I used to be fat. And I mean really fat, such a fat man that people would sometimes turn their heads as I walked down the street, wondering how I could maintain that kind of bulk. The answer, of course, was that I loved food -not, in the end, more than life, but it was damn close there for a few years.
I blamed it on stress. I blamed it on genetics. Really, though, it was a haunting: food filled all my waking thoughts, the way girls had when I was in high school. Instead of writing a girl's name on scrap paper or sketching the curve of her breast, I used to make lists of food: sometimes alphabetical (apple pie brioche coq au vin), sometimes by category (hot fudge caramel marshmallow sauce whipped cream nuts cherry). If I'd had a lover, I doubt I could have spent more time daydreaming about screwing her than I did fantasizing about food - the food I'd just had, and when and where I would have my next chance at some. It got so that the accepted practice at our house was that Marianne and the kids would put whatever they didn't want on my plate at dinner, and I would always find room for it. Marianne always had this look, like she couldn't believe I would really act as the family garbage disposer, but she didn't say anything after the first few times it happened. Needless to say, our sex life wasn't as good as it used to be. I missed it sometimes, the frequency, the intimacy, but mostly, who cared? Stress. Genetics. (apple cake banana nut bread cream puffs.)
It was when Marianne at last nagged me into going to the doctor that I finally, grudgingly, began to change. I was embarrassed to go see anyone but Mark — he's my brother-in-law, and I figured he wouldn't laugh, even behind my back. He talked to me for a long time after I'd climbed on the scales and topped out at 362. At first I thought Marianne had put him up to it, but as he talked, I could hear in his voice that he was really upset.
“It's like seeing someone you love with cancer, Billy,” he said, “and they won't get chemo because they're too stubborn. What the fuck is the good of having a doctor in the family if you can't get your family to listen to the doctor?” He looked pretty wretched, poor guy. I made a lot of promises like I always did, to get him off my back, but his unhappy face stayed with me, the way he looked when he read my chart, my blood pressure, my cholesterol levels. The term “morbidly obese” began to haunt me unpleasantly.
Mark had said that I had to get some exercise, and once I'd started thinking about it, I couldn't stop. So one Monday in October, I went out to our back yard and started walking around the pool. I felt like an idiot, waddling around and around the empty space where our chlorinated water was in summer, but it was exercise, right? And the next day, my calves were sort of sore, which I figured was progress, so I did it again that night. And again the next. Sometimes, after it became clear that this was going to be a habit, one of my sons would come out and talk to me for awhile, tossing a lacrosse ball in the air, not meeting my eyes, but there. Marianne took longer to convince, probably because she'd known me for longer and had the clarity marriage can give you if you stay in it long enough. She used to stand just outside the sliding glass door, arms folded, and watch me. Marianne has a terrific figure that she keeps in shape by swimming laps every day, and she has the most beautiful Irish smile I've ever seen. I'd smile at her companionably and keep walking. I must have walked fifty miles around that pool before she smiled back.
It was the boredom that finally got to me, along about spring. Shame about my body had started me walking in my own back yard, but I'd lost fifty pounds or so over the winter, walking in all weathers around that goddamned pool, and I never wanted to see either the pounds or the pool again. At 310, though, I was still too big to want to show myself in sweatpants to the whole neighborhood, even if I was walking faster now. So I waited until dark, laced on my shoes, and set out into the cold spring evening. I can tell you the date, too, it was March 15, because you don't forget a day like that, the day your whole life twists in your grasp like an animal you picked up, thinking it was dead, only to find it shockingly warm, slightly damp, and friendlier than you expected.
But I get ahead of myself.
I started off in the chilly evening, safely hidden in the shadows of the trees, trying not to think about walking straight to the nearest McDonald's for a large, salty order of fries (cherry pie Big Mac sundae hot fudge oh shut the hell up, Billy.) It was a pleasure to see something besides my own back yard, though, and I started to look around me. After I got used to the fresh, cold air and the occasional set of passing headlights, I made the discovery that thousands of joggers have undoubtedly made before me: a hell of a lot of people don't draw their curtains at night. I walked past house after house in the deep twilight of a March nine o'clock, their windows glowing gold, watching frozen tableaux or scenes of rapid motion.
The first place I passed, there was a man at an upright piano and a little girl with frizzy black hair playing with a Dalmatian on the floor. Next house, I could see a woman in the kitchen doing the dishes, pushing her hair back from her face with a damp wrist. She looked sort of like Marianne from behind, my favorite figure, with a narrow waist but wide hips and a perfect round ass, delightful to look at and lovely to hold. The next house had the TV on and everyone was sitting in the blue light watching a Western - I couldn't tell if it was a movie or an old TV show like Bonanza. I was enjoying myself now, and I stepped up the pace, making my glances more like photographs than video clips. A young man, standing shirtless in the glow of the refrigerator. A crying boy of maybe six, pointing into the other room. Scared? Telling on his sister? I couldn't tell. A beige striped cat sleeping, perfectly curved, on the windowsill. I felt omniscient, as if I were the narrator of all these stories; I didn't have any sense of myself as a voyeur.
And then, as I stepped into the rectangle of light cast by a window about two miles from my own house on Summerhill Drive, I saw her. I didn't know anything about her, of course, still don't; all I knew was that I had seen an achingly beautiful girl of about twenty or so, studying at a kitchen table. I stopped in my tracks, breathless from the quick walk and the cold air, and took in some more details. She was blonde, with her hair in a knot at the nape of her neck, and she was sort of athletic-looking, the way girls of twenty so often are. Her arms were tanned, but not like she'd been on spring break somewhere sunny, just as if she habitually spent time outdoors when she could. She wore a plain white T-shirt and navy running pants, and she was sitting with a thick textbook of some kind - biology? economics? I couldn't see - on the table in front of her.
Now at this point I wasn't thinking what you're thinking: fat middle-aged man leering at nubile 20-year-old, will the real Humbert Humbert please stand up. All I could think was how beautiful she was, how absurdly young and beautiful. I don't know how long I stood there, but it wasn't long. I hadn't really even caught my breath before she stood up and closed her textbook and stretched, her eyes disappearing as she yawned like a cat. Then she crossed her arms, the way I'd taught my sons to do it when they were little, grasped the hem of her shirt, and pulled it off. My heart, which had been slowing, gave a galvanic leap in my chest, and I heard the click in my throat as I swallowed. The girl took the T-shirt and dropped it in a washer that was standing open near her. Then she reached behind her back, elbows out in that uniquely feminine posture, and unclasped her jogging bra. Her breasts fell free in the golden light from the kitchen lamp, and I swear as I watched I could see her nipples harden as they came into contact with the cooler air. By this time the big muscles of my thighs were reacting to the workout and the adrenaline. “Fight!” they said, trembling. “Or flee!” And the lizardy back part of my brain muttered, “...or fuck...” and I noticed that an enormous erection had tented out the front of my sweatpants. I leaned against a tree for support, unable to take my eyes from the window.
The girl bent over, her beautiful pale breasts answering gravity's call and turning slightly pear-shaped from the perfect apples they had been. She skinned off her running pants and underwear in one tangle, neatly separated them, and dropped them in the washer with the T-shirt. I saw one flash of the powderpuff of blonde hair between her legs, and then she turned her back to me and began putting detergent in the washer. I could see the nape of her neck where the heavy knot of honey-colored hair was, the sweep of her spine, the jut of her shoulder blades, the heartbreakingly lovely curve of her ass, the glitter of downy hair on the backs of her thighs (she doesn't shave all the way up, I thought, frantically trying to distract myself, and then, ah Christ, all the way up...).
Standing there at the washer, she was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, and according to my brain cortex, I wanted her more than I'd ever wanted any other woman. My erection was monstrous, my usually docile cock alerting me to its iron presence (and to what it wanted, now Billy now) with every beat of my heart. I found I was pressing it with the side of my hand, as if to try to pacify it. I wanted to burst through the kitchen window like the Incredible Hulk, fasten my lips around that small hardened nipple, and stroke that soft blonde powderpuff until we both melted into delicious oblivion. Instead, I squeezed my eyes shut, still pressing ineffectually at my raging hard-on, and counted to ten.
When I opened them, she was gone from the window, the only sign that she hadn't been a hallucination the econ textbook still sitting on the table. I couldn't tell if I was more disappointed or more relieved. What I could tell was that it would be a truly bad idea for a respectable (if hefty) member of the marketing community to be found standing on a woman's lawn squeezing his dick, so I turned around and walked back the way I had come. My mind was filled with that glowing picture, her smooth skin, the supple curve of her breasts. I'd walked almost a mile before my erection was completely gone.
That night, I was in love. Or maybe in desire. I lay in bed as Marianne brushed her teeth and I thought about the girl, imagined huge changes in my life: living with her, sleeping next to her, watching television or listening to music - Lester Young, maybe - imagined quitting my job, cooking for her, helping her study, going to her graduation. Then, further, imagined that glowing skin under my fingers, her pliant warmth, imagined teasing her clit to hardness with my tongue, feeling her guide my head with one hand as she grasped the sheets with the other, gasping and stiffening in pleasure. I embellished for a moment - I'd be the first man to taste her pussy! she'd be so grateful she'd stay with me forever! - and then I took a deep breath. Get real, I told myself. Imagine meeting her parents, the shock and consternation on their faces. Imagine introducing her to my sons, only eight years' difference between them and their new stepmother. Imagine Marianne.
As if on cue, Marianne slipped into bed beside me. Instead of setting the alarm clock and turning over to sleep as she usually did, she propped herself on her right elbow and threw her left arm over me.
“I want you to know I'm really glad you're doing this exercise thing. I - ” She was flushed pink with emotion or embarrassment, down her neck and onto the tops of her freckled breasts that I could see at the low neck of her nightgown. My cock began to stir. “I was so cynical all winter, I thought for sure you'd give up. Hell, you know. You always did before. But going out of our back yard like you did tonight? I guess that said commitment to me somehow, like it wasn't just your private attempt. I know you're doing it for me and Ty and Pete, and honey, I love you for it.” She leaned over and kissed me, and at the touch of her generous mouth, my erection sprang to life as if it had never been away. Just like riding a bike, I thought indistinctly. My hand moved tentatively to the swell of her hip beneath the covers, and instead of moving away, she rolled toward me so that the point of her pelvic bone fit comfortably into my hand. “Mmmm,” she breathed, and I wasn't going to get - or need - any more encouragement than that.
I moved my hand up to the swell of her breast, found the nipple already hard, and made an involuntary noise in the back of my throat. I circled it gently with my fingers, using the slippery material of her nightgown to glide over it again and again. Her hand was roving over my bare chest, slipping into the waistband of my boxers and out again, avoiding my cock except for a teasing brush now and then. I stopped her for a moment, whispered, “Why don't you take this off,” and watched as she crossed her arms, grasped the hem of her white nightgown, and pulled it off over her head. It was that movement that did it. In that moment, my Marianne, with her full breasts and wide hips, the red hair springing away from her forehead, the fiery patch of pubic hair, the tip-tilted nose, utterly familiar, was also a stranger, a slim-hipped honey-blonde athlete twenty-five years my junior, and I was lost in love and desire.
I slipped an arm under Marianne and rolled her onto her back, then moved on top of her, carefully propping myself on my palms so as not to hurt her with my weight. I looked into her eyes, wanting her to understand something I didn't even fully grasp. After a minute, she nodded almost imperceptibly, and I bent and took her right nipple, the more sensitive one, into my mouth, sucking and licking and rolling and tugging it between my lips. I left it for a moment, opened my mouth as wide as I could, and enveloped her left nipple, gently pulling the wide areola into my mouth and caressing the whole pebbled area with the flat of my tongue. My thigh was between her legs, my cock resting against her right thigh, and I could feel her moving her hips so we rubbed against each other. The blood was beating in my ears. I went back to her right nipple, circling the hard nub with my tongue and this time nipping it slightly. “Oh!” she said, and her eyes flew open in pleasure, “Oh, I like that, don't stop,” and as I continued, she slipped her hand down between our bodies and began a slow expert massage of my cock, squeezing gently at the head and the base at each sweep.
My arms were tiring rapidly, and I rolled onto my back, bringing Marianne on top of me. As she settled, trapping my hard penis between her pussy and my belly, I could feel how wet she was. Leaning forward over me, breasts swinging tantalizingly close to my mouth, she rocked back and forth the length of my cock, the underside of the head rubbing against her clit at the top of each sweep. My palms were holding that marvelous ass. Her eyes were closed, mouth slightly open, and her whole pale skin was flushed pink. God, she was beautiful. Her rocking speeded up, the big muscles of her strong thighs bunching, and now her pussy was slipping up and down the surface of my cock with a delicious wet noise like a long kiss. I could feel the beginnings of my orgasm building, but Marianne was almost there; she was shaking and I could feel the pulse of her pussy in the thin skin there. I fought it, but the desire of the day welled up in me and I knew I wouldn't last long. I reached up and rubbed my thumbs across her sensitive nipples, twice, three times. That did it. She threw her head back in what looked like joy and pain and triumph, and I could feel the gorgeous contractions of her orgasm in her belly and along the whole length of my cock. As soon as I felt that, I let go. I gave a long, low groan as I came, watching Marianne's eyes, the first jet striking me on the chest, the others flooding my lower belly. Marianne kept rocking gently, squeezing me with her pussy lips until I was drained and limp. Then she rolled off. Her eyes glinted sleepily in the darkness and she smiled. “Mmmm,” she said again.
“Mmmm,” I agreed, “pass the Kleenex, would you, hon?” We cleaned ourselves up and went to sleep nestled together for the first time in a long time, maybe in years.
In the days and months that followed, I couldn't stop thinking about that blonde girl. She attended excruciatingly dull meetings with me, sat at dinner (where my desire for food had substantially diminished, nudged out of the way somehow), curled up on the couch as I watched PBS or baseball. I tried to stay away from her house on my nightly walks. Leaving the house, I'd tell myself firmly that I was going the opposite direction, and I'd start boldly away from that particular glowing window. But desire, like the lodestone, drew me without my even knowing it, and almost every evening I found myself in front of that house. I never saw her naked again, though she was often there. I saw that beautiful chiseled face intent in study, or laughing on the phone with someone; I saw her making stir-fry, crying over a novel (it looked like it might have been Wuthering Heights, but I can't be sure), stretching after a run, and once painting her toenails in that curious doubled-over posture that only women can seem to achieve. I don't know how many times I thought I'd go knock on her door, imagined her reaction, different every time - polite surprise, hostile rejection, immediate reciprocal lust - and walked or jogged on past.
Those nightly workouts were surreal, set apart from the rest of my life. I'd come home, sluice off the sweat in the shower, and climb into bed. More and more often, Marianne was there waiting for me, and as the pounds came off, our sex life improved, and with it the intimacy that had begun to slide away. Marianne thought I was losing weight for her sake, and I didn't tell her anything different, any more than I explained that occasionally, as I buried my face in her fragrant pussy or my prick in her mouth, I was half with her and half with a girl I'd known for a year without knowing her name. Besides, like anything you practice from the outside in, it was becoming true. I loved Marianne, and held her, and began, hesitantly at first, to talk to her about the things I really wanted, things I hadn't known I wanted until recently. I didn't want to stay in marketing, in those long dull meetings only a blonde fantasy could make bearable. I wanted to go back to school and be a chef. “Put all this food experience into something useful,” I said, and laughed nervously, glancing down at what remained of my belly. I weighed 230 then.
But Marianne didn't laugh. She nodded sharply, twice, and said, “Go on and apply. I'll get a job wherever we move for school. The boys'll love having that kind of a food source in the family; they're at the age where they never stop eating.” I could feel the tears pricking the back of my eyes, and Marianne leaned over and kissed me. I reached for her, and never thought of the blonde girl at all.
It was about six months after that that we moved to Poughkeepsie so I could become a chef. I was down to fighting weight, 190 pounds. The night before we left, I went for my evening run, but instead of jogging, I walked slowly. I had a package in my hands. In a couple of familiar miles, I stood before the girl's house. Even now, I didn't want to knock, or frighten her at all. I could see her in the window, shining blonde hair falling around her face, beautiful as a summer day. It seemed that with my desire for her, all my other desires had unearthed themselves, too: ambition, love, hunger. I left the package on her porch, turned, and walked away. Imagined her opening it, curiosity turning to surprise on that lovely face as she shook out the soft folds of material, the slow realization of what someone had left her. Curtains. And I went home to my own glowing window.
Acknowledgements to Uther Pendragon for the title to the story.—SJ