Alone, I am a star burning against the night sky. I am lost in a blanket of darkness, a heaving illuminated mass threatening to collapse in on itself. But together, Timmy and I are a galaxy, a vast wonderful world of possibilities. We are bright and organized, burning into one another with fire and fever. We are celestial. We are so fucking fantastic together that I know deep down inside, it is only a matter of time until we fizzle out, or at least until I fuck it all up.
Things have been going swimmingly thus far. Timmy has all but moved in, staying six out of seven nights at my apartment. In the mornings, he crawls out of bed and makes coffee for the two of us. In the evenings, he sits and listens as I play my guitar. We talk constantly. We make love almost every day, in every nook and cranny of the apartment. We orbit one another in perfect harmony. But I am terrified. I have yet to tell Timmy about my addiction to food, about my daily uphill climb. I know I shouldn’t be embarrassed, but I am. I’m ashamed that I am not strong enough to be thin on my own, that I need assistance.
Then, there’s an element of insecurity. I know that if I just let myself, I could fall madly in love with this man. But I wonder if he could ever really fall in love with me. This thought is an aftershock from my divorce. This is what happens when someone leaves you for real. This is what breaks inside of you when someone walks out on you and earthquakes your foundation. When the person who is supposed to love you the most in the world, flips a switch and chooses another. And you are not enough, not good enough, anymore. That betrayal reverses something in your brain. It makes you doubt your market value. Because whether I ever want to admit it or not, there is a small sliver of truth to the idea that Jack left me because I let my body balloon into obesity.
And now, I cannot act like a normal, untainted, self-assured woman. Because I will never be that. You can carve every ounce of fat from my body, and I will still never be able to walk around naked in front of you, trust whole heartedly that you are where you say you are, or sleep at night basking in the calmness of our union. No matter how beautiful I look on the outside, I will always feel like I am selling you a used car that I know has been in an accident and will never again drive the same.
I wasn’t supposed to be insecure anymore. Like swallowing a pill, losing weight was supposed to instantly fix all of these neurotic, self-conscious thoughts swelling inside my brain. But I’m beginning to realize that being fat for so long has created a gushing wound that may never truly heal.
“Take off your shirt,” Timmy whispers and I freeze.
“No,” I answer. No, no, no, a thousand no’s.
“Why babe?” he wonders.
Why? How do I explain away the ripples of extra skin hanging below my belly button like rings on a tree, only instead of telling of my past, they tell of the future, the potential for thick ankles and triple chins? How do I explain to someone who has never stepped foot in the land of heavy that the weight of belonging to such a place comes at the cost of sanity? Timmy has never been fat, in fact he has spent his entire life underweight. And that, right there, that fact is the vast expansive universe between us. My insistence on lights off during sex, my one too many “checking in” phone calls, or questions about late night bar visits, all combine to comprise the wormhole through which Timmy will have to plunge if he ever hopes to really understand me. A wormhole so vast in size and density that it would take someone solely dedicated to the cause to get through and survive. I don’t know yet if Timmy has the resolve to hang in there. I hope he does, but I don’t need him to. And that, right there, is the big difference in my life from a year ago. I don’t need him to.
While I still cling to my shirt, a size medium that I stole from my sister, Jennie, during a visit to Brooklyn, a clingy white cotton tank that maintains enough elasticity to shave an inch off my belly, Timmy quietly extends an arm and clicks off the lamp. And in the safety of the darkness we are once again stars in our galaxy, burning and bumping our way into one another’s hearts, unsure of what will come next.