I was sitting with Sadie, who was in my manual chair lulled to a kind of sleepy reverie by the sun and the sounds, and watching Joe and Ruby in the line up to get into the Zipper, a ride a Canada's National Exhibition. They were talking and laughing and excited about going on the ride. Well don't know if Joe was excited exactly but, he was there and she was there and he was laughing. It was in that moment that I was transported back to when Joe and I were mere boys. We thought ourselves men, after all we had lived away from home for years, we'd graduated from University, we'd moved across the country, but we were boys. And we were boys, together as a couple, in a different time.
I specifically remember riding the Zipper with Joe the first time at the 'EX'. I remember getting into the cage and I remember it beginning to move. I've always been fat. I've always been larger than your average bear. And I remember being smushed up beside Joe. I remembered the intense shame I felt when my body intruded into his space. Even thought I longed for nothing more than to be able to touch Joe in public, to hold his hand, to put my arm over his shoulders, this was not the same.
I pushed myself as hard as I could against the mesh beside me to create more space for Joe. Joe. The boy beside me, the young man I crossed the country with, the guy that I slept with and shared my life with, the boy who would become the man who finds something to laugh about in every situation, that guy, he was not the source of my shame. My shame came from deep within. My shame came from the hours and hours and hours I spent berating myself for the body I had, for the lineage of fat women I came from, for every piece of food I put in my mouth.
In that moment, on that ride, I was not with Joe. Oh, I was physically beside him, but when my flesh spilled into his space, when his body touched my bulk, I went to a different place. I went to that corner of my soul dedicated to self loathing, that space where the 'wish to die' was kept in an unlocked box. I hated being me. I hated the body that I had. I hated the journey in front of me. I hated the journey behind me.
Fatty fatty two by four can't get through the kitchen door.
Echos. Lots of echos.
Memories of undressing in the gym locker room and having the boys run up and one by one grab my chest leaving bruises in hand clusters of 5 around my nipples. Desperately hoping for the presence to teachers to stop the humiliation only to find that when they were there, I wasn't safer.
The ride started and shook us around. Joe laughed wildly as we tumbled over and over again. I felt sick, not because of the motion of the ride but because I couldn't control where my body was, how much space it took, I couldn't hold myself against the wall. We were thrown together and apart; together and apart. We got off.
I apologized to Joe.
He looked at me, confused, I still remember this vividly, and said, "What for?"
We got distracted and I never answered the question.
"For being me, the fat boy you love, when you could have gotten so much better." That would have been my answer.
And it truth it would have been my answer for years.
Back, with Sadie at my side, I see Joe and Ruby coming back from the ride. Both hated it. Both took a few minutes before they could tell the story of the ride with humour.
We moved on. All these years later, the fat boy became the fat man, the boy who laughed at everything became the man who finds humour everywhere.
I wasted so much time.
So much time.
When I should have simply enjoyed the ride.