The truth does not come with a thunder-clap-eureka-that’s-it-of-course feeling. It comes upon her, like a thing she always knew but hadn’t looked at for a while. The truth was similar to the bright hot hurt of her teenaged years, only with its colours dulled, the hues diminished with the passing of time, so that in their way they represented her more honestly. She had faded, and she had expanded. Her body had stretched itself to contain babies, and the floppy skin now hung empty. For the good of her health she had given up those tonics of her youth: alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes, and had attempted to fill the void they left with food. She had widened, and her shine had dulled, and she had become invisible. You will not notice her in the supermarket, on the street, on the train. Your eyes will skitter past, uninterested.
It is not only the food that fills her. She retains too (along with the water the doctor does not want to put her on tablets for) hurts and losses. There are small pains, and larger ones, and they amass inside her, bulky and uncomfortable. She aches with the daily accumulation of more miseries and rudenesses. She stands solidly at her kitchen sink, wondering how it came to be that she is who she now is. She is rinsing the dishes, and waiting for the washing machine to finish its cycle. She is replaying last night’s argument in her head. How she had innocently, kindly even, asked if her husband would like a cup of tea, and then had mentioned that the rubbish needed putting out, and he had looked at her with such anger that she could not reconcile it with the conversation. He clenched his teeth and called her “Fucking mental” and tears had slid uselessly down her cheeks. This morning he had apologised for his tired grumpiness, and she had accepted it gratefully. Her son had complained about his lunchbox.
“You know I hate cream cheese.”
When in fact cream cheese had been all he would eat for the last two weeks.
Her daughter had rolled her eyes and taken the KitKat out of her own box.
“I don’t want to get fat like you.”
And she had soaked up the small insults, the aggressions directed her way. She may have reeled slightly, but imperceptibly.
She wondered whom she could call. She imagined herself speaking on the ‘phone, bitching about her man, her kids. Whom would she make the call to? She could not phone her own mother without hearing how her mother had a hard life too. She had struggled. She had never been happy. Whatever was happening it had happened harder for her, it had hurt more, cost more. She could call her best friend, who was actually not the best anything, rather she was her oldest friend, the person she had gone to school with. Their lives had taken separate paths many years ago, and they could no longer comprehend how the other lived. They finished their calls with declarations that it had been great to catch up, and vowed to meet in person, soon, but never would. Her one male friend had died several months previously, and she swallowed his absence with each cookie she ate. There was nobody else. Standing at the sink it was apparent to her now that her teenaged self was correct in assuming the world was cold and lonely. The truth revealed again, without the suicidal sharpness of youth, and she looked straight at it. Life is hard. There is no such thing as happiness. She absorbed it without hysteria, and knew she would do nothing to change it.