by Emily Suzanne
Crystal slammed the car door with a sigh and
stretched the seatbelt taut across her voluminous body to snap it
securely into place. She dropped her purse to the floor, making
sure to tuck the strap into the vice grip created by her stomach
resting on her thigh. That way she wouldn’t need to remove her
seatbelt and perform a feat of acrobatics to reach it, if need be,
during the trip.
And there was a good chance that she would need it.
She pictured the bright orange bottle rolling around in the bottom
of her purse. It helped just knowing it was there, waiting to help
her through the night if she couldn’t make it on her own. Going out
had always been a difficult thing for her, and it had only gotten
worse over the years as she had gained weight and grown more self
conscious. But now, with the friendly little orange bottle in hand,
she was finally able to face the world again. There had been a time
when she wasn’t so lucky.
The door on the driver’s side opened and Jack got
in. Involuntarily, Crystal tensed and she pulled herself closer to
the car door. She manipulated her face into a relaxed expression,
but the force it took to do so made every muscle in her face ache
tremendously. She flinched when Jack turned his head and looked at
“Man, you gotta relax. You’re acting like I’m gonna
haul off and rail ya or something. I’m not gonna hurt you, for
Christ’s sake. I’m takin’ you to a bar, that’s all.”
His words brought tears to Crystal’s eyes.
“Now you’re crying? Damn it, I wish I could
understand you.” Jack started the car and backed out of the
driveway, almost squealing the tires when he abruptly shifted the
car into drive and sent it hurtling down the road. Crystal gripped
her seatbelt with both hands and tried to blink back her tears.
They would only bring her humiliation, not relief. Why, she
wanted to say. Why do we have to go? Isn’t my company enough
for yuo? But she knew she couldn’t. They had discussed the
whole thing the night before. Not discussed. Argued. Fought.
Screamed, yelled, cursed. And in the end, Crystal had agreed that
she owed it to him, just this once. She owed him this one night out
with his friends, but only because he was content to stay in with
her so often. Only because it was his birthday. But she wished he
would have chosen a different bar.
“Hey—you okay?” Jack asked, reaching out to touch
Crystal’s leg. He was speaking softly now. Even so, she tensed
once again. “Just relax, hon. It’s gonna be okay. I’m sorry I’m
pushing you on this, but I just once wanna go out with the guys and
bring you along. They always got some chick with ‘em, some of ‘em
got a new one every week. We been together for months and I never
get to bring you out ‘n show ya off.”
But why would you want to? a voice inside
Crystal’s head screamed. They all have skinny chicks falling all
over them, skinny chicks who put on push-up bras and miniskirts and
red lipstick and strut their stuff all over the place. Why do you
want me, why would you show me off? What’s so great about me?
But, of course, she couldn’t say that to him. It would just make
him angry, like it always did when she questioned his attraction to
her. He couldn’t understand that part of her, the part full of
doubts and insecurities. No one could.
A response. He had reached out to her, apologized,
complimented her, and he was waiting for a response. She had to
gather her thoughts, calm the tremor inside of her, and answer him.
She clenched her fists and fixed her eyes carefully on the
“I’m—I’m sorry.” Oh, God. That had been the wrong
thing to say. He hated it when she apologized, and besides, now the
tears were coming back. She grasped her purse strap and lifted it
toward her, then dropped it. A quick glance at Jack told her that
he had seen it anyway, and she didn’t have to look at his face to
sense his disapproval, his frustration. She could hear it clearly
in his voice.
“Come on, baby. You really need to take those?
Already? Just relax. This is supposed to be fun, Crys.”
Something inside of her snapped. He wasn’t being
intentionally cruel, but he had no idea what it was like to be her,
and he acted like he thought taking pills to get through every trip
outside of the house was her idea of a great time. She exploded.
“Screw you! Yes, I need them already. You’re making
me go out with all your idiot friends who are going to make fun of
me if they even bother to talk to me at all, and spend the night
with their skinny blonde bitch bimbos of girlfriends who will look
at me like I’m some kinda snake and not say a word to me all night
long, and you’re making me go to a freakin’ nudie bar so I
can see a bunch of naked woman running around who all have what you
want and can’t have because you’re stuck with me! So yes, I need
Shaking, Crystal lifted her purse again and dug for
her pill bottle. She removed the lid, and shook one pill into the
palm of her hand. She leaned forward to see around her enormous
breasts and stomach. There was only one bottle in the drink holder
between she and Jack. And it was Jack’s. She couldn’t very well
ask him for a drink. She bit her tongue to work up some saliva in
her bone-dry mouth, set the pill on her tongue, and gulped it down.
The very act of doing so calmed her a little. Silently, she awaited
Jack’s response to her outburst. Instead of speaking, he reached
out and turned the volume on the radio to a deafening level. The
thundering music hurt Crystal’s head, but it offered her protection,
too. It kept Jack from hearing her sputtering breaths, the tiny
moans that escaped her lips when they hit a bump in the road. Every
time her mostly silent sobs made a sound, she waited for him to stop
the car, pull over, force her to get out. He didn’t, of course.
But they had traveled several miles before he finally turned the
radio back down to speak.
“Crap. What’s your problem? I told you
a thousand times you’re wrong. I don’t know what I can do to make
you see it. You’re just stuck inside your own head. If I didn’t
wanna be with you, I wouldn’t be. I didn’t just adopt you like a
stupid little puppy ‘cause I thought you needed some to take care of
you, you know. I saw ya around for months and wanted to ask ya out
but you were so damn quiet I was afraid to talk to ya. Then I
finally managed to talk to ya and got to know ya and I liked ya even
more. I tell you that, like, every day. You make it so hard to
like you sometimes.”
“Well, I’m sorry I’m not the kinda girl
that makes everything easy. I’m fat and that’s just the way I am.
Accept it or leave me alone!”
“Good God! If I wanted to be with one of
the ‘skinny bitches’ you’re always talkin’ about, I would be, and
I’m not. I’m with you. You’re right, you don’t make things easy.
But it don’t got nothin’ to do with bein’ fat and you know it. It
has to do with your own dumb ass ideas about what I like and what I
want. And if you think that low of me, think I’d lie about wanting
to be with you for God knows what stupid reason, then I really do
have no idea what the hell I’m doing with you. Get over it!”
“I wanted to stay home and celebrate your
birthday together. I thought I’d give you a great night so you
could relax and enjoy yourself, and instead you decided to take me
out to a strip club and make me watch naked women trampling around
and showing me exactly what all is wrong with me. How’s that
supposed to make me feel?”
“Oh. Oh! We’ve been over this a
thousand times already. You wanted me to have a good birthday, and
you were gonna make me cake, blah blah blah. That’s great, Crys,
you know I appreciate it, but sometimes, it’s just fun to go out and
have a good time. Frank and the guys wanted to take me out to the
girly bar and yes, I thought it sounded like fun. I thought it’d be
fun for both of us. You’re always talkin’ about how you’re
getting’ braver and ya wanna try new things and I thought it might
spice things up. You never been there, you have no idea what it’s
like. You’ll be surprised, trust me. You can’t just sit home all
the time thinkin’ the world hates you ‘cause you’re fat. Give ‘em a
chance to like you for once!”
“Easy for you to say. You don’t have to
go through every day hearing people say nasty things about you
behind your back. You don’t have to hope like hell when you go to a
restaurant that there’ll be a table open ‘cause you can’t fit in the
booths. You don’t have to sit home alone all the time ‘cause no one
wants to go out with you—”
“Shut up! When was the last time you
heard someone say something about you behind your back. Tell me
that. Because I spend a awful lotta time with you and I sure as
hell never heard it.”
“It’s all in your head. And you’re
right, I don’t have to hope there’s gonna be a table open at every
restaurant I go to. I choose to, because it means I’m there
with you and I wouldn’t wanna go anyway if I wasn’t with
you! And you sit home alone ‘cause no one wants to go out with
you? Argh! I wanna go out with you all the time and you’ll never
go. I gotta go out with my friends and have ‘em asking me every
frickin’ time we go somewhere where you are, why they never see this
girlfriend I’m always talkin’ about. I want you to go out
with me, damn it, so the other people in my life can get to know the
woman I fell in love with! So don’t tell me you sit
home alone ‘cause no one wants to—”
Crystal’s voice was barely more than a
whisper when she broke in, but the fact that she turned to look at
Jack when she spoke broke him off mid-sentence.
“You love me?”
Jack pulled onto the unpaved road that
led to the bar. The only sound was the pingpingping of
gravel hitting the underside of the car. When he spoke, the quiet
gravity of his voice reflected the silent wonder in Crystal’s.
“Of course I do. I love everything about
you ‘cept that you don’t love yourself. Baby, I’d do anything for
you. Including this. Maybe it ain’t a great place to take you, but
I got my reasons. And I wantcha to start seeing the fun side of
life. For me, ‘cause I wanna have fun with you, but mostly for you,
‘cause I want everyone else to see the side of you I get to see when
“You never told me you loved me before.”
“I didn’t think I had to.”
He pulled into a parking spot and they
got out of the car without speaking. Crystal leaned against the
car, took a brush and some Kleenex from her purse, and tried to dab
some of the wet redness from her eyes and make at least her hair
look presentable. Quietly, they walked toward the door together.
Inside, they made their way to a table
where a few of Jack’s friends were waiting. They had obviously
started drinking already, because they were very boisterously
“Hey, man. Good to see ya! Happy
b-day!” one of them yelled as they approached. “And there’s the
girl! Woot, woot! She really does exist!”
Crystal’s face flushed and she quickly dropped
into a chair. She tried to paste a smile on her face so she’d look
bright and fun, like she imagined Jack wanted her to, but she was
trembling so violently that she couldn’t. It seemed to her that
every eye in the place was on her. The room was so dark and so full
of people that, rationally, she knew that hardly anyone could even
see her, but she could still feel their eyes and hear their
thoughts. She was too fat, too frumpy, to be here. She didn’t
belong. And any second now, Jack’s friends would notice that and
voice their disapproval.
She heard Jack tell her that he was going
to get them some drinks and nodded without looking up. It was
easier to study the table than to risk seeing one of the girls
strutting around in skimpy clothes, one of the girls whose mere
existence attracted men. It was easier to avoid meeting anyone’s
eyes, avoid the pain of awkward conversation, lose herself in
wondering what it would be like to be one of those confident,
half-naked girls for just one day, what it would be like to feel so
comfortable in her own skin, to live without a constant nagging fear
that every person who saw her was thinking horrible thoughts about
her just because of the way she looked. They must have such a
feeling of power, with the ability to attract men at will.
But she had attracted a man. Jack had
said he loved her. A tiny smile turned Crystal’s lips upward. He
really wasn’t just using her to keep him busy until he found someone
thinner, prettier, better. He wasn’t just a nice guy who felt sorry
for her. He loved her!
A hand on Crystal’s shoulder made her
jump and look up. One of Jack’s friends, the one who had greeted
them so loudly when they came in, was standing next to her.
“Hey, what’s your name again?”
Crystal tried to answer him, but when she
opened her mouth, no sound came out. She cleared her throat and
“Crys—” she started in a whisper, then
breathed deeply and tried one last time. “Crystal.” She wanted to
ask him what his name was, reward him for his efforts, but she
couldn’t find the words.
“Well, hi, Crystal. I’m Frank. Good to
meet you. Jack’s talkin’ about ya all the time, and he made ya
sound so good we kinda thought he was makin’ ya up.”
Crystal managed a feeble giggle.
“Anyway, I just—oh, hey, babe.” He
stopped as a dark-haired woman came up behind him and wrapped her
arm around his shoulders. “This is Crystal. Jack’s woman.”
“Jack’s woman? I didn’t know Jack
was the type to own anyone,” she replied, hitting him lightly on the
back of the head. She turned to Crystal.
“Men! I’m Loretta, but everyone calls me
Lori. Love those shoes!” She slid into the chair next to
Crystal couldn’t believe it. No insults, no
strange looks. None that she had noticed anyway. Jack’s friends
actually seemed to be accepting her. Which confused her, but she
didn’t have much time to think about it because Jack returned and
handed her a drink.
“Here ya go. I see you met Lori.”
“Mm hmm. Thanks,” she said to him. He
flashed her an appreciative grin, as if to thank her for acting
human again, for attempting to carry on a conversation with someone.
And succeeding somewhat, too. As Jack’s
friends gathered around, many of them greeted Crystal warmly and
several drew her into conversations. She started to relax a little.
And then the lights dimmed. Several
girls in skimpy clothing and sexy lingerie paraded onto stage.
There were nurses and bikers and schoolgirls and girls dressed in
plain old fashioned teddies. They all looked the same to Crystal:
skinny, tall, and tanned. Each had different clothes and different
hair, but they all seemed to share the same body. And every guy in
the place was staring at them, totally entranced.
Crystal glanced up at Jack. He was staring at
them just like everyone else, with a smile on his face. A smile
that angered Crystal, created a twinge of panic within her. Sure,
he had said he loved her. but without that kind of body, that kind
of outgoing personality, could she really be enough for him? He
must like these girls, or he wouldn’t be here, wouldn’t be watching
them without even blinking, the way he was. Tears welled up in
Crystal’s eyes. She watched the other women, the ones who were
there with Jack’s friends. They all had their arms snaked around
their dates’ necks or their hands resting on their dates’ legs.
They looked as if they were enjoying themselves, but they were
staking their claim, too. Letting their presence be known.
Reminding their dates that these dancers might be fun to watch, but
it wasn’t the dancers who’d be going home with them.
Crystal longed to be a part of their
silent proclamation, but she couldn’t. What if Jack really wanted
one of those women to notice him, take a liking to him? If that’s
what he wanted, it didn’t seem fair to keep that from him. And
that didn’t seem fair, either—the fact that Crystal didn’t feel
like she had the right to expect her boyfriend to be loyal. She
wondered what it was that gave other women the confidence to assert
themselves, to feel as though they deserved to be appreciated.
Whatever it was, Crystal knew that she had none of it.
The girls all filed off stage and the
crowd burst into enthusiastic applause. Crystal half-heartedly
clapped a few times while she was wishing that she could just reach
out and touch Jack, remind him that she was there, be comforted by
his presence, but she couldn’t make herself do it. An offstage
voice announced that the evening’s first featured dancer, Candy, was
about to take the stage. Jack joined his friends in hooting and
hollering as a blonde girl dressed in pink danced into view.
“Wooo! That’s what I’m taking about!”
Frank called. Jack took a swig of beer and joined the others in
“Yeah! Sexy!” he shouted. Crystal
watched him for a minute, but he never even looked at her. Crystal
felt completely invisible. Finally, unable to take it anymore,
unable to hold back her tears, she mumbled something about the
bathroom and fled. When she ducked into the bathroom, though, it
was full of women in tank tops and tight jeans who were brandishing
brushes and hairspray and cigarettes. She turned and fled once
again, this time through the bar’s door and outside. How could all
those women just sit there and watch it happening, be okay with
their boyfriends and husbands ogling half-naked women with perfect
bodies? There was no way she could go back inside. Crystal took
out her cell phone and dialed her mother’s number.
While she waited for her mother to come
rescue her, Crystal looked through the window of the bar. She half
hoped Jack would get up and come looking for her, comfort her,
convince her to come back in. Why would he, though? As far as he
knew, she was in the bathroom.
The girl in pink, Candy, danced off stage
and Crystal could faintly hear the loudspeakered voice once again
announcing a name as the crowd waited expectantly. For lack of
anything better to do, Crystal kept watching. It would be at least
fifteen minutes before her mother arrived.
A leg with a red, patent leather,
high-heeled shoe strapped to its foot appeared and then
disappeared. Crystal strained to see through the window. The leg
had almost looked as if it belonged to a big girl. But it couldn’t
have. The dirty window or the smoky air inside must have distorted
her vision. Then an arm briefly appeared, hand waving at the crowd,
before tucking itself back behind the curtain. Crystal could have
sworn there was a bit of jiggle to the upper part of the arm as it
waved. But that wasn’t possible. There was no such thing as a fat
Except, there was. She was dressed in
red silky lingerie with thick, dark hair streaming down her back.
And her creamy skin was not stretched taut over jutting bones.
Instead, it curved gently over rolling flesh. Her thighs were large
and strong and pillowy. Her belly spilled over the top of her
panties in bulging glory and her upper arms jiggled softly as she
gyrated across the stage.
Crystal couldn’t take her eyes from the woman.
Where did she get the courage to strut around on stage with hundreds
of eyes on her? Crystal had a hard time jut leaving her house most
days because of the reaction she got from strangers, and here this
woman was flaunting her fat, celebrating it.
A car pulled into the parking lot.
Crystal’s mother. But now she didn’t want to leave. She looked
through the window one last time. A shiver ran up her spine. A
delicious shiver, almost like a shiver of attraction. She wasn’t
attracted to the woman, though. Not like that. But as she
reluctantly got into her mother’s car, the truth washed over her.
It was a sort of attraction. She was attracted to the
woman’s lack of self consciousness, to her comfort in her own skin,
her confidence. She was everything Crystal wanted to be, everything
she had always told herself she couldn’t be, because she wasn’t
thin, athletic, beautiful.
A woman Crystal didn’t even know was
taking every assumption Crystal had ever made about herself from
someplace deep inside of her and tearing them to shreds, one by
one. It was an uncomfortable feeling. But a good one, in many
ways. Crystal nestled into the car seat and lost herself in
Jack put on his shoes and coat slowly.
He hadn’t been back to the girlie bar since the night he’d been
there with Crystal, but Frank insisted that it was time he get on
with life, which was exactly what he had been avoiding for the past
He’d been having a great time that
night. Watching the girls, hanging with his crew, Crystal by his
side. The perfect birthday. And then Crystal had gone to the
bathroom, except she hadn’t come back. A half hour had gone by
before he’d really gotten worried. At the time, he’d been angry.
He figured she’d gone off to cry somewhere, and just before the part
of the show he’d wanted her to see, too.
The main reason he’d taken her out there
was to see Bountiful, the big, beautiful dancer, the one he liked
best. He’d figured it’d help her see that she didn’t need to limit
herself because of her weight, that she could enjoy herself in spite
of it, or because of it. But she’d run off and missed the point of
the whole night. And he hadn’t heard from her since.
He’d finally found someone at the bar
who’d seen her get in a car with someone, and when he’d called her,
her mother had answered and said she didn’t want to talk to him.
And so it had gone. She still wouldn’t speak to him, although he
called her every few days just to be sure.
Jack had been out a few times since then,
with girls that Frank and the guys had set him up with, but it just
hadn’t been the same. Crystal was beautiful and smart and funny
and, even with her insecurities, the only person he wanted to be
with. He hadn’t been lying when he told her he loved her.
He was waiting outside when Frank’s truck
pulled into the driveway.
“You ready?” Frank asked, grinning.
“Gonna be a fun one tonight.”
“Yeah, I guess. You are way too pumped,
“Hell, yeah, I’m pumped! Amateur night!”
The rest of the ride passed in silence
other than a little small talk every so often. When they arrived,
Jack ordered himself a couple of beers and they settled at a table
near the stage.
“Better be a good show. I didn’t really
wanna come out here, ya know.”
“Get over it, man. Ya know what they
say—fall off the horse, get right back on.”
The speakers crackled, effectively ending
their conversation, which was fine with Jack. He didn’t want to end
up talking about Crystal all night.
“Welcome!” blared a voice from the
loudspeaker. “Thanks for coming to amateur night. We have a great
show coming up after a few announcements.”
Jack’s mind drifted as the voice
announced drink specials and upcoming dancers. The guys that Frank
had dragged out had all shown up alone for once, so at least he
didn’t have to sit there and watch them with their girlfriends. He
still wished Crystal was there with him, though. He missed having
her—a new voice over the loudspeaker brought Jack back to the
present. A girl was introducing herself from somewhere offstage,
and the quiet, timid, trembling voice took his breath away. So did
the words she was saying.
“Hi. I—I’m a little shy, I guess, but I
wanted to do this tonight. I wanted to do it to prove something to
myself, and to someone else. I screwed up a relationship a few
months back because I was too caught up in my own problems to see
things from my boyfriend’s point of view. I did something really
stupid just because I was afraid and then afterwards I didn’t have
the guts to try and fix it. I didn’t know how, really.
“But something I saw out here the night
it all happened changed my life in a lot of ways. Not all at once,
but I’ve grown a lot over the past few months. Losing the love of
your life will do that. So, here I am. I thought this would be a
good place to try and fix what got broken here. I asked his friends
to make sure he was here tonight to see my—my metamorphosis. I just
want him to know that I’m trying to change. And if he’s not here,
well—I guess I’m single.” There was a soft giggle and then the
curtains parted and the owned of the voice walked out cautiously.
Jack’s eyes were glued to her as she walked, in time with the music,
to the center of the stage and slowly began to dance. Her
beautiful, voluptuous body was clad in sparkling whiteness and
seemed to glow in the smoky blue air.
Jack wondered if she could see him. He
wanted to get up, go right up on the stage with her, tell her that
everything was okay. But his weak knees would not allow him to
stand. His stomach was churning and his body paralyzed with hope,
fear, anticipation. By pure animalistic attraction, too.
And then, finally, the music was ending
and she was sinking to her hands and knees, looking out over the
audience seductively. While the room responded with applause and
catcalls, she turned to face Jack. Their eyes met and they each
broke into a broad grin.
By the time she was walking proudly of
the stage and the faceless loudspeaker voice was encouraging the
audience to give it up for Crystal, Jack had made his way to the
backstage door. When the door swung open, he was waiting with open
arms to welcome the most familiar stranger who had ever come into