I met my wife at fat camp. She was fat, but I wasn’t. My mother had started to get worried that I showed signs of an imbalanced diet focusing on Big Macs and Nintendo, so she shipped me off for the summer as a pre-emptive strike. She was cold and calculated and outwardly wanted the best for me, but compassion and empathy were not her strong suits. But it was okay because that’s where I met Marilyn.
Marilyn was fat by most standards. The day before I met her, she had gotten in trouble for sneaking in Twizzlers into gym class, even going as far as to hide some in the belt loops of her shorts as she went on her mile “run”—it was never a run, but more of a casual stroll to see the sceneries of the suburban Midwest.
We hated each other. Actually, that’s not accurate—she hated me while I found her fascinating. We liked the same movies, books and video games. We chatted about how we’d cast Superfudge and Ramona Quimby and then debated which Teenage Mutant Turtle was the best. (It was clearly Donatello.)
And we both loved Maniac Magee.
But still she hated me. I wasn’t fat, and she didn’t understand why I would like someone that was. At that age, I didn’t realize what was going on, that the knotty feeling in my gut whenever she got mad was the sign of a burgeoning love. I cared for her in a way I hadn’t felt before, and that was a challenge I wanted to accept. We were at an age of exploring the unknown—every map had a fog of war, but that never stopped us from pursuing further truths.
Summer ended, the rains began and we lost touch—this was before email, before AOL, and I was way too nervous to ask her for an address. Her mom was disinterested in her having any relations with anyone who was unhealthily inclined, even if my issues were overblown.
After that, I wouldn’t hear from her until a month before her 30th birthday.
“Hey, is that you?” I received a random message on Facebook. The name rang a bell that hadn’t been rung in decades. But there she was, instantly recognizable by her slight freckles and crystalline eyes. “It’s me! And it’s you! How?!”
Turns out that she had moved to Brooklyn a few years ago to run a yoga studio. She had seen me tagged in a photo by a mutual friend. She decided to reach out.
Fat no longer, she now was an emotional muse to those in need. Googling her resulted in glowing commentary on her ability to inspire—she was a rock to many in their times of need. Was this the same Marilyn? Surely—this was the spirit within her that made me love her in the first place.
Though she lived less than a mile from me, we grabbed dinner up in Chinatown. It wasn’t an area she was familiar with, but I made her feel at home: We clicked instantly and felt as we had never lost touch. In some ways, it felt too easy.
Three dates later, we shared a bed. In the middle of the night, I cooked her pasta as we watched Les Chansons d’Amour and mourned the death of a beautiful blonde: What was the meaning of this sudden plot twist? Then we retreated back underneath our blankets and dreamt of a future together.
Two nights later, she no longer wanted to see me. “You remind me of someone I want to forget. You challenge my ability to stay strong, and I can’t have that in my life.” She kissed me on my forehead and walked out of the bar. On the counter was a $20 bill—payment for a heartbreak.
The human mind, beyond its ability to create, is effectively a logic machine. Basic math is foundational, and when two plus two doesn’t equal four, the system feels broken. And this, this was beyond an unsolvable equation—it just didn’t make any fucking sense.
I stopped by a nearby diner and ordered the soup of the day. An elderly waiter kindly dropped it off—it was chicken noodle. Fuck, really? Fucking chicken noodle? I’m too old for that basic shit. When he walked by again, I pulled him by the arm and yelled into his ears, “Why?” Startled, he said, “Because it’s all we have.”
There was no conspiracy. It was just bad timing.
It’s now the winter of another year, and it’s windier still. We meet at a wake held for our mutual friend’s passing. Though he did not die tragically, many still consider him a hero. Nobody knows why, only that his impact was limitless—those around him, including us, have felt the unanticipated ripples of his existence.
Marilyn and I walk back together towards the parking lot. The sky a bit cloudy, and the air smelling of a wintry cold: “I don’t want to die alone,” she says. “You are better than that,” I say. We hold hands and stare at tomorrow.