I was nine when I noticed that my thighs spread across my seat much more than those of my classmates. I skirted around this thought, and around any other thought that brought mental disquiet. I was a fourth grader who had just learned there was a difference between the words “particular” and “peculiar.” I was a fourth grader who had an obsession with death and trouble sleeping at night. I was a fourth grader whose innocence had been strapped into the contraption called bra and launched into a new meaning of “behaving” around men. Between that, homework, and Harry Potter, I had no time to be concerned with my thighs. When I caught them trying to escape my shorts, melting toward each other like dough from a biscuit can, I would reach underneath each thigh and pull outward, restoring them to a more acceptable position and shooing away the thought that maybe she was right.
She hadn’t actually called me fat that afternoon, but I had a storehouse of memories and mental clips of her voice hurling the F word at me like a dodgeball. And for whatever reason I felt provoked. So, on that particular (not peculiar) day, the arsenal exploded.
It hadn’t occurred to me that all words warred on an equal playing field, that the words of a five foot child could go toe to toe with the words of a full fledged adult. It hadn’t occurred to me that I could escape a “child’s place” by doling out a few verbal jabs. That calling an adult fat would hurt them as much as them calling me fat always hurt me. When I realized that she’d heard me, I didn’t have the gumption to stand by what I’d said. Deny, deny, deny. She didn’t retaliate. She didn’t ask for clarification. She simply turned and left.
That evening she wailed until the sun went down. And that night, guilt straddled my chest like a goblin as I begged God to forgive and let me forget. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard her cry. Just one of a symphony of sounds I’d like to unhear, one of a myriad of moments I’d like to unlive.
I owe her an apology, a sincere and profuse one. But I’m not sure if her hurt will heal from an apology fifteen years past due. Perhaps the healing is already done, and I am vain to believe that she needs my acknowledgement to mend. For what it’s worth, fifteen years and one lie later, I am so, so, sorry.