pixelnyx asterisk

Beloved wakes up to find herself unexpectedly thin.


part 5 of Common People

Only in the mornings could she connect with her body, the errors and mistakes of meal choices yet to come. In the mornings her trousers would fit loosely; her breasts would be hollow. She paid no mind to her currently insubstantial self, thinking it only a byproduct of an especially good sleep and a day of balanced fibre and water, until she slipped between a crack in the floorboards.

Beloved sprawled in the dirt beneath the creaking house, where it was cool and dark, and limestone foundations made of the space a dusty sunstriped boulevard.

Regaining the house proper irritated her. She had to sidle against the wall that the neighbours could not look over the fence and see her nakedness, and only narrowly did she avoid slipping again between the cracks, where weathered wood shrunk away from the wall. She folded herself double and slipped beneath the doorframe, where the weatherseal had decayed, and where a stuffed straw snake with red felt eyes and a matching forked tongue did little to keep out the drafts.

Beloved confronted herself in the bedroom mirror.

Three hundred and sixty degrees she turned, and as if trapped in an early version of a three dimensional gamer's world, she turned and turned and only saw her face. She had no sides, no curves but for the hourglass defining her.

Had Spearman seen this in the darkness before dawn? He often told her he would wake to find her with the sheets discarded, on her side with one hand outflung. Her other hand invariable curled between her legs, not for release or irritation but simply because that was where her sleeping hand would lie. Did she do it to defend? He never asked her, but he wondered. Her hand would draw Spearman's eyes to that region, and if she did it to protect, it was a double-edged action, for he would not have looked had her hand not been there. Groggy with his hours of early rising Spearman would stir against his uniform's constraints, and wish he could do nothing more than roll atop her. But he had obligations: a creaking house, sighing with wind and strain, a promise to himself that he could be more than the triggered reactions of his upbringing.

One finger he would run along Beloved's wrinkled bare foot, from heel along arch, to calloused big toe. A touch so regular she no longer even kicked.

In the absence of another, Beloved was not too disgruntled with her new flatness. In two dimensions she had exactly what she had known before, her hourglass self, this view that confronted her in the mirror, her YZ Cartesian coordinates. She had never loved the fore and back protrusions of her breasts and stomach and buttocks, the environmental threat that her body, too, would follow her mother's and expand out into the impossible hugeness of XY coordinates.

Beloved imagined most people felt neither pride nor shame for their bodies, any more than they could feel proud or ashamed of bearing lungs or lips, but her body had always been a battle. She must be proud of her body, and display it, and acknowledge the double-edged sword that it was, or she would automatically default to the shame of bearing a body so clearly designed for the appreciation of someone other than herself.

Beloved reflected, Spearman's hours of work passed mostly in the dark, and the silence of awaiting caffeine to work its magic; then the hard labour that followed, crates and pallets shifted and heaved, packed and unpacked, stacked and sorted and resorted all in a coolroom smaller than his bedroom, in which he and his workmates would climb like monkeys and risk limbs, torn ligaments, to poor working conditions for a job they could not afford to quit. Did he discover his own two dimensionality there?

Spearman returned home from his labour ready to sleep.

'Why didn't you tell me?'

'Tell you what?'

'Can't you see what's happened to us?' Beloved's hands knotted; she used her fists too often, Spearman knew, but not as often as his father had, or his brothers, and only because she used her fists could he trust her to use them when she needed them. Such a relief, to know she would not ever depend on him for protection.

'What's happened?'

'We're flat.' She said it without emphasis. 'We're two dimensional. We have no depth.'

Was this another attempt to rouse him to become more? Another argument started because Beloved could not fit into this menial life any more than he could? She had no endurance, all explosion and firework, she couldn't see past the day and he admired that. Beloved found miracles in every second of the day, miracles or epic failures; she demanded that every experience be trauma or wildness; from a life behind an Australian equivalent of whitewashed plantation walls, she made of every small thing a risk and threat, simply for the sake of excitement.

'You're as shallow as I am.'

To which Beloved resigned herself to a life in which he was always right, and this was what they were, images clinging to the surface of their lives.

January 2010. Written for the prompt: x-y coordinate. Sidestep from reality.

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