Maybe It's YouCatherine feels alone in the big city, until she meets a man who changes everything.
(Content warning: This story contains a character who suffers from a fairly severe anxiety disorder.)
There’s something wrong with me.
There has to be.
I have these thoughts sometimes, and they’re not like what everyone else around me is thinking or feeling. They’re… different. Taboo even.
I can’t quite put my finger down on when they started. Maybe for as long as I remember. But it took a while for me to understand that other people didn’t feel the same.
In kindergarten, I’d grab the pudgiest boy in class by the arm, squeezing his upper arm fat like it was a stress ball. He would laugh, seemingly happy to have found a friend at all, even if she was odd and didn’t respect personal boundaries.
But it became weird in first and second grade. You couldn’t just grab someone’s fat and squeeze it. And other kids liked to poke fun at the fat kids, they would taunt them.
Eventually I would just join in. It was easier that way. Less conspicuous. But I’d never grown out of wanting to touch, to feel that supple flesh under my hands.
During puberty was when I really noticed it.
People would talk about going to second base, how hot abs were, how sexy an hourglass figure was on a girl. But I was only ever aroused when I imagined someone eating, rubbing their fat belly, getting full, moaning, but still stuffing food in…
So, it turned out most people didn’t share this interest.
And I never said it out loud, never admitted to anyone besides myself, that I was attracted, with a level of exclusivity that scared me, to fat people. More specifically, fat people actively getting fatter.
My first boyfriend was thin. I was 15 and I wanted. I kissed him. I really tried to get into it.
But I couldn’t.
My college boyfriend was big, but not in the ways I wanted. He was physically imposing, well over 6 feet, broad shouldered. Handsome, sweet, funny. That helped. I nearly convinced myself that I was attracted to him. See, brain? He’s big. He makes me feel dainty and happy and nice.
It didn’t work.
I never wanted to have sex with him because I couldn’t get aroused around him.
My excuses of taking it slow, then of ‘headaches’ or of not being in the mood only went so far. So we went our separate ways after a year together, never going farther than kissing and fondling.
It was depressing and sad that I’d only ever gotten myself off when watching some fat person on youtube stuff their faces. And after getting off, I always feel worse.
It’s in these moments of self doubt, late at night, when my heart aches for some kind of intimacy, some kind of belonging, that I think about these things.
But maybe it’s not my interest in fat men that is the problem. Surely, if that were the case, I’d just find a fat guy to date.
So maybe it’s me that’s the problem.
I whipped my head around, spotting Layla as she waved a hand to get my attention. She was standing with a couple of other people, none of whom I recognized as I approached.
I cleared my throat, “Hi.”
Layla reached out to hug me, but I leaned away and she dropped her arms. Her smile was pinched around the edges, making me feel even worse.
Layla knew not to do things like that, but she was always…pushing.
Layla recovered quickly.
“I’ve got to introduce you! Okay, this is John,” she gestured to a tall man with thin wire glasses, “and Isaac,” a broad-shouldered man with curly brown hair nodded towards me, an easy smile on his lips. I attempted to mirror the expression, but it felt forced.
“They work in marketing,” Layla prattled. “And this is Vienna, she’s a data specialist like us, but in a different department.”
Vienna, a short woman with very big hair greeted me.
“Everyone, this is Catherine!” Layla said, hovering over my shoulder.
“Nice to meet you all,” I said, still feeling off balance from the almost-hug and Layla’s watchful gaze.
“You as well,” big-shoulder guy, Isaac, said.
The thing about being an adult, with an adult job, is that you always feel about an inch from unraveling.
I hesitated around the edges of the end-of-quarter banquet, near the hand sanitizer dispenser.
It was annoying that every employee had to attend these. So many people crammed into a banquet hall, all for some mediocre mostaccioli and baked chicken to ‘celebrate’ the employees and boost morale.
And although Layla’s attention to me was misguided, I did appreciate that there was someone here who was interested in socializing with me.
“You should ask John out,” Layla said, appearing at my side. She was eating the olive out of her martini.
“No no,” I started to protest.
“Come on! You’ve got to get out sometime!”
I pinched the bridge of my nose.
“Which one was that again?” I asked.
Thin and tall, I added mentally. I shrugged. I knew it would only end one way: disappointment. But as usual, I was hoping for a miracle, a miraculous change to occur in me. For me to feel something for someone else, even just for a moment.
The date could be worse. But it felt more like a friendly meetup. I glanced at John’s slim figure, his slender arms, his sharp jaw, and knew with a sinking feeling in my gut that I wouldn’t even want to kiss him.
“How do you like the city? Layla mentioned you’re from the south,” John asked after a sip of water.
“It’s good, busy. I miss Georgia sometimes, of course, but I am grateful to be away from the humidity,” I said, pleased when he laughed with me.
“Oh, I'm sure! I’m a native New Yorker, so it’s interesting to hear about other people’s hometowns. Back when I lived in Queens…”
At the end of the night, John walked me home. He leaned down, maybe to hug me, maybe to kiss me, but I pulled away.
There was a small frown tugging at his lips, but politeness seemed to keep him from saying anything.
“I had a great time, thank you for dinner,” I said, and went inside my building.
“And so, this Layla person, the only friend you’ve made from your work, is now dating the guy she set you up with?” my sister’s voice, thick with the sound of home, crackled through my phone speakers.
“Yup,” I said, trying not to get polish everywhere as I painted my toes.
“Wow. What happened to girl code?”
I sighed. “I didn’t like the guy. So I honestly couldn’t care less.”
My sister made a thoughtful noise.
“It’s been over a month since I went out with him. Once. One date. It’s not like I had some kind of claim on him.”
My sister Ciara, like most of my friends and family, thought I was too picky with men. If only they knew the half of it.
“When are you visiting again, Cath?”
“Not until Christmas,” I replied.
Ciara audibly sighed.
“You could visit me here, you know.”
She didn’t answer, but she didn't need to. It was expensive and she had the kids to worry about.
“How are the rugrats?” I asked when the silence had stretched a moment too long, and she went into depth about how Connor was doing with potty training and how Rachel was able to keep her head up on her own.
It seemed like everyone, even the kiddos, were doing more, were improving, changing. Bettering themselves. Everyone except me.
I recognized that this thought was unfair, but it didn’t stop me from having it.