was inside and not alone. Hence she’ll never listen to his apologies.
Under the heat he deceived, Clyde went on with his life but a sick mind stuck to him like a too tight tie around his neck; a secret past weakness stopped him from introducing Rachel and Pat to one another. But beneath the tension to which he succumbed on a cowardish impulse, what was he protecting so viciously? Why has he chosen to stain his dignity over authenticity?
There is a story Clyde hasn’t told anyone even though he thinks of it on a daily basis. In the past he was obese and the experience scarred his soul. Responding to his torment his parents moved him from schools to school. He battled many fights on playgrounds but didn’t win any. Thus, he grew into a conflicted teenager who makes himself invisible and whose mindset avoids conflict instinctively, especially while observing how girls looked at him; mocking, to make it clear they were out of his league and for that matter, he was out of all leagues and confidences.
Years later, tired of being invisible, Clyde obsessed on sculpting his visibility in a way that would assure him immunity against teasing. Through willpower and a gym membership, one that has become his full time job; bodybuilding. Everywhere now, no doubt he stands out, he wears stretch tank tops and observes the heads turn. For him all reactions, even repulsions feel like a victory against the past. The eyeballs validate the hard work and the dedication he invested to create a better future.
Clyde provided Pat the support he knew she needed amidst her proudness that prevented her from asking, in return his stretch marks felt understood. Their friendship was genuine but regardless, revealing his fat friend to Rachel would have been revealing a suppressed part of him. In his subconscious the repressed imperfection is stored; the definition of perfection depends on what type of society’s standard the mind recorded.
Even though Clyde is attracted to women those mannerisms and appearance resume the interesting real life experiences they have to share. Rachel was kept in the dark for being the opposite of the popular outer packagings, which according to Clyde’s taste are shallow and prone to boredom. Regrettably it seems his ego did not agree with him.
Made of shortcuts injections, the tall squared shoulders were constructed on a fake foundation. Pumped up but nonetheless pressurized under the squatting of his past, the squeezing feeling manifests in his muscles as spasms; Clyde feels small. Trying to build a future by living a lie filled with paranoias, unscrutinized beliefs, and low self esteem residues that blocked him from being pleased with the way he lived out his life.
The pressure of truth thundered against Clyde, through the wake up call that burst out of an interfone, it cost him his best friend and the long term peace he sought in Rachel. His inner turmoil instead of exploding could have transformed into a happy gathering. If only he wasn’t a people pleaser, none of this would have happened. If only he had stuck to his principles and beliefs and let Pat in, she wouldn’t ignore him. If only he had strengthened his soul as much as his abs, he could have been his authentic self. If only Clyde had let go earlier, and if had let go of thinking that he should have let go earlier.
Many Christmases later Clyde wrote this letter to himself:
Today I change. I digest the past and I fight life’s what ifs. I swallow remorse, a lost friendship and the guilt, for bit by bit, I bitten, I stamped on, until I knocked down, my loves. Now I let go of anger, of past hurts, I let go of comparing myself to others and I refuse to record their judgements. As they keep me psychically and emotionally linked to the past, I let go of people; those whose role is to play an old part of my life. And to befriend myself first, I refuse to hold onto, anger; an emotion that comes from the need to compete against anything that breathes and thinks; it eats my nerves.
When I struggle to let go, I know I can laugh at my inability to let go of regrets, fear, guilt and worrying. I know I can’t alter my past but my present can be changed to make my future count. When I struggle to let go, I open my mind to question my attachments and then release the need to know and instead I practice letting things be, instead I develop my passion and make a goal of building my own world and strive for something bigger, strive for someone better.
To heal, I pursue the loving things; the stimulants of my curiosity. Instead of numbing my own pain by smothering another’s insecurities, instead of being the mirror on which their defects reflects, and modelling my flesh to be part of their world, one that does not suit me, I create my own.
I reach within to get great pleasure instead of thirsting for external validation. Instead of valuing myself by reaching for an experience that comes from something outside of myself; for money, a cigarette, a chocolate cake or a guru or any sugar pills inducing a placebo effect.
At some point I was dissatisfied, I longed for the truth of who I really was and for a brief moment being inauthentic gave me a taste of unconditional love but it didn’t last; It was conditional. Through bad habits, I was trying to feed myself with unconditional love. Until I realised, there are no substitutes that can provide the unconditional love I seek since unconditional love is who I already am. I am a seeker of unconditional love and that knowing satisfies my longing for the truth of who I really am.
Today I understand. I am worth enough to be looked at just the way I am, I don’t need to disguise myself to be noticed, free spirits aren’t supposed to be kept in closed closets, and I am one of them. Change doesn’t happen by just thinking about it, it is about doing things differently in the present, undoing traumas stored in my mind to be able to let go of the past.
The self denial option dissolved; the mask Clyde hung on his doorway to the outside world, evaporated. The act happened rapidly, the sin has been done slowly, he’s done what he had to do to evade pain, though painfully, he touched the ground of reality. His illusions have blown but his stomach cramps eased a bit. Since he learned; change doesn’t have to be painful and it is not, when it isn’t resisted.