Vincent Peppers On Weight

Shane Jones

This is the first installment of Short Reads, our newest column featuring fictional short stories written by some of our favorite authors and writers from around the globe.

cubicle

Good afternoon. Peppers here. I had days at work where I didn’t talk. I just listened to my co-workers. I had the best cubicle because it was located in the back corner and the padded walls were high enough so I was invisible. It’s like I didn’t physically exist, which is a great feeling to have in this life. Sometimes they’d talk about meatball subs or sailboats. Sometimes they’d order Chinese food and Paul would say, “Pass the chink sticks!” When my boss called the words hurt coming out of my face.

I’ve been thinking about my body lately. Let me tell you about it.

If you’ve ever worked in an office then you already know about the truly horrendous bodies that live in an office. I’m not sure how the air processes their bodies. Lots of people drag one leg. Lots of people look shoved by a thinner version of their current self who wants nothing to do with a security portal, the work elevator they’ve entered a million times before. It all hurts.

Once I saw a man in the elevator press his body, his entire face, against the silver doors and, for a moment, fall asleep as the elevator went up to my floor. I had to kind of peel him off. I had to put a hand on each shoulder and shake him. He looked at me and said, “What you do that for?”

Witnessing bodies full of non-love on a daily basis gets to you. I haven’t traveled anywhere outside this city so I haven’t seen much, but I do believe images get inside you, play with your mood, splinter you. Babies are the most whole beings in the world. Then we become this, me, and we are all just parts trying to stay sealed together.

Once I saw a man eating a bag of chips on the front lawn of my building at 8:30 in the morning. He caught me staring and said, “I’m writing blogs now, I’m helping people. What are you doing? You’re a watcher, a creepy creeper. You ever help a person with your blog? Didn’t think so.”

I was the skinny guy in my office because everyone else was overweight, which made me extra skinny, near dying. A constant joke at lunch. A mouth to push unwanted pizza toward. Once my boss said that if I skipped my next meal I’d disappear.

“Sounds nice,” I said quietly.

Everyone laughed because they were uncomfortable. Most people don’t believe they are going to die. They think it might happen. I don’t have much of a social life because I think about dying all the time.

I’m writing blogs now, I’m helping people. What are you doing? You’re a watcher, a creepy creeper. You ever help a person with your blog? Didn’t think so.

What they, my co-workers, were really uncomfortable with was their own bodies, and my weight was a direct insult. They wanted me to eat more, clean my plate, finish the party sub. That’s what Margaret once yelled in my face, as a joke, I think. Everyone was laughing as she yelled several times inches from my blank face, “Finish the party sub Vincent!”

They wanted to blow me up and have someone else to share the misery with.

I’d do silent push-ups in my cubicle and hide salads. Sometimes I’d make a show of eating a chocolate bar in the common area.

Once I had a moment with Sarah, the receptionist. This is what I wanted to talk about today and then we can both be alone. I can still feel the way my blood was during this odd little moment. I always liked Sarah’s face–a kind of tragic-fat but loving and wanting. I liked her. I believe she was a good person.

We were talking about how skinny I was. The conversation had carried over from a hot dog lunch where I denied eating a second hot dog. You should have seen the looks. Margaret ate four hot dogs and snarled at me. Later, she caught me coming out of the bathroom and asked if I thought I was better than her and I said that everyone was horrible.

What Sarah and I were talking about specifically was how in ads, sexy ads featuring men, the camera always scans up/down on the man’s abs. How a man’s abs were the definition of sexy. You can’t show a boner. Sarah said something about a celebrity and what I did, just totally random and not thinking, was lift my shirt up. I didn’t have abs, just a flat kind of white and a little hair around my belly button but what Sarah did, very quickly and almost instantly after I lifted my shirt up, was place her hand, flat, on my stomach.

Like I said, it was a weird little moment, with no talking, just me standing there next to Sarah in her swivel chair holding my shirt up, crotch kind of toward her, and Sarah’s hand all warm on me like she was feeling something inside me. It was the kind of moment meant for a bedroom, not an office. It lasted somewhere between five seconds and five minutes. We never spoke again.

I want to think Sarah was trying to transfer some wound or burden into me. That her pain from her weight was trying to tell my bones get thick little man.

Now I want a hot dog but I don’t live in a city of hot dog vendors. What’s more depressing than buying yourself a package of hot dogs? Thinking about buying yourself a package of hot dogs? I’m not sure. I’m touching my stomach right now. If you think about anything for long enough it becomes depressing. But you keep going under all these stars, all this weight. Goodnight.

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