Weighing In

In Uncategorized on August 17, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Archipelagos 037

This essay, from 2007, originally appeared — in a moment of hysteria — on my portfolio website. Within two months, I lost 15 pounds. The photograph (which I actually find quite serene) was taken this past May, at the foot of the Acropolis.


After much begging, loved ones convinced me to see a doctor. Not for any urgent medical problems – just a regular check up. In this case, “regular” means at least 10 years ago. The last time I even consulted a physician, it was to obtain some mefloquine pills before traveling overseas. That was back in college. I graduated in 2001.

Unhindered by health insurance (guess who I’m voting for?) I was sent to a cheap health clinic in East Liberty, located on an obscure street. The office was cozy, the staff was friendly, and there was even a New York Times Magazine to peruse, albeit a month old. Curiously, the walls were plastered in religious posters — images of Jesus standing before a crowd of children, smiling and holding his hands aloft, presumably to cure their gout of leukemia or whatever plagued people in Roman-occupied Bethlehem. They tested my blood-pressure, discouraged me from drinking, frowned when I said I lived, unmarried and in sin, with my girlfriend, and weighed me.

I weigh 195 pounds. This was a surprise. For many years, I’ve weighed a reasonable 185. In college, I weighed 175. A 10-lb. increase sounded reasonable, but as I inch toward 200, my heart sinks. Especially when I glanced at the “normal weight” chart.

According to this chart, posted right next to the “Abstinence is 100% Effective” poster, I am “obese.” For the past few years, I’ve been “overweight,” but the heavier end of overweight — dangerously close to obese. Now I am absolutely obese — a lard-stuffed tubbo, a hamhock slathered in Crisco. I am a titanic, bovine leviathan, a trash-bag full-to-bursting with gooey flesh. I have junk in the trunk. Flab on the slab. Love handles on my mantles. I am fat — fat, fat, fat. Even my previous weight, once thought comfortable and even flattering, was unacceptably chunky at best. Look at me: I am now a fat-ass.

The doctor was skinny, tall and nasal. He nodded condescendingly at my every answer, then said: “You could stand to lose a few pounds.”

This was not the first time I had considered losing weight. During my last visit to L.A., I wandered Santa Monica beach, scanning the crowds for someone who looked like me. In Hollywood, anemic hipsters sauntered past, avoiding the gaze of pleibians. Every humanoid in Los Angeles looked rail-thin, but it wasn’t enough to have shaved their paunches: They also boasted six-packs — men and women — visible through their skin-tight T-shirts. Their arms were compactly muscled and hard as mahogany. Baked beneath a California sun, even the bus drivers looked like taibo instructors. My despair was sudden and overwhelming: Here I was, a fairly attractive guy in Pittsburgh, wandering friendlessly in L.A. like a leper on fire. I could feel their disgust — at this slime-trailing reptilian invader in the land of fauns and gazelles.

The feeling lingered for months. Until I realized that I don’t live in L.A., I’m a perfectly handsome 28-year-old, and damn the personally-trained fascists of the West Coast.

Then this: 195 and counting. Soon I’ll be sitting up all night, my veins bloated with cholesterol, as I wait out the hours for my next insulin shot. The gaseous bulb of my torso will twist one way and another, as my bloodshot eyes search the room for an uneaten bag of Doritos, or maybe a Chihuahua. Having gorged on three pizzas and still famished, I stuff my face into the Little Caesar’s box, tearing off strands of cold cheese and licking the residue of grease, sucking down every last lipid molecule. Fatness will become a lifestyle: Mortified by my rotundity, I consume can after can of Michelob Ultra, confident that the calorie-deficient beer will drown my self-loathing. Every time a commercial for Boston Chicken flickers on my ketchup-spattered wide-screen TV, I hurl my remote (missing, of course), just before jamming my face beneath a pillow and trying to drown out the tenor of my wails. Even my tears are fat — they form a puddle of moistness in the cushions, mixing with the urine I’ve left, because God knows I’m now incontinent as hell. By now my girlfriend has left me, and my troglodytic existence gives way to a psychotically frustrated libido. Every time I enter the kitchen, I fall upon the refrigerator and start humping it madly, but my manhood – if you can call it that – bounces flaccidly against the stainless steel. At last I give up, trying to find a knife big enough to cut through my continents of adipose tissue and pop this trash-bag of diabetic effluvium. I stab again and again, but the butcher-knives keep bending and breaking, leaving only hideous scar-tissue. Through a downpour of tears, I stagger to the door, desperate for someone to help me. I open the door, resolving to become a new man. But as I reach the staircase of my Section 8 tenement building, I get a rush of vertigo; I haven’t stood up in days; the stairway is unfamiliar. I topple over, crashing down the stairs, bouncing but also shattering my every bone. I lie in a heap of torn flesh and broken limbs, wailing into the suffocating summer air: “I’ve fallen! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

At that moment, taking in a great draught of air, I inhale a cockroach. I choke on it and die.

I’d rather not end up like this. Next week, I order my first rowing machine.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: