When My Girlfriend Lost the Weight
When my girlfriend weighed 143 pounds, she stopped eating.
Wed just moved in together after dating for a year. Id just realized I didnt
know shit about her. We had stopped leaving the room to fart months ago,
had already owned up to our love for reality TV, already kissed with bad
breath. But wed never shopped for furniture together. Id never seen how
she reacted to dropping Chinese food on a rug.
In Ikea a fight over a long boxy dining room table almost got physical.
Why the hell would we need a dining room table when we dont even have a dining
room? I asked.
The table creates the room, she answered, just like a family creates
a home. If you dont know that, I dont know what the fuck Im doing with you.
I dont know what the fuck Im doing with my life. She called me a jackass,
called me a motherfucker, called me the whole list of dirty names, started
making up some of her own.
I stood there baffled. People walking by could have thrown futons into my mouth.
I barely recognized her. Her face had gone from red to purple. She was trembling,
holding her arms stiffly at her sides, her hands flared. Little judo chops
she struggled to hold back from my neck. This suddenly was my girlfriend.
Our third night in the new apartment, she toppled a Tupperware container of
kung pao chicken onto a Persian rug I had yet to notice. Shed been eating
on the couch.
She cried. I laughed nervously unsure what to do.
Shit! she shouted, standing up and stamping her foot into the rug, chicken,
and peanuts. My whole life is shit! Shit! Shit!
She crouched over the mess and sobbed. I knelt down beside her, touched her
shoulders, said nothing.
The first half of that kung pao chicken was the last thing she ever ate.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 142 pounds, we had a little talk about the kung
pao chicken incident.
Im not a happy person, she said.
Youve done a hell of a job faking it up to now, I said. Hats off
This is bigger than you and me, she said. Its more than that,
but I guess its all ours now. Can you handle that?
Sure. I could have the dining room table delivered here by four oclock this
Saturday. I looked on the Web. You can order it online.
Its not about the table. But it is about the table. I dont
got baggage, but I dont know what it is.
Leather perhaps. Maybe nylon? You can order luggage online too. Are we taking
a trip? I smiled weakly.
She didnt. You dont understand what Im saying, do you?
Not a word of it.
She frowned. Tiny dimples had a field day on her chin. Just promise we
wont get bored, she said. Promise we wont become furniture to
each other. Promise youll take me dancing.
OK, OK, and do I have to?
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 139 pounds, she started talking about her body parts
as if they didnt belong to her. Look at this ass, she said. Look
at these thighs.
Then she started addressing them directly. What do I got to do to get
rid of you? she said, staring down at a roll of stomach skin shed
pinched between her fingers.
Then she demanded answers, started shouting. Answer me, lard sticks! she
screamed at her legs. Get the fuck out of my life, you saggy pudge lumps, she
hissed at her breasts.
I disguised my voice and answered for them. They needed someone to take their
side. We dont want any trouble, I said in a high-pitched
Southern accent I thought appropriate for her breasts. Evolution and gravity are
powerful foes. When did softness cease to be a quality women valued?
Her legs I gave a thick Scottish brogue, her arms a Midwestern drawl, her stomach
a childs voice, innocent and sincere, emanating, I imagined, from her navel. Im
where you began, it pleaded. You cant hate me.
She only got more worked up, spitting curse words at herself, dissecting her
body into an anatomy of anger.
I walked into the other room, left her alone, her body silent. Hers to do with
as she wished.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 132 pounds, she asked me how she looked.
Thin, I told her. You look thin.
Do I look unhealthily thin? she asked.
Damn it! She punched my arm. How can you say that to me?
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 124 pounds, she was the happiest Id ever seen her.
We went to her sisters lesbian wedding. I was supposed to meet her whole family,
but her parents didnt come. Daddy doesnt approve of the whole lesbian
thing, she told me. It was the first hint I got about her father. Sometimes
I think my sisters doing all this just to piss him off.
Id never been to a lesbian wedding before, but I was open-minded. Both
brides looked lovely. My girlfriends sister, a wide-hipped sturdy butch
in a navy-blue pants suit, her betrothed, a short, curvy Eastern European with
a fake orange tan, penciled in eyebrows, and a giant poofy wedding gown.
Everyone asked my girlfriend if shed lost weight. Old friends whispered
the question to her during the ceremony. In the receiving line her sister slapped
her ass and demanded to know her secret. As we danced to an unbelievably loud
Neil Diamond medley at the reception, a silver-haired aunt shouted the question
into her face.
What? my girlfriend asked, as if she couldnt hear.
The aunt screamed louder. Have! You! Lost! Weight!
What? my girlfriend asked over and over, smiling as her aunt repeated
it two more times, then laughing herself to tears just to hear it shouted again
and again and again.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 118 pounds, she started asking me to look at other
womens asses. To study them, really. To contemplate them for much longer than
Id ever thought possible.
Look at her ass, shed tell me as we stood in a subway car, waited on
line at a movie theatre, or strolled down a crowded sidewalk. Is my ass
bigger than hers?
She wouldnt take a quick no.
Youve got to really look at it, She would tell me. That
woman right there, stare at her ass for seven minutes and then get back to me.
I stared at big asses, small asses. Round, flat, short, and long asses. Asses
that looked as firm and solid as an unripe apple, and soft, saggy asses that
had given up the fight years ago and, in that, seemed to possess a kind of
The more I looked, the more I loved them all. There was vulnerability and strength
in every single one. Some remnant of the child making faces behind the adults
back. Thumbing its nose at every staring fool. Each ass was proud, each ass
So I never had to lie. No, I told my girlfriend again and again. Yours
is definitely smaller than that one too.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 112 pounds, she told me it was time to meet her
She warned me about her father. Everyone calls him Colonel, but hes
never been in the military, she said, nodding slowly.
She told me he was a difficult man. He had a way of getting what he wanted.
Usually it involved making physical threats to innocent bystanders.
She told me he used to be an airline pilot, but he was forced into retirement
after he kicked a passenger because a stewardess wouldnt laugh at one of his
jokes. But I shouldnt mention that. Or her sisters marriage. Shouldnt mention
cats or dogs because he hated small animals, thought pets were a sign of weakness,
preferred to pretend they didnt exist. And I shouldnt look him in the eye
when he eats, shouldnt let my fork touch my teeth.
After a while she wrote me a list. I looked at it and laughed.
This isnt a joke, she said. I grew up with this man.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 107 pounds, we took her mother and father to a pricy
steakhouse. Her father insisted on ordering for everyone. Even a few people
at another table. He seemed not to notice his daughters weight loss,
her hollow cheeks, the caved-in eyes, the shoulders that looked like they could
When I couldnt finish my rib eye, he called me a communist.
The remnants of grizzle and fat remained on my plate uneaten. He banged on
the table and ranted about the failure of socialism across history. You
think you know whats going on in Cuba? he shouted. You know what
Castro wants you to know and thats it. Now eat your goddamned steak.
I laughed again, softer this time. If laughter could be asked as a question,
thats the sound I was making.
Then he threatened to assault a busboy if I didnt finish. I looked at my girlfriend,
her plate untouched, completely ignored by her father. I looked at her mother,
her plate clean as a surgeons sink. They looked down at the table and
shook their heads.
I choked down my last scraps of meat.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 96 pounds, I took her swing dancing. We didnt
know what we were doing, but I just spun her around, threw her in the air like
baton, and everyone went nuts.
Truth told, they probably didnt know what they were doing either. The
swing dance fad had ended years ago, so mostly these were just people who still
They couldnt get enough of us, though. The more savage and violent our
movements got, the more they cheered. I threw my girlfriend behind my back
with one hand,
turned and caught her with the other. I held her by her shoulders and swung
her through the air, bent her waist around my neck and spun her all the way
down to my ankles.
They screamed and applauded.
They were in a frenzy by the time we left. Men begging to dance with her, women
pawing at her clothes. I had the feeling that if I would have snapped her over
my knee, they would have carried me off on their shoulders.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 83 pounds, people began to stare.
A little girl coming up the other way on the escalator at the mall looked at
her and cried. Her mother turned the little girls head away, glanced
briefly at my girlfriend, and then stared daggers at me.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 76 pounds, I tried to force-feed her in her sleep.
I waited until she was unconscious. Then I got out a pint of chocolate ice
cream. I whispered the names of flavors into her ears until her lips parted
and her tongue peeked out past her teeth.
Rocky Road, I whispered. French Vanilla, Caramel Swirl.
I spooned the ice cream in slowly, and for a few seconds I thought it was actually
going to work. Then she woke up gagging and pissed as hell.
She said it was a betrayal. Accused me of gastronomic rape as she
wiped melted ice cream off her face.
Whether I eat or not is my choice, she said. Not yours. Got
I didnt say anything. Drops of melting ice cream fell from the spoon
to the bed spread.
This is me, she said. Im not some damsel in distress, and this
is not some dragon for you to slay. OK? I dont need you to rescue me.
I just need your support.
Part of me felt like she had a point, and part of me felt like, Fuck
her. It didnt matter. They both added up to the same thing. OK, I
said. Dont eat. Its your choice.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed between 70 and 60 pounds, I lost her in the apartment
for three days. I didnt find her until her sister came to visit with
her lesbian wife. I folded out the sofa-bed and there she was, curled up with
a pile of
coins and a spare set of keys in the space between the cushions and the floor.
She said shed been calling out for days, but her voice had grown weak
from the drastic weight loss. Even as she cussed me out for leaving her in
all week, it sounded like she was whispering.
The visit was strained and tense. My girlfriends sister got drunk early each
afternoon and spent most of the evenings snoring on the couch. Her lesbian
wife couldnt stop staring at my girlfriend. What do you do to stay so
thin? she asked.
I dont eat, my girlfriend said.
What, your boyfriend doesnt let you? she asked. He beat
you up if you get too fat?
My girlfriend didnt answer. Just laughed uneasily. Her sisters
lesbian wife looked down at her own waist, slid her hands over her hips, and
at me, smiling.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 58 pounds, I cheated on her with her sisters lesbian
wife. My girlfriend was lost in the couch again. Her sister was passed out.
I could hear my girlfriend calling me faintly between her sisters snores,
but I ignored her. Maybe I was still mad over the whole gastronomic rape thing.
Maybe I was sick of having a girlfriend who didnt eat.
Her sisters lesbian wife found me in the bedroom looking at fake celebrity
porn on the computer. I tried to close the browser and hide what I was doing,
but she asked me questions about their bodies, asked me to go to other Web
sites where they had pictures of large half-naked women being punched and choked
by men half their size.
She asked me if I pressured my girlfriend to lose the weight, if I pushed her
to be so thin. She let her hand linger on mine as we both reached for the mouse
at the same time.
Tell me Im fat, she demanded as she turned and straddled me in the chair. Call
me a pig.
She tore at the buttons on her blouse, and I felt myself growing hard against
Tell me to lose some weight, she begged. Im a cow. A
big fat horse. Say it.
She was neither overweight nor attractive. But it had been so long since Id
held anything other than bone against my body.
I gave up. I told her she was a big gross whale, and we fell back onto the
bed and had strange and angry sex.
Afterwards I slept soundly for the first time in weeks. I dreamt of trees,
fruit, living things.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 52 pounds, I started using her as a coat rack. She
asked me to do it. Her knobby shoulders offered themselves up as perfect pegs,
so we hung coats on them.
She loved it. Loved having jackets and hats piled on her, umbrellas hooked
to her fingers. Soon she asked for shirts and pants to be added.
Im made for clothes now, she said, begging me in whispered shouts to
empty the closets again, cover her in her clothes, then my clothes. Everything
She disappeared in clothing. Youd look at her standing in the corner,
and all you saw was a pile of clothes.
I want to be the clothes, called her muffled whisper from beneath the
pile. More clothes, less me.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 47 pounds, I told her Id been unfaithful with her
sisters lesbian wife. It was hard to tell if she was angry or not. Her
voice had gotten so soft that everything she said was just a long hiss. I leaned
in close so she could scream into my ear.
Tell me everything about it, she asked. Every detail.
She laughed, and her voice sounded clear and full for a moment.
Then we tried to make love for the last time. It was complicated and sometimes
painful. We were all elbows, ankles, and knees. Angular. Our bodies struggling
to join in an intricate erotic geometry.
How was it for you? she asked me when we finally gave up.
Pound for pound, it was the best sex I ever had, I said.
She smiled, and I knew wed be fine.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 43 pounds, her family finally held an intervention.
Her sister said her father had been keeping any of them from saying anything.
Hed said she was just doing it to get attention. If they ignored it,
she would start eating again. But when her voice started getting too weak to
phone calls, he decided to get serious.
Family and friends crowded our apartment, ate our food, drank soda. It was
like a party, only angry.
You wanted our attention? Fine, you got it, my girlfriends
father said, pacing back and forth in front of her as she lay folded up next
to me on the
sofa, staring off into space.
Her mother mostly just cried, put her head in her hands, and said why a
few times. Some other family members tried to talk, but her father held the
If this is part of your non-violent, make friends with the world bullshit,
let me just tell you, youre off base, he said. Eating is the cycle
of life, sweetheart. The real deal. Not that horseshit they sing about in Disney
cartoons. You need to eat. You need to kill. Its a universal imperative. The
moral contract is based on murder. You kill, you live, life runs through you
and gets shit out to kill or be killed again. You opt out of that circle, and
youre not protecting anything, youre not stopping death. Youre
putting the breaks on life.
My girlfriend said nothing.
A lot of people shot questions in my direction. How could you let this
happen? What kind of man are you?
The kind that doesnt force-feed his girlfriend in her sleep? I
They werent hearing it. Almost everybody seemed to blame me, thought Id caused
it somehow—except for my girlfriends sisters lesbian wife, whod gained
some weight since I last saw her. I dont think he had anything to do
with it, she said, shooting me a dirty look and then looking at my girlfriend
and widening her eyes suggestively.
Oh, shut up, said my girlfriend. I know he fucked you, and
care. Truth is, I dont care what the lot of you has to say. My body,
my business. My weight, my business. You were all so happy for me 60 pounds
ago, so keep
smiling. It really doesnt matter, because Im not doing this for
any of you. Im doing it for me.
It was a great speech. Too bad no one heard it. Once shed dipped below 50
pounds, her voice had grown so weak that you couldnt really hear her
unless you pressed your ear to her mouth. Even sitting right next to her, I
just barely make it out.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 44 pounds, she started to thin out in places I never
thought you could. Her ears actually looked smaller. Then her nose, her eyes,
her entire skull. Her shoulders narrowed, her hips collapsed, her ribs
curved in towards one another. It was like her bones were losing weight.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 41 pounds, she started using my pound for
pound line as if shed made it up herself. It irked me at first, but
I let her get away with it. She didnt have much. When people expressed concern
over her health, she said, Pound for pound, Im the healthiest Ive
When people stared, she said, Pound for pound. Im the sexiest woman
When large men walked past her on the sidewalk, she said, Pound for pound,
Im the best boxer on the planet.
Nobody could hear her but me. Id grown used to her tiny voice by now, could
hear it clearly on a crowded street, my sleep, when she wasnt even talking.
Hearing the phrase so often eventually got me curious. What does it really
mean, though? I asked her. To be the best at something pound
for pound. I understand whats implied. But the words themselves
. . . what do they really mean?
Its simple, she answered. It means because I have less
pounds but an equal amount of me. Each one of my pounds is worth more.
So then youre not just disappearing, I said. Youre growing more
dense. Youre intensifying with each pound you lose.
Theres more of me in each pound, she said thoughtfully, considering
the implications of the phrase for the first time. Pound for pound, Im
the most me Ive ever been.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 38 pounds, she couldnt wear clothes anymore.
She cried for an hour. Soaked herself so bad her fingertips pruned. We eventually
got her some clothes from a toy store. Not Barbie clothes. They were actually
too anatomically correct. We had to stitch together the stuff they made for
those new dolls with the giant heads, huge feet, and tiny waists. At this point
the Barbies were actually more life-like than my girlfriend.
It was a shame. Barbies wardrobe had a bit more variety. Everything my girlfriend
wore now was either covered in glitter or prominently featured words like brat or kitten in
swollen curlicue letters.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 34 pounds, I took her country line-dancing. She
fractured her shin on her first stomp-kick turn. We had to go home early.
I carried her to the car effortlessly. Id carried her before but this was
different. She felt so light—the opposite of a burden. I held her in
my arms, and I felt like I was floating.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 31 pounds, I begged her to eat. I even tried to
trick her by putting her old clothes on a plate.
You are what you eat, I offered.
She ate half a cashmere sweater and threw up.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 26 pounds, she told me how it all started.
It started with that table, she said. I knew it was stupid
the whole time. That was part of it too. Me knowing it was stupid.
Does it help if I tell you that I knew it was stupid too? I asked.
Shut up. This is important. Im going to say something important now. She
paused, ran her finger over her lip. Thats really how I was feeling
then too. Like I wanted this to be important. We were moving in together, and
it was like we were doing grown-up stuff, you know? Not wanting to get that
table, it was like you werent on the same page. But it was also like I felt,
if this was going to be important, Id have to make a big deal out of
And you did a great job of that.
She shushed me angrily and slapped my knee, her fingers so thin they tickled. So
when I dropped that kung pao chicken, I thought about how you always hear how
its the little things that really break your back, and I thought, What
if this was one of those little things for me? And I just thought for a second,
What if, because of this, I never ate again? So at first I just played with
the idea. But the longer I went, the more real it got. Then at one point I
realized it was the one thing that no one could take away from me. The one
thing no one could protect me from. The one thing that demanded nothing from
me. Does that make any sense?
Sure, I said. Makes perfect sense. That and the fact that youre
just real fucked up.
Of course. She smiled, leaned in, and kissed me. Her lips had disappeared
weeks ago. All I felt were her teeth, hard and true behind a thin veil of dry
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 18 pounds, I took her dancing at an ultra-trendy
downtown club. We waited in line for twenty minutes, me in my best suit, her in
a plush burgundy dress wed gotten that day at Toys R Us.
Then a bouncer offered us a deal. Apparently, they needed a temporary extra
section in the velvet rope. Someone was getting more from the clubs basement
storage room, but he wanted to know if my girlfriend could fill in in the meantime. Ill
get you inside in like ten minutes, he said flexing his meaty neck from
side to side.
There were hundreds of people ahead of us. My girlfriend nodded, and we followed
him to the front of the line.
She stretched as far as she could, hooking her feet into the ring atop one
short metal pillar as she clung with her fingers to another. Groups of two
or three, sometimes more, would walk up against her and stop. The bouncer would
look them over without moving his head. Then he would unhook my girlfriends
feet, lift her up, and let them in, or just wave them away if he didnt
like what he saw.
Sometimes it almost got ugly. Two college-aged fraternity types waved their
arms and leaned against my girlfriend when the bouncer said hed let in
the girl they brought but not them. A group of four short European men dressed
black tried to peel her fingers away and sneak in when the bouncer wasnt
looking, but my girlfriend held tight until he turned around and chased them
out of the alley. Anytime anyone was refused, they walked away looking not
at the bouncer whod ordered them away, but at my girlfriend, the soft
barrier between in and out, the border between their desire and their inadequacy.
When theyd finally found their spare length of rope and offered to let us
inside, my girlfriend refused. Id like to keep at it and finish up the
night, she said to both me and the bouncer. I told him what shed
said, and he just shrugged.
We stayed long into the night. After the crowds had left my girlfriend seemed
Thats it, said the bouncer. We dont need the ropes anymore. Id
tell you guys to head on in, but its last call.
I told him wed just be heading home, but my girlfriend didnt move. She looked
like she was going to cry. Whats the matter? I asked her.
The way they all looked at me . . . Id never felt such hatred and such longing
at the same time, she said. It was wonderful.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 14 pounds, her father called me drunk and in tears.
He said he was calling for her, but she hadnt been strong enough to hold a
telephone in weeks. For a while I could hold it up to her ear, and shed
scream as loud as she could, but as her voice got weaker and weaker, that had
Her father knew all this, but when I explained it to him again and tried to
rush him off the phone, he just kept talking as if it were me hed really
wanted to talk to all along.
Do you know what its like to raise daughters? he asked me.
No, sir, I said. No, Colonel, I mean.
More than anything in this grand shit-stain of a world, daughters will teach
you what an asshole you are. You see the world through their eyes. Only you
know the truth. You smash those two things together and you take a look at
yourself . . . It aint pretty. Now, both of them are busy erasing themselves
from my life, and thats all Im left with—me through their
eyes, the truth.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 11 pounds, I didnt knock her over when I sneezed.
Not because that would have been physically impossible, but because when I
gasped before the sneeze I inhaled her down to her ankles.
Her feet hung from my mouth like the ends of thick, undercooked noodles. I
tickled them before coughing her back up, and I felt her laughter rumble deep
inside my belly as if it were my own.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 9 pounds, her father called back to tell me more.
He didnt even bother to ask for her this time, just went right into it.
When they were little, they wanted to be princesses, he said weakly,
struggling not to cry. But I made them play as knights. I wanted them
to be strong. I wanted them to know they could do anything men did. So I built
a dragon in the basement—out of the legs of their dolls and the head
of some pony with rainbow colored hair. For swords I made them use their plastic
high-heel dress-up shoes. They wanted to make friends with the dragon, but
I told them they had to kill it . . .
He explained the rest of what he did. The argument over whether a dragon could
ever be friends with a knight. How he piled their dolls in front of the dragons
head, said it was going to breathe fire on their dolls if they didnt
kill it, actually got a can of hairspray and a lighter.
It was only supposed to scare them, he said. But you play with
fire . . . What can you expect?
The flame caught one of the dolls toes. They went up quickly. I could
see it. Clothes burning like cheap paper. Plastic faces melting, collapsing
That shook them into a frenzy, he explained. I got what I wanted.
They beat that dragon to shit with their little shoes. They were still at it
after Id put out the fire. Their eyes were crammed with rage. For just a hair
of a second I thought Id taught them something important. Then, of course,
I saw that they werent looking at the dragon. They were looking at me.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 8 pounds, I held her like a baby. Curled her
up in my arms, her body brittle but unbreaking. I looked into her deep-set
eyes, her face a deaths head wrapped in skin, and I sang to her. It was
a lullaby about sleeping, falling, dying.
Arent they all?
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 3 pounds, I took her dancing on my back. Took
off my shirt, put on some Al Green records, and said, Have at it.
I could just barely feel her. Her feet tickled my bare skin like thin fibers
from a feather. I laughed so hard I cried.
* * *
When my girlfriend weighed 1 pound, I noticed her for the first time. Like
we were just now meeting.
I introduced myself, and when I shook her hand, barbed and delicate like the
foot of a baby bird, there was no longer any mystery. I understood her with
the clarity we reserve for strangers.
She was finally what she was.
* * *
When my girlfriend disappeared, I found out her sisters lesbian wife
My girlfriends father told me. Hed been calling every day for the
last week. Wed had some good talks.
Im trying to be OK with the whole dyke thing, he said. Maybe she
doesnt have to be erased if I can deal with it. Maybe this baby just shows
they really can do anything a man and woman can do. I wonder how they pulled
that off, though. Im not up on all the latest procedures.
I wanted to tell him there werent any procedures, the baby was mine,
the truth would come out, their marriage would end, I would be blamed.
I got to go, I said. Just call your daughter. Tell her you love
her. Dont call her a dyke.
When I hung up the phone, I asked my girlfriend for advice, walked around the
empty apartment talking to nobody, thinking maybe she was still there somewhere,
just too thin for me to see, or maybe lost forever in some other piece of furniture.
I have to do something, I said. Dont you think? Its my baby,
right? Theyre going to figure that out.
I listened intently for an answer. Still, not moving, not breathing for what
seemed like hours, I heard things Id never heard before. Our neighbors,
an old retired couple, singing soft love songs to each other. Children outside
teasing one another in cruel whispers. Footsteps of insects crawling in the
Then I heard her voice. Or maybe I imagined it. There was no way to tell anymore.
Over the next week we had some of our best conversations. Our most honest heart
to hearts. Sometimes I lost her voice when a car drove by outside, or one of
the larger insects scurried through the wall, or she just got tired of talking.
But it didnt matter. Id come to know her well enough to carry both
sides of the conversation.
She told me Id have to take responsibility. Id have to try to make a family
with her sister and her lesbian wife. Id have to grow up. Id have
to buy a dining room table.
I talked honestly for the first time about my own feelings of inadequacy, my
sense of helplessness. How it felt to watch someone I loved waste away. How
it felt to be unable, and then even unwilling, to stop it. How it felt to be
jealous of her now. To wish I could disappear like her.
* * *
When my girlfriend stopped answering me altogether, when I could no longer
even imagine her quiet voice, when shed finally lost all the weight, I flew
out to her sisters. I brought a dozen orange roses and a copy of What
to Expect When Youre Expecting. I had big plans.
I slept on the plane most of the way, and as I slept I dreamt of the baby and
my girlfriend. They tangled together in that odd half-formed dream logic. One
wasting away beside me, the other growing day by day in the dark recesses of
a woman who wanted me to make her disappear.
In my dream I was the creator of all of it. Not just the baby, but my girlfriends
weight loss and the strange connection between the two. Then sometimes my girlfriend
was the baby, and I was pregnant. Or she was pregnant, and I was the baby making
her hungry enough to eat again. In the end, I didnt even know who was pregnant
anymore, but the baby was all of us. Me, my girlfriend, my girlfriends sister,
her mother and father, you name it—all of us waiting inside, waiting
to be born into a world of stark light and noise.
It all stayed with me long after I woke. Even by the time I rang my girlfriends
sisters doorbell, I wasnt completely sure if it was the baby, my girlfriend,
or myself Id come to claim.
It didnt go as Id expected. They took the flowers, but they both
just stared at the book.
Is that some kind of sick joke? my girlfriends sister asked.
I stammered for a few seconds, trying to explain why I was there. I want
to do the right thing . . . I know it will be hard at first . . . Its
for all of us.
I had a miscarriage about a week ago, said my girlfriends sisters
By miscarriage, she means abortion, said my girlfriends sister. But
alas the truth is sometimes just too challenging for my wife.
As I sank back onto their love seat, dropping the book on the floor, they started
yelling at each other. Id walked into a fight that had probably been
going on since the day they met.
How could you do that without talking to me? I interrupted finally.
They both stared at me, mouths open. Why the hell would she talk to you? said
my girlfriends sister. Then she laughed. Oh my God. Thats why youre
here. Thats so cute. I see why my sister liked you.
I dont get it, I said. Why didnt you at least tell
Relax, said my girlfriends sister, smiling. My wife fucks a lot
of guys. Shes one of those Howard Stern lesbians. Half the time, I think she
just got into the whole scene because shes too lazy to shave her pits.
I still didnt get it. I kept babbling about my rights as a father until my
girlfriends sisters lesbian wife stepped forward and drew me the
Id already known I was knocked up for two weeks when I slept with you, she
said. Thats why I did it—to get rid of the baby. I thought youd
make me lose enough weight to have a miscarriage. My wife, God fuck her, says
I have an unfounded faith in the power of men to magically transform my life.
At least Im not the one with the daddy issues.
They launched back into the fight that was their love. Chased each other from
the living room to the kitchen, to the bathroom. Broke the vase theyd put
the orange roses in. Collapsed crying on the stairs, telling each other, You
are my everything.
I told them I was going to get going, apologized for misunderstanding the whole
thing, asked if they wanted to keep the book.
They sat down on the sofa opposite me, and I just kept talking, my voice now
a creature with its own mind. I told them everything. The fight in Ikea, the
kung pao chicken, the asses of other women, the swing dancing, the day we buried
my girlfriend in clothes, how I held her like a baby.
Then I told them about my dream on the plane. About me, the baby, my girlfriend,
and all of us. Even if it wasnt mine, I told them, they shouldnt
have gotten rid of the baby.
I would have taken it, taken care of it for us, I said. I would
have raised it strong and proud, and complicated, and beautiful for all of
us. I would have taught it that dragons are neither our friends nor our foes,
but powerful, magical creatures deserving both our fear and our pity. I would
have taught it that everything deserves our fear and our pity—even ourselves.
Would you have taken the swelling and the stretch marks too? asked my
girlfriends sisters lesbian wife.
The morning sickness? asked my girlfriends sister.
The varicose veins? The back labor? The torn perineum?
The chance of death?
I would have done what I could, I said, picking the book up off the
floor and laying it on the coffee table between us.
Exactly, they both said, as if that settled it all.
We sat silently for a few minutes, but it felt like longer. Then they asked
me more about my girlfriend. They wanted to know every detail of our last days
Then finally they got to the question I could tell theyd been dying to ask
the whole time, the question they wanted to ask me as soon as I got in the
door. Would have asked me over the phone if I hadnt told them I was coming.
Before she disappeared, her sister said.
In the last seconds, said her sisters lesbian wife.
How did she look? they both asked in unison, leaning forward on the
edge of the sofa, their hands curling together, touching tenderly and casually
the coffee table.
She was beautiful, I said. I could barely see her.
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