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EXCERPT FROM "LAME EXCUSES"
I hid the birth control pills from Jim. I hid my increased laziness and my food intake. I tried to put on a good front for him and Tonya and pretended that everything was okay. I watched soap operas and became a talk show addict. I craved salty foods that made me thirsty for another pick-me-up. My waist disappeared until my shoes were no longer visible. I hired the tailor that made Ma Halley’s clothes to make some loose moo-moos for me.
Two years went by and my skin began to change. I developed dry skin rashes that became sore and blistered between my toes and fingers. The skin chafed under my large breasts and in my private areas. I excused the symptoms by telling myself that I was thirty-five and overweight.
I looked forward to my weekly pastry deliveries to the Dairy. Maggie noticed the blisters on my fingers as I spooned a banana split into my mouth.
“I have just the thing for those blisters,” she said, giving me a bottle of extra moisturizer that she used for tanning.
I applied the cream which made the sores burn. Maggie poured baking soda on my hands to stop the burning, making the situation even worse. I ran to the backroom and dipped my hands in cool water. I laughed and Maggie apologized until I was out the door. I didn’t care if my hands burned. Visiting Maggie and the Dairy put a bright spot in my increasingly depressing life. Maggie remained my friend; even now when life was hitting me in the face, as Becky once said.
Becky called occasionally to ask how we were doing. She had stuck to her diet and joined a Weight Watchers group. She always made a point to invite me. We hardly ever joked around anymore. She had found new friends and we lost the shared passion for food that bonded us. I ate alone.
During this time, I rarely visited the fields Jim and I loved so much. Tonya took my place in the fields and, I thought, in Jim’s heart too. He bought a pony named Copper for her. She, Bozo and Copper hit the farm trails as soon as she jumped off the school bus. She could go everywhere except the millpond dirt road that Jim had blocked with a fence and a No Trespassing sign. I sat alone, felt disconnected and became more reclusive.
One evening, Jim stared at the stars through the skylight above our bed and said, “I’m worried about you, Emmy. I think something might be wrong with you that we aren’t aware of.”
“I’m fine. I’m just fat, that’s all.”
“What about the blisters on your feet and hands?”
“Just dry skin, maybe it will get better in the summer.”
I rolled away from him. I worried about him too, about how he felt about me as a woman. Jim had hardly changed over the years while my weight had soared to 240 pounds. I broke the heavy silence between us and said, “I’ll make an appointment with Dr. Sonny.”