l a u r e n    b e c k e r



She was thin and I was not and it worked out ok for a good while because some guys like thin girls and some like not thin girls, but then I tipped over into fat and it messed things up. Like, we'd be at a bar and a guy would want to talk to her, but his friend wouldn't want to talk to me. So they would both talk to her and I would go to the 7-11 next door—there's always a 7-11 next door—and get Pop Tarts or a king size Snickers bar. I would text her but she wouldn't get the texts 'til I went back and got her and drove us home. In the car, she would laugh and ask what kind of Pop Tarts I ate. Usually the frosted strawberry ones. They're pretty much the only kind they sell in a single pack, instead of a whole box.

At first, she told me I was wrong, that I wasn't getting fat, but then she stopped wanting to go out to eat with me and always had grapefruit at her house when I came over. She told me I was pretty and said someone would love me for me, but I hadn't said anything about it and wasn't even sure I wanted it. I knew I wasn't pretty anymore. My jeans were too tight, but not in a good way, and we were students and I quit my waitressing job when the tips started drying up and I couldn't afford new clothes. And I was not about to go shopping in the fat girl stores. So my jeans strained against my expanding ass and cut into my waist and my flab hung over my waistband and I had to be very strategic about what I wore. I was pretty tired a lot of the time. I started buying boxes of Pop Tarts and brought some in my purse when we went out.

We stopped going out so much. She didn't want to talk to two boys. I was supposed to be cute enough to handle half. Or less than half, ideally, but enough so she didn't have to come over to the 7-11 and find me when she got tired of talking to all the boys. She started going to the bars with this girl, Sara, from our Ph.D. program. We were all a little older than the students who went in right after college. We had hung out with Sara some, but liked each other better and it's hard for three girls to go out together because guys hang out in pairs. They were better together. Sara was even thinner, but not as pretty, so it was ok.

I lost a little weight. I wasn't drinking and eating stuff from 7-11 late at night outside of bars because I was sad that nobody wanted to talk to me. I didn't eat French fries at diners after closing or go to taco trucks. I didn't eat a bunch of junk at the restaurant because I didn't work as a waitress anymore. Guys started to look at me again and I wasnít so sure how I felt about that. But I was less tired and my clothes were fitting better and I decided maybe it would not be a bad thing to take some control of my life and I signed up for Weight Watchers and started counting my points and walking to school instead of driving and in about three months, I was thinner than I had ever been and I bought a pair of jeans at the thrift store that were the size I wore when I was 12. They were black with zippers at the ankles and this guy at the coffee shop where I was studying one day smiled at me and said cool jeans and I remembered how to do that thing where you talk to guys and they at least act interested in what you're saying because they are thinking they might get you to have sex with them.

I had seen this guy before. I don't think he recognized me. His name was Arthur. He was tall and thin, even though I always saw him eating muffins and cinnamon rolls and things like that. He wore mostly plaid shirts and he could have been one of those guys who does everything ironically, but he wasn't. He asked if he could sit at my table that day and then we started sitting at tables together whenever we saw each other at the coffee shop and then we started making plans to go to the coffee shop together and then we just went sometimes when we woke up.

He told me he recognized me. He told me he tried to say hi a few times but I looked mad or scared or something all the time. I didnít want to point out that I was fat, so I just said sorry.

He would always try to get me to eat some of his muffin or donut or whatever and sometimes I would have a little and log the points on the tracker on my phone in the bathroom. It was harder when we started dating, but counting points isnít that hard and I always ate pretty much the same stuff, so I just logged my points when we weren't together.

I was still losing weight. He asked why I was getting skinny. He held my hips when we kissed and put his hands around my belly from behind sometimes when I was brushing my teeth, which I hated. I would like to meet one girl in the world who likes having a guy touch her stomach.

I hadn't seen her in awhile because that semester was all teaching undergrads and doing research. I missed her because she was nice and smart and funny and I didn't really have many other friends who were girls, though Arthur's roommate's girlfriend was pretty cool and we hung out a lot at their apartment and sometimes went out for a drink or something.

One night I was at a bar near school with Arthur's roommate's girlfriend. I was having Diet Coke with no ice because alcohol has a lot of points and it turns out I don't like it that much anyways. We were sitting at the end of the bar, turned toward each other, making a sort of fort to keep people out because guys kept trying to talk to us and we just wanted to talk to each other about our boyfriends and some other things, too. I saw her then and tasted gin and tonic and Pop Tarts and felt very sad and a little excited. I stood up to say hi. She looked past me like she didn't see me and I knew she really didn't. I asked my friend if she wanted to go. She stood and we put on our coats and walked out. The fort was still around us. I didn't even know I knew how to build one.



LAUREN BECKER is editor of Corium Magazine. Her work has appeared in Wigleaf, Pedestal, Necessary Fiction, Los Angeles Review and elsewhere. Her collection of short fiction, If I Would Leave Myself Behind, will be available in Spring of 2014 from Curbside Splendor Publishing.

I S S N     1 5 5 9 - 6 5 6 7