As soon as he walked into the room,
Anna was taken with him. She didn’t know exactly what it was about
him that drew her, except that without even seeing him, one was
somehow aware of his presence in a room. He commandeered attention,
acknowledgement. He emanated some kind of power.
He was the
kind of person she was usually afraid of. He was confident almost
to the point of arrogance, sure of himself, and bold—everything Anna
wanted to be and just somehow couldn’t. And he was the kind of man
who usually took no notice of women like Anna. He was the type who
instead noticed beautiful women who were just as confident and bold
as he was. Women who looked the way the way they were supposed to,
women who were thin and well-dressed, made-up, tanned.
not one of those women. She was quiet and just a little shy, and
although she could handle being the center of attention with grace,
loved to be on stage, even, she was not a woman who was at ease with
her peers. And she was fat, always had been. It mattered a lot
more to her than it did to anyone else, but she was firmly convinced
of the opposite. At the same time that she was mad as hell at the
world for not accepting her the way she was, she couldn’t bring
herself to believe that maybe the world could accept her,
that maybe the world already did.
which led her to the conclusion that this man could not possibly
want to have anything to do with her.
But he did.
first time that she noticed him, she was sitting on a couch in the
darkened performance room of a coffeehouse. There were musicians
jamming all around her, effortlessly sliding from one melody into
another with no overt communication. It seemed a lot like magic to
her, and even though she wasn’t a musical person, she enjoyed
listening to them, and she found it fascinating. She closed her
eyes and took in the guitars, the flutes, the bongos, the voices,
and she floated on the music.
she sat up straight, opened her eyes. He was standing in the
doorway when she did, listening and looking, and she knew that he
was the reason she had woken from her trance. The musicians, again
without any noticeable communication, ended their song. It seemed
that they had felt his presence, too.
He came in
and settled himself on a chair near Anna. Slowly, the musicians
began playing again, but Anna was no longer lost in their melodies.
Instead, she was acutely aware of the man who was now sitting five,
maybe six feet away from her. The power he exuded wasn’t a negative power, she was sure, it wasn’t
was just an air of self-assuredness that surrounded him and spread
throughout the room. And because she could feel it, she was sure he
wouldn’t talk to her, wouldn’t even look at her, would be oblivious
to the shy, quiet woman hiding on a couch in the corner of a dark
But she was
he said. “You’re here a lot, aren’t you?” And then she remembered
him. She had seen him a few times before, there in the coffeehouse,
always surrounded by a group of energetic, boisterous, laughing
people, and had been aware of his charisma then, too. But not
nearly this aware. And because he had seemed to be
everything she was not, she had chosen to forget about him. She was
sure it wouldn’t matter, that he would never have noticed her
anyway. But here he was.
here a lot. It’s like a home away from home to me. Well, really,
home is my home away from home, because I’m here more than I’m
there. I’m Anna.”
warmly and in no time at all they were engaged in an animated
discussion. It wasn’t until much later, when she was home in bed,
that Anna realized what had happened. A man who was intelligent and
interesting and who had plenty of other friends and opportunities
had actually started a conversation with her. Of course, she had
been the only person in the room not actively playing an instrument
or singing, but he had really almost seemed like he enjoyed talking
to her. And she had definitely enjoyed talking to him.
when she began to think of him as a man. And wonder if he had
thought of her as a woman. She closed her eyes and pictured him.
She usually didn’t think of men as attractive or not attractive, had
given up on that years before when she had come to the conclusion
that none of them would ever find her attractive. But now, she knew
without a doubt that she did find him attractive.
He was tall
and broad-shouldered, a big guy. He wasn’t fat in the way that she,
herself, was fat, of course. Very few people were. But his ass was
broad and round, substantial. His arms were thick and strong with
just a hint of softness to balance them out. His stomach was full
and rounded, straining a bit at his jeans and pulling his shirt taut
against him. His blue eyes sparkled. Physically, he was everything
she would have liked in man, had she ever let herself consider her
he had talked to her. She couldn’t understand why. Attractive,
intelligent men usually left her alone. Actually, unattractive,
stupid men usually left her alone, too. Always left her alone, as a
matter of fact. It occurred to Anna that if he had thought
of her as a woman, if he had been interested in her, she
would never have known it anyway. She had no idea whatsoever how a
woman would know a man had feelings for her, unless he specifically
said so. She was a complete stranger to the world of male-female
relationships, at least ones of a romantic or sexual nature.
drifting thoughts were all for nothing, anyway, she was sure. Why
would someone like Eric be interested in her? She had seen the
women in the group he sometimes came into the coffeehouse with. One
of them was tall and willowy with long, straight, glossy blonde
hair. Another was shorter and more athletic looking, and always
wore a big, goofy-looking grin on her face, but her long, dark curls
made her look a bit mystical. There was another girl, too, who was
always impeccably dressed in a t-shirt tucked neatly into her jeans,
and who always had her finger and toenails both neatly polished.
All of them were thin, much thinner than Anna, anyway, and they
seemed infinitely more fun and engaging that Anna thought herself.
sigh, Anna decided she wasn’t going to come to any conclusions or
find any answers then, no matter how hard she thought about it, so
she turned over and closed her eyes. It was a long time before she
In spite of
herself, Anna spent a lot of time getting ready to go the
coffeehouse the next night. She had grown out of all her jeans a
few years before, hadn’t been able to find any others that she could
squeeze her body into, so she wore plain black pants. They were the
closest thing to hip and cool clothes that she owned. She wore
black shoes with them because she had once read that a single line
of color made one appear longer and thinner.
her plain, black bottom half with a tight, brightly colored tank
top. It bared her flabby arms, which she worried about a bit, but
it also held her breasts high and displayed them well. She hoped
that was enough to keep attention away from her arms, and the tiny
sliver of jiggly belly flesh that peeked out from under her shirt
when she moved the wrong way.
parked her car, Anna felt her pulse quicken. She told herself that
she was being stupid, that she was just setting herself up for
disappointment, but she couldn’t quell the feeling of excitement
that was bubbling within her. She took a quick look around to see
if Eric’s car was there before she remembered that she didn’t even
know what kind of car he drove. She didn’t know much about him at
all, really, except that she had felt unusually comfortable with him
and had enjoyed their conversation more than she had enjoyed
anything in a very long time.
even know if he would be there. She had just had such a good time
with him the night before that she had spent the entire day looking
forward to seeing him again, and she had assumed without really
thinking about it that he had felt the same way. If she had
thought about, she would have assumed the exact opposite.
inside and ordered a drink. She didn’t see Eric anywhere, so she
settled into a corner with her coffee and a book. She arranged
herself in what she hoped was the most flattering position she could
achieve, angled toward a table that was high enough to hide her
massive stomach but low enough not to look as though she were
her book and started reading. For once in her life, she couldn’t
keep her mind on the storyline. Usually the presence of an open
book in front of Anna left her oblivious to the rest of the world,
but not today. She was aware of every person who walked past her,
every person in the room. And when Eric came through the front
door, she was aware of him, too. She couldn’t see the door or hear
his voice, but she immediately set her book aside and went to the
counter. She forced herself to act surprised to see him.
fancy meetin’ you here.”
I was just hanging around, waiting for something to happen.” They
laughed and, once Eric had his drink in hand, he followed Anna back
to the table she had claimed. Once again, they talked for hours,
about music and their pasts and school and their lives, about
everything. It surprised them both when the barista called out that
it was closing time, but they continued talking as they walked,
together, out of the building and to their cars. They stood outside
talking for another hour or more, and it was almost one a.m. before
Anna was on her way home.
The more they talked,
the more she liked him, and she respected him, too. He was involved
in just about everything and was busy arranging events all the
time. They had the same philosophies about so many things, from God
to troubled youth to nature to fun. She felt like they were meant
to be friends, at least, and more and more, she was hoping their
relationship would develop into more than that, although she hardly
dared hope that it might.
weeks, Anna and Eric became closer and closer. He introduced her to
his friends, and she introduced him to hers. Just about every day,
they were together at some point, sometimes with his friends,
sometimes with hers, but mostly alone. They went to the beach,
Wal-Mart, the coffeehouse, anywhere they could find to hang out, and
always they talked. They never stopped talking, and never grew
tired of listening to one another. They felt as if they had known
each other for years.
thinking about opening a store,” Eric told Anna one day.
What kind? Where?”
He told her
that he had been collecting unique knick-knacks and gifts from all
over the place for a while, with the intention of opening a gift
shop someday, but he hadn’t found a place yet.
you ask if you can rent out the little room in the back of the
coffeehouse here?” she suggested. “I don’t think they’d charge
much, and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind a little extra income.”
And so that
was how Eric came to rent out the back of the coffeehouse, and how
they came to find out just exactly why they felt as if they knew
each other so well. Anna saw a woman who had been a friend of her
mother’s in the coffeehouse one day and talked to her briefly.
Later that day, Eric’s mother told Eric that she had run into the
daughter of an old friend. And within a few days, all three came to
realize that they were referring to each other. Anna vaguely
remembered playing with a baby when she was four or five, and Eric
didn’t remember at all, but friends they had been.
more and more comfortable with Eric, and less and less insecure. It
was much less often, now, that she wondered why he had ever bothered
to befriend her. It was clear to both of them that they were alike
in more ways than they were different, even though Anna still
noticed the differences. He never had a moment of self doubt and
she, never a moment of self assurance. He knew exactly what he
wanted and never hesitated to go after it. She consistently denied
her dreams and desires.
just stopped thinking about Eric as a man, just stopped hoping for
more than friendship, just stopped allowing herself to be
disappointed when nothing happened, when Eric asked her to accompany
him on a weekend trip. He wanted to buy some more merchandise for
the store, and he wanted her help. He thought he needed a woman’s
panicked. She didn’t travel with anyone but her family. She had
never had a lot of friends, or anyone to go anywhere with, and she
wasn’t sure how to deal with it. And then there was the prospect of
spending the night with him. It was all a little much for her to
handle. She wondered if he had anything more planned, if maybe he
wanted to take the next step in their relationship. Her resolve to
expect nothing from him evaporated. She was just as afraid as she
was excited, and wanted more from him just as much as she hoped she
wouldn’t get it. More than anything, she was confused. But, it was
time for her to join the real world, to stop being afraid.
sounds like fun. Let’s do it.”
And a week
later, they found themselves getting into Eric’s car. Anna was
nervous around him all of a sudden. She sat in his car trying to
think of something to say, something to let him know that things
were normal and she expected nothing and she wasn’t nervous and she
didn’t think that anything would change between them at all.
Because she was trying to put forth so many falsehoods, she couldn’t
think of a word to say. And this in itself worried her, because she
figured he would pick up on the difference in her immediately.
didn’t. She wondered if he were feeling some of the same things,
because he didn’t talk much either, at first. The thought made her
giddy. And finally, after a half and hour of silence had put them
both on edge just a little, they started talking. Soon, they were
talking and laughing easily again.
checked into the hotel when they got there, then left for dinner and
to shop. Anna was both relieved and disappointed to see that the
room they were staying in had two beds. Not that she thought
anything was going to happen anyway, but the prospect of sharing a
bed with Eric, even innocently, was an interesting one. When they
were finished shopping, they decided to return to the hotel and go
are we doing this?” Anna asked, laughing. “You want to change
first, or should I?” Eric laughed, too.
think we could handle seeing each other naked?”
to scream out Yes! Yes, we could!!! However, she was fairly
sure that although she could handle seeing Eric naked, he would
never speak to her again should he happen to see her. Besides that,
she was not nearly bold enough to find out, anyway.
wants to see this naked,” she responded instead. Eric
whatever. You take the bathroom, and I’ll just change out here.”
in the bathroom and slipped out of her clothes. It was a weird
feeling, knowing that she was naked in the bathroom and he was naked
just on the other side of the door. It made her consider
possibilities that made her nervous, possibilities that she was sure
were impossibilities, but they were there, nonetheless. And it made
her blush when she was dressed in her swimsuit and about to step out
of the bathroom, too.
decent out there?” she asked. When he replied that he was, she took
a deep breath and opened the door. It somehow felt very awkward to
her to see him again, knowing they had both been naked only seconds
before. She couldn’t imagine how people dealt with actually having
sex. It was so far from her realm of existence that she had never
really thought about it. And she just knew that even seeing Eric,
bare-chested in his swimming trunks, would send blood rushing to her
face and turn her cheeks pink again.
worried for nothing, she realized when she looked at him, because he
was wearing a t-shirt over his trunks.
wear a shirt. No one wants to see a fat, hairy guy’s chest,” he
“Yeah, whatever.” This
time, they both laughed.
They left the room and
made their way to the pool, but Anna was feeling a little stunned.
In just a few words, Eric had managed to alter her idea of who he
was, just a little. Strong, confident, arrogant Eric was worried
about what people would think if they saw his chest? The same man
who didn’t worry about what anyone thought of his business ethic,
his strong opinions, his anything, was worried about what people
would think about his chest? It blew her away. It also made her
feel a little less insecure herself.
It gave her
just a little bit of hope. And now she wondered if his seeming lack
of interest in her, when they got along so well, was something else
entirely, if it was possible that he was just as insecure as she
was, just better at hiding it.
back, she realized that there were other times in which he had made
remarks to the same effect. He dressed only in expensive,
name-brand clothing, and carefully fixed his hair every day; he made
more efforts to look good than Anna did, but he seemed to be
completely unaware that any woman could find him attractive. And
Anna knew, from her own feelings, that there was a distinct
possibility that any woman who saw him would find him attractive.
as they swam in the pool and sat in the hot tub, Anna pondered the
situation. She became more and more sure that he was just as
insecure as she was, just in different ways. And slowly, an idea
formed in her head. It seemed like they really were perfect for
each other. She would call him on his insecurities, and see what
happened. Since he had never tried to advance their relationship,
she would. If he rejected her, she could just tell herself that it
was his insecurities talking, and not his true feelings. She could
make up her own version of reality and they could still be friends.
Never in a
million years would she have considered showing any interest in
anyone but him, she would never have taken such a risk, but her new
knowledge gave her power. For the first time in her life, she
didn’t feel as if she were the only ugly, insecure person in the
world. She realized, finally, that every person in the world is
unsure of something, and that appearances have nothing to do with
it. For once in her life, Anna was going to take a risk, trust
careful with her timing. When they went back to their room and
dried off, changed out of their wet clothes, she said nothing. She
was nervous. She knew she had to approach the situation in the just
right way. She waited for him to make another self-disparaging
remark. Her chance finally came when they got into their beds. He
slipped under his blankets and then struggled to remove his jeans.
have done that before you got in bed, you know. I just saw you in
your swim trunks, I think I could handle boxers, too.”
supposed,” Eric said, laughing. “No one wants to see this fat ass,
though.” He had said similar things a million times, but Anna had
never thought it meant anything before. In fact, she had really
just thought he was mirroring her own remarks, making fun of her in
She didn’t expect him to take her seriously, not right away. They
flirted like crazy with each other, all the time, both secure in the
knowledge that they would never have to act on their words. And he
didn’t know yet that, with any luck, things were about to change.
yeah, obviously. I am hot. Everyone wants me.”
You’re a good-looking guy. You know it.” This time, Eric laughed a
little. Even though the lights were out, Anna could hear him
blushing just a little, could hear some hesitation in his breath.
She could almost hear him wondering if she was serious or just
messing around the way they usually did.
really. You always cut yourself down. You shouldn’t do that.
You’re much better off than you think you are.”
women are just swarming around me. Anyway, you do the same thing.”
yeah, but everyone knows I’m ugly. I’m just honest about the way
people see me.”
you think people see you, anyway. You do the same damn thing you
think I’m doing.”
anyway, I just wanted to tell you. Whatever you might think, I
think you’re pretty hot. Whenever I tear myself apart or get all
down ‘cause no one wants anything to do with me, you always remind
me that there are lots of guys out there who like fat chicks. So
now, I am reminding you of the same thing. There are lots of women
out there who like big guys, too. Probably more women than men,
actually. We tend to be a lot less judgmental.”
lot more guys with big women than there are women with big guys out
there. Trust me. Women don’t like fat guys.”
conversation is pointless. Who cares what other women think about
other guys. I’m just telling you that I, personally, find you
attractive, just the way you are. It’s stupid to keep worrying
about what other people think.”
lapsed into silence. She waited for Eric to respond, but he
didn’t. She could hear him breathing, slowly and deeply, and
wondered if he was asleep. She decided that since she had started,
she may as well take things the rest of the way. She shook off her
nerves and the nausea that was overcoming her and got out of bed.
Slowly, so slowly, she approached his bed and sat gently on the
he greeted her, laughing nervously. “What’s up?”
know me. I would never try anything like this with anyone else.
I’m scared of everything, and I can’t even remember the last time I
did anything remotely close to this. I don’t think I ever have,
really. But I think I need to, for you to believe me, and I hope
that somehow, some part of you feels the same way I do, whether you
know you do or not. You know me better than just about anyone, so
you know that this is a huge risk for me, and you know I don’t take
risks, ever. Please, at least be nice. ”
down and placed her lips on his. Shaking, she kissed him long and
hard. It seemed like she waited forever for him to respond. He
didn’t push her away, but he didn’t kiss her back, either. Just as
she was about to admit defeat and return to her own bed, she felt
him shift. He placed one hand on her rib cage and the other on the
side of her head, and pulled her to him. He kissed her back.
instinct was to pull back immediately, so he couldn’t feel how fat
she was, how disgusting her flesh felt. She managed to resist,
though, because the urge to scream, jump up and down, run around the
room in excitement, was so strong. Her heart was beating so hard
and fast that the room was spinning. She felt an extreme need to
breathe, but no desire at all to pull away from him. Finally,
though, Eric pulled away and drew a breath. Anna was afraid that it
was over, that he had tried it and decided it wasn’t what he wanted,
but then he slid over in the bed and pulled her down next to him.
you decide to do it?” he asked. “How come you stopped being
I didn’t. But it was time. I decided to trust you, that if you
didn’t respond, I would just pretend it never happened and hope that
you would too. I thought it was rather stupid, if we both felt the
same way, for us not to get together just because we thought that no
one could possibly like us.”
get it. I always just assumed that you had no interest in me at
all. You always seem so sure of yourself. The only negative things
I have ever heard you say about yourself were about your weight,
even though it never seemed to bother you overly much. If you think
that being fat automatically makes you ugly, then why the hell did
you just kiss me back? Because by your reasoning, I must be way
worse off than you are. I mean, I am like twice as fat as you. You
shouldn’t like me at all.”
kind of weird, you know, talking about it like this.”
“I know it
is, but if things are going to work out between us, I think we need
to. We gotta get all this stuff out in the open, or it will just
keep eating away at us. Are things going to work out with us? I
mean, do you even want them to, or did you just not know what else
to do? Be honest with me.”
“No, I do.
I really do. You’re fine the way you are, but not me. I told you,
it’s different. There’s all this stuff out there about BBWs and all
that, it’s almost cool for chicks to be fat. But guys get the short
end of the deal.”
don’t. Every guy in the world would rather be with someone who
looks like a Barbie doll. Women are much better at liking guys for
things other than how they look, and not thinking that they look bad
in the first place.”
whatever. Not the truth, but if that’s what you wanna think, go for
there, side by side in Eric’s bed, silent. Anna worried that their
little argument had ruined things for them. It wasn’t fair. There
were all kinds of beautiful women in the world who could treat guys
like crap and get away with it, just because they looked right, and
yet she made one little mistake and totally screwed things up. She
sighed and started getting up.
you going?” Eric asked.
figured I’d go back to bed. I—I just thought it was best.”
“Did I say
mean, well, no, I just thought that I did.”
all. Stay here.”
Anna settled back against
Eric without saying a word. Slowly, as they listened to each other
breathing, they both fell asleep. Anna dreamed of bright,
candy-colored scenes in which she and Eric danced in the sunshine
and lay in the grass next to sparkling streams. And when she awoke,
instead of being alone in bed with tears in her eyes, she was in
Eric’s arms. The dream had just begun.