Mary was fat. Not just chubby either, she must have weighed over 300 Lbs. When she sat down at the lunch table the bench bowed in and always looked in danger of breaking. Of course everyone laughed at her, it was high school after all. I thought it was interesting though that there were guys that waddled around that probably weighed just as much as her, if not more, and didn't get half as much shit as she did. Maybe that's because they could dish the insults back out while Mary just looked sad.
I had the same lunch period as her and she always sat in the same place, all alone at the back of the lunchroom, quietly eating her food. I felt bad. I felt bad because she had no friends. I felt bad because everyone else made fun of her, behind her back and to her face. I felt bad because every day I sat by myself and ate lunch too and never said anything to her. I started thinking about her. Before I went to sleep at night, when I ran through the previous day in my head, she would always come up, sitting in that same spot, looking sad. Something kind of stirred in me, that old feeling. That weakness in my stomach. We were both friendless, why shouldn't I go and talk to her? Well, because I was bad at talking to girls. But she probably wouldn't be snobby, I reasoned, she probably really wanted a friend, so why not? I told myself I would go and talk to her the next day at lunch.
But I didn't. In fact, It was another week before I got so sick of myself and the stupid crush I was harboring that I walked over and sat at her table.
The first thing I noticed was that she didn't smell very good. It was a heavy mix of sweat and cigarette smoke and something else I couldn't put my finger on. It wasn't very pleasant though. The second thing I noticed was the acne that covered her face and neck. Fresh crops of white heads grew out of old acne scars, that she didn't bother to cover up with makeup. She looked up at me, and forced a smile that didn't reveal her teeth. Despite the fact that she kind of repulsed me, she did have very pretty eyes.
"Hi" She mumbled and took a bite out of her chicken sandwich, devouring almost the whole thing in one bite.
I said hi back and the struggled with something to say. We didn't have any classes together, what the Hell were we supposed to talk about? My brain screamed at me as the awkward silence got worse. I was still looking for something to break the ice with when the bell rang and she got up and shuffled away without saying anything. I felt sick to my stomach. When I went over it in my head that night, I wondered what the Hell I should do. I wasn't crushing on her anymore, but I still felt bad for her. And I was tired of eating lunch alone. I decided to try again the next day.
She didn't smell any better and she wasn't any prettier. I kicked myself for being so stupid.
"Hi." She said, not forcing a smile this time, not looking up from her plate.
"So..." I said trying to pick out the best line that I stored up all day. They all seemed so stupid now.
"So...what do you like?" I asked and immediately felt dumb. My stomach was in knots again.
"Like what kind of stuff?" She looked up and I was struck again by how pretty her eyes were.
"Well, uh..." Music, dumbass, music! My brain screamed at me.
"What kind of music do you like?"
"I like the Beatles." She was still mumbling, but it was less pronounced.
"I haven't really listened to The Beatles that much..."
"Oh you should, they're great!" She said suddenly brightening up "My dad has these records..." She looked sad again and stared down at her plate.
Awkwardness settled in again. I had to say something, what? My brain screamed at me again.
"I...I think you're pretty." Oh jeez, now I'd done it. How the Hell was she supposed to respond to that? I never found out because the bell rang and she waddled off, before I could get a response.
Why had I said that? I didn't think she was good looking at all. Or did I? I was so confused, I couldn't think of anything else all day. That was Friday and I had all weekend for it to torment me. Me and my damn low self esteem, hitting on the ugliest girl in school. I hated myself. I couldn't just leave her though, I would feel even worse. So on Monday I got my food and headed for her table.
It was about this time that I realized that everyone was looking at us. I hadn't really noticed it before. I had been hearing whispers in the hallway and was getting weird looks from people that normally never paid attention to me. They weren't good looks though, and usually resulted in laughter. I figured that would happen, but I never realized how much it would hurt.
Mary didn't smell as bad. On top of that, she had pulled all the whiteheads out of her face and had made some poor attempts at putting on makeup. I did make her look better though. But there was still the awkwardness, even more so now that she was smiling at me a little bit.
"Hi." She said and smiled, but tried to hide it a bit.
"Hi. Um...you look...nice today."
"Thanks." She said, and I could tell she was blushing a bit.
"I, uh...I got this for you." She said and dug in her book bag. "I know you probably don't have a record player so I'll let you borrow one of my CDs, thats my favorite."
What she handed over was a two CD set, with a pure white cover. In the middle off to the left it said "The Beatles." I didn't know what to say.
"Uh...Thanks, Mary." I smiled. I was nervous, goddammit I was nervous. I'll, uh, listen to it tonight."
"Good, then we can talk about it tomorrow." We spent the rest of the lunch hour in uncomfortable silence.
The album was good. Really good. One of the best I'd ever heard. I had heard some of the songs on the radio, but hearing them all in one place was incredible. Every song was great. I even loved the weird sound mashup on the end. I used my stereo to make a copy on cassette tape.
"So...what's your favorite song?" She asked. She had makeup on again, but it was applied a little better. Maybe someone had helped her?
"I dunno, they're all really good. Back in the USSR and Helter Skelter I think."
"Oh yeah, those are good. While My Guitar Gently Weeps is my favorite, even though it makes me sad sometimes."
"Do you...do you have all of the Beatles albums on CD?"
"No, just that one and Hard Days Night and Sgt. Peppers. My dad has them all on record though. I think they sound better like that. You should come over sometime, we could listen to them together."
My heart skipped a beat and my stomach knotted up again. I still didn't find her particularly attractive, even if she was a cooler person than I had thought she'd be.
"Uh, sure. If you're parents don't mind."
"Oh they trust me. I don't do the crazy stuff everyone else does. I don't sneak out of the house or anything and get drunk at parties." She smiled and looked shy again.
Was I falling in love with her? I didn't know. I was a weird thing to be caught up in.
I walked her to her locker for the first time. Turning a corner by the science lab, some one shoved her into the wall. It was a tall skinny kid with oily black hair and a ripped army jacket, I didn't know his name. I grabbed him and shoved him hard and he fell on his ass. I don't know if would have come at me or not but Mr. Youngman came out of the Science room at that exact moment, probably saving me a good beating. The kid gave me a look that said I'd be seeing more of him later, probably with some of his friends. Mary took my arm and we walked down the hall. Everyone was looking at us. Some of them were giggling. I couldn't even look poor Mary in the face.
Her house was really old. It looked like it was only half fixed up. There was no siding on the front and several broken down trucks littered the lawn. As we walked up the porch, the steps creaking frighteningly under our feet, a cat darted out from the bushes and hid under the porch. Mary smiled.
"Thats my cat boo. I call him boo because he spooks easily. He's a good kitty though once you get to know him."
Neither of us had a car so we had taken the bus. I lived right down the street from the school, so I hand't ever had to take one. Even when I was young I had always walked home. It was a disconcerting experience to say the least, especially since we weren't the cool kids and didn't get to sit in the back. I kept getting hit in the head with paper footballs and when I went back to make it stop, the crotchety old bus driver yelled at me to sit down. I told myself that I was going to save up for a car so I would never have to ride the damn thing again.
Mary's parents were very nice but their house smelled horribly like cat piss. This was probably due to the fact that there were cats everywhere. At least I wasn't allergic.
Mary's dad probably weighed about 500 LBS. It looked like it took all the effort he could muster to get off the couch. Her mother was a skinny little thing, almost a stick. She had the same eyes as Mary, even though they looked tired beyond reckoning, they were still very pretty. After introductions we all sat on the couch for a bit and watched TV. America's Funniest Home Videos, the new version. It wasn't any funnier than the old one. I was sitting between Mary's mother and dad. Mary was on the other side of her. It was awkward to say the least, and it seemed like forever before Mary excused us to go listen to records in the basement. Before we walked out of the room her dad gave me a look that said "Behave or I'll rip your brain out through your ears." Oh well, I thought, at least I could outrun the guy. If I gained 200 LBS, I probably still could...
The first thing that happened when we got down to the basement and walked into a little play room in the back, complete with air hockey table and ancient console TV, was that Mary closed the door and locked it. The second thing she did was grab me and kiss me hard on the mouth. Truth is, I didn't know how to react. It's not that I didn't like it and it was my first kiss. But it was blubber butt Mary. Mary the whale. The laughing stock of the whole school. I could barley fit my arms around her. But it felt good, I felt high. My head felt like the top had been ripped off. I did something to me that I had never felt before, her arms around me, her breasts pushing against my chest. I kissed back. She pulled away.
"I'd better put something on before they get suspicious." She said, opening a panel in the TV console revealing a record player. How about some...Help? That's one of my favorites."
We danced to You've Got to Hide Your Love Away and I Need You, her arms around my neck, a slow awkward shuffle back and forth. I couldn't look away from her eyes, it's like they were looking right through me.
"I want to tell you something." She said, never taking her gaze away from me. "Since we've been hanging out, I've...I've started caring more about myself. I've lost 13 LBS." And then I Need You Was Over. She let go and changed the record to a Led Zeppelin song I had never heard before. It was slow and melodic. She held me tighter.
"I love you." She whispered in my ear. I didn't know what to say, but I was saved again because there was a knock on the door. It was her brother, time to go to the movie....
All through the driver over in her brother's car, all through the stupid comedy on the screen, all through the dinner at Burger King afterwards, my brain reeled. I hardly remember anything. I remember holding hands in the back of the car and in the theater. I remember buying her popcorn, and her eating most of it. I don't remember what the movie was about. I don't remember what I ate afterwards. This wasn't fun at all. I finally had a girl that was in love with me and I had no feelings for her at all. And I had lead her to believe the whole time that I did. I felt like an ass, like the worst kind of scum in the whole fucking universe. It made me sick. After we said goodnight her brother drove me home, neither of us saying a word. After I waved goodbye and he sped off, I threw up in the bushes outside our house.
That was a Friday night and I stayed in bed all weekend, venturing forth only for food when I could stomach it. My mother wanted to take me to the hospital. I said I was fine, just a small cold. When I was walking to school that Monday a beat up old Ford pulled up along side of me and the kid with the greasy hair jumped out and before I could run, he beat me to a pulp while his friends watched and laughed. Then he threw me down on the ground and they sped off.
Mary looked surprised at my black eyes and cut lip.
"Oh my god, what happened to you?"
"I just got into a little fight is all."
"I hope you're alright!"
"Yeah, I'm fine."
We were standing by her locker, everyone was looking at us again. It must have gotten around that we had gone out on Friday night.
"I had fun Friday." She said, gathering up her books. "I was wondering if you wanted to go to the gym dance this Saturday. I've never been to one, because I've never had anyone to go with and..."
I wasn't looking at her and she trailed off.
"What's wrong?" She said, sounding worried.
I was looking a group of Jr. High kids at the end of the row of lockers who were pointing and laughing. I got angrier than I'd ever been in my entire life.
"What the fuck are you looking at?" I yelled. The hallway went quiet. The kids suddenly looked scared.
"Is somethin' funny? Huh?" I walked up to the first kid and shoved him. "What the fuck you laughing at?" I shoved him hard and he fell on the tile. He looked like he was going to cry. They both scampered off down the hallway. I turned and everyone was staring at me.
"What the Hell are you all looking at?" I screamed, losing my mind completely. Someone in the back spoke up.
"You're fucking fat Mary." It said in a weird high pitched giggling voice.
The whole place exploded in laughter and my heart broke in two pieces. I turned to Mary. She was leaning against her locker crying harder than I had ever seen anybody cry before. It was the wail of the hopeless, the broken, someone that's had their hopes crushed into the dirt. The eyeliner that she had sloppily applied was running down her cheeks, cutting through the thick makeup she had applied. The laughter died down and people moved on, gathering up their books to head to classes.
I turned around and walked out of the school. I couldn't take it. I went home. I feel terrible about it now, it's probably the worst thing I've ever done in my life. I didn't say a fucking word to her. I just left. I went home and was sick for the rest of the day.
I didn't sit at Mary's table anymore. When I saw her in the hallways, I didn't say anything. I noticed she stopped wearing makeup. She also looked like she had gained a lot of weight. I hadn't really realized how much she had lost when we were friends, but it must have been a lot.
The next year her dad lost his job at the mill and they moved away. The next time I saw her, I was a sophomore in college, back home on Christmas vacation. Mom wanted me to pick up some sugar for shortbread cookies. She was waddling through the middle aisle with two kids tugging at her arms. She was enormous. I felt that same sickness I felt that day I left her alone with her misery and I realized that it never went away. It'll probably always be there, a small ball of nausea to remind me of what a horrible person I am.
She was in front of me at the check out line, but she didn't even look at me. The last I saw of her was her silhouette blocking out the light of the grocery store doors as she walked out.