When your Crust is Stuffed (Part 4)
Everyone in America is fat. I walk off the airplane and all I can see are large clouds of sludge covered in skin. I can hear everything people say. They talk about their dogs, the places they are going, and argue with their families about what they're getting at Cinnabon. I couldn’t overhear conversations for a year. It was a soft hum of consonants and vowels. I was surrounded by audible murmurs. The static lullaby fueled my anonymity.
Passport control is real strict here. In Thailand, there’s no additional screening, unless you’re South African. They always thought South Africans were carrying Heroin, but all my South African friends were just English teachers like me, who didn’t do Heroin. I get through with ease while they hold back a few people from The Middle East. This is the first indication that I’m in Trump’s America.
My mom and sister look really skinny. They’re dieting for the wedding, while I have a tire of fat around my hips. For the last three months, I’ve had four drinks every night, and more if I’m trying to party, which I was most of the time. My face is bloated and none of my clothes fit me. I want to eat healthy, but there are also things called Doritos and Little Debbies. Each time I see a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos, I become weak in the knees.
The jar of peanut butter in the grocery store is huge. I hold it against my stomach amazed that someone could eat all of it. My sister tells me it’s family size for a reason. There are so many different types of cereal. The only American brand in Thailand was Frosted Flakes. I’m overwhelmed with which box to buy. Can I get them all? How many is one person allowed to get?
I have friends. I think. Maybe no one knows I’m back? Maybe they only think I’m back for a little bit. My inbox is stale. I thought I had a lot of friends.
The Fourth of July is a weird thing, especially in Minnesota. I watch a parade of tractors. I see more people in motorized wheelchairs than I thought would be possible. I drink a beer with my mother. We think about staying for Bingo but it’s not for a few more hours. We decide to go home. I’m still tired all the time. Can jet lag last this long? My mother and I play Scrabble to keep me awake.
I meet with a few friends. They talk at me about their lives for a short while and then ask me, “How was Thailand?” I get in a few words, but it’s hard to explain nine different boat parties, eating snake for a meal, and the unexplainable flavors of Khao Soi in under an hour. I get through talking about the teaching portion of my experience, and so we get back to the latest gossip because we're human.
“Did you know Sarah’s pregnant?”
“Guess what, Steph’s getting married and they haven’t even known each other for a year!!”
“I live with my boyfriend Adam. We’re adopting a dog next week.”
We forget to get back to what I was saying earlier about Ladyboys.
I cry every other day. I try to reconnect with romantic interests, but they’re with someone else. I start to regret being gone for so long. The feeling of starting over in every aspect of my life is alienating. I have no money. I have no friends. I have no purpose.
I sign up for Beachbody online so I can lose the inches around my waist. I drink shakes and measure my food in colorful containers before I put them on my plate. I write down everything I eat. I’m surrounded by electronic coaches and other people doing the same thing. I have no idea who they are. I take pictures after my workouts. I take pictures of my shakes. I do push-ups. I do planks. I get sweaty. I focus my energy on losing weight so I don’t have to focus on my aimlessness.
I reconnect with my middle school boyfriend. He lives at home too. We decide to go tubing down the river. We sit in flimsy tubes he bought from Wal-Mart. My butt and legs get scraped by rocks. We drink a bag of wine. We talk about writing. We talk about music. We talk about Thailand and teaching ESL.
I smell like river and dirt. The sun sets over the bluffs and the trees. We stop and drink the bag of wine on some rocks. We wipe out on branches. We lose the bag of wine and find it again. I stare at the sky as I float.
I wake up naked in my bed. It’s one in the morning. There’s vomit on my blankets. I’m so drunk and so hungover at the same time. I stumble to the bathroom. It’s a mess. I vaguely remember puking for possibly hours. I clean myself up. I change my sheets. I call my best friend and cry.
I sleep until two p.m. the next day. I find a note on the stairs from my stepdad.
Clean the bathroom before I see you.
I play it cool, but he calls me out.
This is the time I show him I’m an adult. This is the time I own up to my behavior. It takes every bit of courage.
We’ve never talked. Our relationship has always needed work. A lack of trust. We’ve both built walls around ourselves.
I tell him how scared I am. I tell him how hard I’m trying. I tell him I have no idea what I’m doing. I tell him this is not normal for me. He sees how lost I look.
He hugs me and I cry into his chest.
I go on a date with a guy I’ve been in love with forever. He’s the perfect idea of a man. We make out in his bed. Everything feels complete. Everything feels right.
I don’t hear from him for days. He stops liking my Instagram posts. I text him and he doesn’t respond. I learn that he doesn’t like me that much.
Labor Day is extra lonely. Everyone I know appears to be doing something on a boat, yet I am doing nothing. My grandma lets me have a garage sale at her house. I have nothing in my bank account, and this is my last chance before asking my parents for money. I make $500. I take a walk around my childhood neighborhood and listen to Frank Ocean. I hoard the money in my bedroom in an envelope under my bed. I read a book about how to not feel attached to anything.
I get involved in a show. We sing original songs, and make up choreography. It gives me an excuse to drive up to Minneapolis twice a week. I talk too much in group settings because I’m desperate and lonely. It’s the only thing helping me feel connected to America again.
I get a job at Pizza Palace. My first delivery is at Jostens. The lady doesn’t leave a tip, but says she’ll drop one off at the restaurant later. She doesn’t. I like listening to music in my car and bringing people food because when I have to pretend to be nice, it isn’t for very long. I learn how to do everything in the first three weeks. I deliver to a woman named Hilda every day who tips five dollars each time. I answer phones. I sprinkle pineapple on pizzas. I learn how to work the deep fryer. I get my first paycheck and feel like a millionaire.
I buy pumpkin cookies and a copy of Hocus Pocus from Target.
I go on the worst date of my life. We get sushi. He’s high the whole time. I drive us around the city because he doesn’t have a car. He puts his hand on my thigh even though I really don’t want him to. My inner thighs are sweaty because his hand has been in the same place for several minutes. I tell him about my blog idea.
“Yeah, but like you should do it and not care about what anyone thinks. Like do it for you. You shouldn’t care what happens to it.” He says.
I know how to write a fucking blog.
We have a beer at Boom Island Park and he talks about how enlightened he feels lately.
People who are enlightened don’t talk about how enlightened they are.
I drive him to his house. He tells me he wants to connect with me in a sexual way and he wants to know if I'd be into it. I tell him I’m not too keen into hooking up with people because they end up disappointing me afterwards. He says I need to have a positive mentality. I tell him I can have whatever mentality I want.
Afterwards, my friend Jesse wants to spend time with me. I want to go home. I drive twenty minutes towards home and change my mind. Jesse and I go to a stupid college party and dance to old music that the children don’t want to hear. We’re both healing. It’s nice being with someone who is also trying to figure it out.
I go on one of the better dates in my life. We get sushi. We have a lot in common and talk about whether The Backstreet Boys or N'sync is better. The Backstreet Boys are better, but he disagrees. We get three drinks each, and describe the perfect celebrity threesome experience. I choose the Obamas.
I start working at a pallet factory full-time while keeping my job at Pizza Palace. The goal is to make as much money as possible. I wake up a 6 a.m. The sun isn’t even up. We leave when we’re done which can be 2 p.m or 5 p.m. I can barely stay awake past 9. Everyone at the factory is a bitch and used to go to high school with me. My trainer makes me cry on my first day because I almost run into a pallet of syrup. She reminds me of a theater kid who always wanted to be a star but wasn’t talented enough to get the lead. No one likes me here. I’m too slow and get in their way. I take 17,000 steps before the end of the work day. I think about being on a boat in the summer. I make a secret list on my clip board that tells me how much money I should make before I quit.
I pack 12 jars of mayonnaise onto my pallet.
“A word of advice,” a girl in front of me says. “Don’t trust anyone here.”
When I’m done with work I go to a Chinese buffet and eat three plates full.
I have little time for Pizza Palace but when I do it’s for a few hours here and there. I don’t spend money because I don’t have time to spend money.
When I have free time I make out with the boy who likes N'sync more than Backstreet Boys. Our first kiss is on Nicolette Island in front of the first avenue bridge. He has a beard and glasses and dresses like a professor. We both like the musical "Once," and gush about our favorite television shows. We talk about comedians and why their comedy is successful. We talk about them getting in trouble for sexual harassment, and call it "Mengazi." He's funny, but I'm funnier than him.
To be continued.