Authors: Erin Jade Lange
Erin Jade Lange
For Mom and Dad,
my first readers and my very best friends
One stick of butter
You think I eat a lot now? That's nothing. Tune in December 31
, when I will stream a live webcast of my last meal. Death row inmates get one. Why shouldn't I? I can't take another year in this fat suit, but I can end this year with a bang. If you can stomach it, you're invited to watch â¦ as I eat myself to death.
Most people would say the website is where this wild ride began. But for me it started two days earlier, on a Tuesday night in front of the TV in my living room. I was watching the news, because that's what my mom had on when she got up to make dinner, and she left the remote all the way across the room on the entertainment center, right next to the TV.
Why do people do thatâput the remote by the TV? What's the point?
She probably did it to force me to get up and get some exercise, as if a couple steps across the room would make any difference.
Anyway, there was this story on the news about airlines charging obese people for two airplane seats.
Look, I get it. It sucks to be next to the fat guy on the plane. Maybe he's taking up too much of your armrest or crowding you into the window, but trust me, nobody's more uncomfortable than
guy, having to squish into that tiny seat and knowing nobody wants to sit next to him. The humiliation is payment enough, let alone an extra charge.
This chick with one of the airlines was in the story, saying the double billing would start January 1 and trying to play it off like it was for the benefit of the big people, like they'd be more comfortable with two seats and it was only fair to charge them.
Well, I call bullshit on that, lady.
I knew there was nothingâincluding cramming my ass into one of those itty-bitty lame excuses for an airline seatâ
worse than being the guy taking up two seats so everyone on the plane sees you and thinks, “Oh! So that's how big you have to be to pay double.” No thanks.
I was getting riled up watching the story, when I looked down and remembered two airline seats were the least of my worries. Right then, I was taking up
two cushions on the couch
My eyes slid from the cushions to the coffee table. An empty candy dish with crumbles of peanut M&Ms, a half-melted tub of ice cream, and a bag of Doritos were just a few of the spoils before me.
A single Dorito was balanced precariously on the edge of the bag. I rescued it before it fell out and transferred it to my
mouth. The flavors exploded over my tongueâsalty, sweet, spicyâeverything I liked all rolled into one.
God, I love Doritos.
As an added bonus, the crunch filled my ears, drowning out the sound of the hated story. But as soon as I swallowed, I heard the final line, delivered by some traveler at the airportâa girl so anorexic thin and bleach blond, she could have easily been one of my classmates at Scottsdale High.
“Yeah, I think it's fair!” She popped her gum. “Why should the rest of us have to share the seats
paid for with people who can't lay off the snacks before dinner?”
I froze with a meatball sub halfway to my mouth.
Damn! Can't a guy enjoy a little sandwich in his own living room without feeling like he's being judged?
But it was too late to be defensive. Suddenly that sub didn't look good at all, and the smell of it made me sick. In fact, everything in front of me instantly looked revolting. I hated every brightly colored candy, every salt-coated chip.
I quickly scooped it all off the table and picked up the tidbits that had slipped between the sofa cushions. I'd experienced this before, these waves of resolve. They never lasted and usually ended in an epic binge. But when they came on, they came on powerful, and I was convinced I'd never eat another bite.
I padded out to the kitchen with my armload of snacks and dropped everything in the trash without a word to my mother, who had her back to me, humming away at the stove. Then I headed to my room to wrap my lips around the only thing that tasted good during one of these episodesâmy saxophone.
â¢ â¢ â¢
I lost myself in a melody for about twenty minutes before I got winded. Sometimes just standing too long wore me out, and the way I moved when I played was more exercise than my body could handle these days.
“That's beautiful, baby.”
My mom was in the doorway, leaning against the frame with that dreamy expression she always gets when I blow. I stopped abruptly and lowered the sax to punish her for sneaking up on me, something I'd told her repeatedly to knock off.
“What is that tune? Is that something new?”
“No, Ma, it's âParker's Mood.' You've heard me play it a hundred times.”
“Mmm. You do like your Charlie Parker.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Well, I didn't mean to interrupt. I just wanted to tell you dinner's in about ten minutes.”
“I'm not hungry.”
Mom's mouth twitched in a sad smile, but she didn't say anything. Somewhere around the time I turned eleven, she'd stopped talking to me about food or exercise or anything to do with my weight. And the bigger I grew, the more she pretended not to see it. I used to think she was embarrassed by me, but I eventually figured she just felt guiltyâlike she was a bad mother for letting me get so big.
“Okay,” she said. “We'll start without you.” She moved to leave, then turned back with one hand on the doorjamb and that sad smile still plastered on her face. “Really, baby â¦ just beautiful.”
I cringed. I hated it when she called me baby. I was sixteen
years old and a hell of a lot bigger than a baby. But it was better than Butter, which is what all the kids at school called me. I loathed that nickname, but at least most of them had forgotten how I earned it.
I lifted the sax to my lips to start again, but the movement made me feel tired, so I returned the instrument to its cradle. I didn't need the practice anyway. I was no child prodigy or anything, but I'd picked up my first sax when I was eight years old and hadn't missed a single day playing it since.
. Nothing better to do than sit at home alone playing music.
Of course, that wasn't entirely the case. There
one other nightly distraction.
I switched on my laptop and settled into the extra-large armchair next to my bed. I logged on to the Internet under my handle, “SaxMan,” and held my breath, waiting to see if she was online.
She was. My friends list popped up on the right-hand side of the screenâa few kids from fat camp, a couple brass players I used to jam with â¦ and Anna. Perfect, sweet, sexy Anna.
I had stalked Anna online for months before I finally got up the courage to send her a message. I contacted her through one of the few social media sites that didn't demand photos, and of course, I didn't tell her who I was.
Hey, I'm that guy with the specially built oversize desk in the back of your composition class! Want to chat?
I told Anna I went to private school and that I wholeheartedly agreed with her posts about the band RatsKill being
She'd loved that. And now, three months later, I was pretty sure Anna loved
. Even now, it was like she'd been online just waiting for me to show up. The second I signed on, a message popped up from Anna.
Hey handsome! What are you up to?
I smiled. I loved that Anna didn't use lame shorthand or smiley faces to communicate. But my grin didn't last. “
. There was no way she could know that. I'd certainly never sent her a picture, and I refused to send her a fake photo, because I just couldn't lie that blatantly to her. And truthfully, I didn't want her falling in love with some other guy's mug. She had asked me for a picture over and over again, but I'd finally convinced her the mystery was more romantic.
Hey beautiful. I just got done playing your song.
Okay, that wasn't true, but even when I was playing Charlie Parker, Anna's song was always running through the back of my mind. It was a careful, sultry solo I'd come up with after an all-night Internet session with Annaâthe only song I'd ever written myself. Anna was over the moon when I sent her a recording of me playing it.
Aw! You know I fall asleep listening to that every night, right?
My grin returned.
When am I going to hear you play it in person?
Anna was getting increasingly pushy about meeting up “in real life,” but that obviously wasn't an optionânot yet, anyway. I just needed to lose some weightâokay, a lot of weightâbefore I revealed my true identity.
Soon babe. Very soon.
God, I could not stop lying to her to night. Soon? Who was I kidding? When I first started chatting with Anna, I had delusions of shedding enough pounds to tell her who I was in just a matter of months. But Doc Bean convinced me it would take
to get down to a normal size. He was always preaching the value of patience. Well, patience was something I didn't have. In fact, the news that I had years of hard work ahead of me had sent me into a binge, and in the three months since I'd been talking to Anna, I'd put on another nine pounds.
I stared at the laptop screen, waiting for Anna's response. I knew her silence meant she was pouting. She wanted something more specific than “soon.” Oh well, what did I have to lose? At this rate, I would never tell her who I was anyway.
What's one more lie tonight?
I placed my fingers on the keyboard.
New Year's Eve.
Her response was almost instantaneous.
But that's a month away!
It'll be here sooner than you think.
I waited while she thought it over. Finally, she responded.
I guess a New Year's meeting is pretty romantic.
I smiled at the thought, imagining the momentâlocking eyes with Anna across the room of a crowded New Year's Eve party, approaching her with a bundle of two dozen roses while a twelve-piece band begins to play her songâa moment that would never happen.
An ache filled my chest, and I knew I had to end the conversation before I told any more lies.
Okay babe, I just signed on to say hi. I gotta run.
I waited long enough to see her signature signoffâ
Okay, sweet dreams!
âthen closed the laptop.
The ache in my chest threatened to rise up as a lump in my throat and turn into tears. I forced it down, trying to
shove the knot into my stomach. That's when I realized I was hungry.
I tossed my laptop aside and headed down to dinner.
Like I said, the resolve never lasted.