Oh, no -- did Sam just see me? He seemed to be craning his neck, looking out into the crowd as I slipped away. Maybe he knew I was here. How would he? I hadn’t seen him in more than four years. That was intentional, for avoiding Sam had become like a second job to me, something I had to choreograph well in order to function. Most of my senior year of high school it had been the opposite. I’d found ways to run into him. Not going to the same high school meant that that took some creativity. I knew where he worked at the mall, so I just happened to need to shop nearby.
He was in the marching band and so was I, so when our teams fought each other, I made sure to wander over to his section, and then blessedly, debate season had started. So, the idea that I needed to avoid running into Sam had been a hard jolt; adapting had been one of the most difficult things I’d ever done in my life. Going off to college had been a blessed relief. Now here we both were, back in Boston, all grown up – and my, oh my, was he all grown up. And here I was, slipping away, wondering whether to avoid him again.
The bar's bathroom was about as scuzzy as I’d expected, and the face that looked back at me from the mirror was, of course, exactly what I expected. Sometimes I found myself looking into the mirror and actually thinking that I would see something different, as if the layers that were inside me would somehow show themselves by giving me a different appearance. The Amy that always stared back seemed too plain for the person who lived inside. Long, brown hair, with just enough wave to give it shape. Big, brown eyes that seemed a little too fearful for the strong person I knew was smothered under some of those layers. My nose wasn’t big or small. My skin wasn’t clear or a mess.
And then there was my body. I liked to think that I was just a head. Literally. A head that walked around attached to this thing that I required in order to function in daily life. My body didn’t really matter to me, until it did. Some people like to use the word voluptuous. My mother called me curvy, while my grandma called me chunky. No one was mean about it, but it was there, as if having extra curves on my hips or a thicker than acceptable waist, and breasts that filled a cup and then some, were a quiet damning. An indictment of a body that didn’t fit in with modern society.
Brent [Note from Julia: Amy's ex] hadn’t seemed to care too much about my weight, though I would catch him ogling other women, most of them a good twenty pounds lighter than me. The paradox was that the same body that I pretended to ignore was the one that I explored so tentatively, and at other times aggressively, in trying to understand the core of myself. What I wanted were someone else’s hands to do that work, someone else’s obsession to be zeroed in on me, a man’s desire to be at the center of finding Amy’s sensual self. Instead, there was only me and my books, and essays, and readings, and the occasional prop, ordered discretely from Amazon. None of those, not even Brent, came close to being a substitute for the richness that I knew was out there in the world.
Couldn’t I find that one person who would come to treasure me? Who would view me not just as a mind, as a bodiless head wandering around, or not just as a headless body, there to be fucked and thrown away, – but as the whole package? What I wanted most wasn’t Sam, although, as I settled back at my table I found myself searching the crowd and the stage for him. It wasn’t Sam that I wanted, and it wasn’t the idea of Sam that I wanted, it was the reality of a partner who would go the distance with me. Someone I could give up the entire world for, so that we could go deep and burrow into each other – mind, body, soul, and everything. I knew it was possible...it had to be, right? If I could think it, it could be real.
As I looked up and found Sam on stage, getting ready for the next song, and wondered if he could be the one, I saw Darla walk over to him. No, past him. She reached for Trevor, who reached back with a familiar embrace, and then a kiss that...whoa, practically set the stage on fire. Jeez, the two of them needed to get a room.
I finished my drink, the watery taste of melted ice cubes and alcohol familiar, like the words “the end” on the final page of a book, and then, out of the corner of my eye, Darla stepped away from Trevor as a hand slid up her back, under her shirt. The hand was attached to Joe? Who then proceeded to...oh, my God. If they showed any more tongue I would think I was at a butcher shop. Who on earth was she actually with? The kiss with Joe went on and on until my own face started to flush, and the creeping red from my chest stretched up, and down.
I felt like a voyeur, as if I weren’t supposed to be watching this, but what are you supposed to do when they’re onstage in front of a crowd? Trevor’s hand splayed across Darla’s ass, an ass about the size of my own. There I went comparing again – does any woman not? I admired whatever was going on in a sickly kind of way, my stomach twisting in knots. Was it possible? Were the two of them...no, the three of them...?
And then Sam approached her. My whole body turned to melted chocolate, and then tensed up to granite, revolving in a cycle that left me weak.
Then very, very angry as Darla reached out for Sam.
Oh, no, she didn't.