walk across the university lawn in the late afternoon light. Seeing
my best friend Tina coming my way, I duck into the entryway of
the administration building until she has passed. She looks happy,
and Im not in the mood to talk. It is late October of 1978,
my first year of college, Saturday night in Chapel Hill. I have
never been so fat.
I go to the music building to practice my flute. In one of the
small rooms in the basement I can be completely alone. I open
my Taffanel and Gaubert exercise book and tackle a new page. After
too many mistakes I slow way down, trying to encode my fingers
with the correct motions.
That night I am supposed to go out with Marie and Tina. They have
two things in common: very high SAT scores and me. I do not have
very high SAT scores, but they hang out with me anyway.
After the Taffanel and Gaubert, I practice some Handel sonatas
and then stop after exactly two hours. I know I have to meet Marie
and Tina at nine PM at the Baskin Robbins on Franklin Street,
but first I go back to the dorm to put away my flute. I stand
outside the open door of our floors lounge and see Marie
and some other girls in the midst of a Bible study. A beautiful
blonde girl in a Carolina blue tee-shirt is saying, And
when the angel asks Mary Magdalene why shes weeping, she
answers, Theyve taken away my Lord. The
girl falls silent, as if to let that sink in. I recognize her
as the one Marie has described as fiercely devout;
she even makes Marie uncomfortable. According to Marie, this same
blonde has said she is completely in love with the Lord.
I know Marie to be awfully in love with the Lord herself,
but not in a way that makes me want to gag. From the door I signal
to Marie and point to my watch. She nods, then winks and goes
back to politely listening. I put my flute in our room, then go
to the library to return a book before heading off to meet them
at the Baskin Robbins.
I love this little town. Unfortunately, all I have wanted to do
since moving here is eat. I live in a hungry haze. Ah, the restaurants.
There is the Carolina Coffee Shop, the pizza shop on the corner,
and the Porthole, with those amazing rolls, more amazing because
I am always breaking a diet to eat them.
This problem began when I came to college. I have always been
a healthy eater, but soon I am eating so much Ive put on
a few pounds and have no idea when or if I will stop. My fantasy
is to look like those girls with anorexialike a skeleton,
but I am a sorry anorexic, convinced that if I just try harder,
I will lose those fifty extra pounds necessary to fit the anorexic
profile and be back on track.
Nothing will affect the taste of pizza like a good starvation
diet. I will hardly eat anything all day, go to my psychology,
English, and music theory classes, and then go running in the
afternoon. Some days I will be able to survive the diet and go
to bed without eating a pile of food, but other dayswatch
out. I wander up and down Franklin Street, going from eating establishment
to eating establishment. Im a goner. I like to wear large
peasant blouses and Levis. I believe Levis can contain
me, curb my appetite, keep me from ballooning out and then floating
up over this quaint college towna blimp of warning to incoming
But back to food. I live in a girls dormitory. We have a
small brown refrigerator. There isnt much food in itsome
dill pickles, carrots, iced tea. I believe the room should be
kept pure, which means foodless. Unfortunately, I have a roommate,
a girl from my high school who believes food is for eating, at
least three times a day, every day. We walk to the grocery store
and then carry the grocery bags back to our dorm, through fraternity
My roommate Marie is beautiful and virginal; she is a Christian
and part of a group called Campus Life, a gang of
hard-core Christians. I was a Christian in high school, but then
parted ways with my Christian brothers and sisterspartly
because of Pauls letters (where he says that a man should
be the head of the household, which meant the wife) and partly
because I developed a fondness for marijuana. I can hardly smoke
it since coming to college (I live in a high-security womens
dorm), but I smoked in high school and thought it a relaxing and
friendly substance, hardly worthy of the hysteria around it. The
worst thing about it is that it makes me want to eat for a few
hours. While I never saw a reference to Mary Jane in the Old or
New Testament, the general opinion among the Christian fellowship
is that it is wrong to disobey the laws of the country you live
in. Plus it leads to fornication. Im not sure where in the
Bible it says any of this specifically, but I have no desire to
run the risk of having some Christian future husband (who would
be head of the household) order me not to smoke further down the
road. And the idea of not getting married is unthinkable because
that would mean no sex. So I gave up Jesus. Youve got to
buy the whole package or nothing at all.
Unfortunately, at nine o'clock, Tina and Marie arent at
the Baskin Robbins. I have a terrible fifteen minutes of thinking
about peach frozen yogurt. I have begun many a binge with this
sweet sounding substance. It is like the frozen essence of innocencethe
nectar of purity. So harmless, so peachy. But it sometimes leads
to the desire to go eat a salad at the Greek restaurant, which
then leads to a medium-sized sausage pizza, and then a return
trip for more peach nectar (for purification) before heading off
to the grocery storethe same grocery store where earlier
that day I refused to allow the lovely Marie to purchase even
one package of Pepperidge Farm cookies, claiming that it is better
not to bring temptation into the room where we live. While on
a binge, after pizza, I buy Mint Milanos, then eat them sitting
on the bench outside the grocery store, before wandering further
down Franklin Street to the final brothel before hellthe
Dunkin Donuts. There I get a dozen fresh donuts and carry
them across the street to the bus station. The bus station is
usually closed up by then, so I can crouch in the shadows from
the bushes outside and stuff the soft warm donuts into my mouth,
like a small, happy animal. I
then waddled home through fraternity row, pausing occasionally
to stare into the large yards, beneath the huge oak trees, into
the softly lit windows, wondering what would happen if I entered
one of their living rooms and stripped down to show them my Buddha
Luckily, just as I was about to ask the ice cream guy for a free
taste, Marie and Tina arrived. They didnt want ice cream
or yogurt. I watched in fascination as they casually turned down
the offer of a taste. That was a normal interaction with an ice
cream store? But I couldnt pause and get into a wail over
this because my closer to normal friends were ready to go. We
were going to check out a bar.
Wed never been to a bar. Marie never drank or smoked anything,
but she did have the same desire to meet guys we had. Shed
found out at the womens Bible study that it wasnt
unheard of for Christian guys to go to bars to drink cokes. We
were going to Hes Not Here, a bar named after the Cheech
and Chong routine.
We went inside and looked around. We all three ordered Tabs. The
jukebox played After the Gold Rush. The place did
have guys in it, but most of them just seemed interested in talking
to each other. The three of us talked as if we were in the cafeteria,
about the upcoming psychology quiz, about how many calories are
in a beer.
After a little while a group of tough-looking girls in sweat pants
came in. We recognized one of them, a girl named Maggie, from
our floor. She was on the soccer team. I examined her teammates.
I had spent several hours that afternoon deciding what to wear,
then gone to the practice rooms to purify myself of this vanity.
To repent, Id worn even older Levis and a beige peasant
blouse. This was the year when pink, kelly green, and khaki were
the sanctioned colors on campus, especially for freshmen. It felt
good that even in a small way I was dressing like a peasant, though,
of course, no real peasants wore Levis. But next to these
soccer girls, even I felt overdressed.
Maggie came over to say hi. She seemed shocked and slightly relieved
that we were there. She had us join her team who, I noticed right
away, werent freshmen and had Northern accents. They gave
Tina and me some of their beer from a pitcher. I watched Marie
get another Tab and wondered what it would be like to be hersomeone
who was happy to drink Tab and eat pretzels. She was by no means
thin; she was about as large as me, and while she wanted to be
thinner, she had no capacity for self-denial. She would really
rather have a Tab than a beer. She would really rather have sex
Maggies friends wanted to leave and go to a party on fraternity
row. We started to walk toward campus. There were students walking
with backpacks, couples talking on worn marble steps, a black
Lab with a bandana around his neck. The wind was moving through
the huge oak trees; fall was here. This was the first night that
it had really felt like fall. It was the first time that year
Id felt the longing that fall always brings, but this time
I was in a new landscape. In my old house, an hour away, my mother
was there, alone finally now that Iher last childhad
gone to college. Packages of Swiss Miss were in the kitchen cabinets
next to cans of Hersheys chocolate syrup. There was butter
pecan ice cream in the freezer and cans of Hawaiian Punch stacked
in the broom closet. I thought again of my mother and how much
shed driven me crazy since my father had moved out when
I was thirteen. Id been desperate to get out of that houseaway
from her and the strange men she datedbut now I would never
be her daughter again in the same way. Id wanted that, but
now that I was experiencing fall for the first time somewhere
elseand there was no familiar couch for me to lie down on,
there were no familiar trees to look atI felt sad, as if
I were a ghost in a dream. The sound of the afternoon drums from
the marching band werent the same drums, the cool air wasnt
the same cool air, the pink sky not the same sky. I was getting
Then Tina, as if shed read my mind (and maybe knew this
would destroy me, I thought) suggested we first go to Baskin Robbins
for ice cream. I felt the need to resist sustenance, especially
in front of all these cool Northern girls, who in their sweat
pants and ponytails, seemed to care so little about how they looked.
I felt I needed to lose about forty pounds worth of squishiness,
the pliability that said, Im an ignorant Southerner.
Lets go eat peach stuff. I would fight.
Unfortunately, every other person in this roving horde of females
was up for ice cream. One girl ate two cones in a row. I suppose
they felt they were entitled after hours of running all over the
soccer field every afternoon. Then I remembered that I had run
two miles myself that day. Tina, using her evil ESP, said, Its
OK. You went running today, didnt you?
This comment packed a double punch because Tina wouldnt
dream of going running. She didnt even own running shoes.
She placed herself above these blatant attempts to have a good
body. This was part of what made her superior. Something in me
snapped. I felt resistance was futilein truth I was a pig
and a slob. But at least I was a healthy pig, which is more than
I could say about Tinas cigarette and dope-smoking, wicked
cardiovascular system. I might as well be big and healthy, like
these Northern soccer girls. I had a double scoop of peach yogurt
in a cup and felt immediately intoxicated.
On the way to the party I managed to lose this clique of happy
ice cream eaters as we passed the music building. Practicing my
flutethe ready excuse. I didnt have my flute with
me, but they were all too high on Rocky Road to figure that out.
Marie looked at me a little suspiciously, but let me go. Still
buzzing from the peach yogurt, I wanted to be alone, so I could
go back downtown and have a few snacks.
I walked around in the basement for awhile, lurking outside the
tiny practice rooms. I figured Id wait until the coast was
clear, then head back to Baskin Robbins, but I got stuck outside
a particular door where I heard a flute. Here was the perfect
playing of Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn, the
Debussy I had just gotten the music for last week. I was riveted
by the sound, hearing it above the neighboring piano and clarinet
and the other flute playing exercises down the hall. I felt caught
in a trap designed just for me. I knew then that I could never
play a flute this well and I might as well change my major to
psychology sooner rather than later. (I had started playing at
the late age of sixteen. When other kids my age were enjoying
the freedom of their drivers licenses, I spent the summer
going to beginning band. I sat in a room with fifth graders and
labored over fingering charts, then scales, then finally, easy
songs we all knew, so we would know when we played them wrong,
which was often.)
Somehow my desireto slip up the stairs, out into the night,
fasten my mouth around a shiny pink plastic spoon filled with
peach frozen yogurtwas being interfered with. It wasnt
that I felt no desire, but somehow my wish to feed my face had
been lifted up and shot through with other, more opaque longings.
I thought of Debussy in a hotel room in Paris, of Shostakovich
wandering miserably through the Moscow snow. Shostakovich led
to a thought of Dostoesvky standing in front of the firing squad
waiting to be shot, then miraculously, being pardoned. That was
itI was feeling pardoned by God, God in the form of this
music. But then I remembered Dostoevsky was dead now anyway and
for that matter, Shostokovich was dead, and so was Debussy. I
would soon be dead. And with the jaws of the musical trap holding
me tight, I realized that it did matter to me how I met my death.
I didnt want to be shrinking behind bushes, vainly counting
calories in the shadows.
The door to the practice room opened and Keith Thompson emerged.
Keith was a junior and even though his major was pre-med, he was
one of the best flute players in the university. He had curly
dark hair, brown eyes, and had grown up somewhere in the North.
He played in the orchestra. I, on the other hand, like most freshmen,
played in the marching band andon the football field during
half timewas forced to boogie to Soul Finger.
He seemed glad to see me, but slightly unnerved by the fact that
Id been listening to him. I blurted out, That was
so beautiful. He asked if I wanted to come to his house,
that his brothers were having a party there that night. He said
there would be things to eat and drink, tacking this last bit
on, as if he needed to make it sound more appealing.
Without meaning to, I laughed at the word eat. He looked at me
cautiously, as if Id accused him of some sexual innuendo.
I then tried to cover by saying what I hoped were benign things
about eatingabout being hungry, about food being a good,
good thing. He still seemed a bit uncomfortable as he used the
cleaning rod and cloth to remove the spit from inside his flute.
We were practically in the yard before I realized that his house
and his brothers meant we were going to a frat house.
Id never been inside a fraternity before. My parents were
two of the few lonely suckers in the state of North Carolina whod
voted for Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern. They prided themselves
on being out of touch with the grown-up fun and games (TV, golf
clubs) of their fellow Americans. I wondered if they even knew
what a fraternity was. In my mind fraternities were surrounded
by the same shadowy glamour as the Shriners, the Catholic Church,
and the Republican Partystrange societies where special
outer gestures and costumes symbolized even stranger inner mysteries.
But now, in light of this new information about Keith, he certainly
did seem clean cut enough to be a frat guy.
This night was unlike any other since Id come to Chapel
Hill. Usually, I kept food and social interaction strictly separate.
Only Marie and Tina knew that I sometimes ate for several hours
at a stretch. They had both tried to help in their ways. Marie
took me to some Bible studies and Christian sing-alongs. Tina
gave me cigarettes andconvinced my food problem was really
sexual frustrationhad tried to teach me to pick up guys.
(Unfortunately, she herself wasnt great at it. The truth
was, that except for a few disastrous encounters with boys in
high school, we were as virginal as Marie.) As Keith and I walked
across campus, the wind moved through the oak trees in huge waves.
I felt on the verge of some great opening, some great event that
would change my life forever. Id felt this opening before,
especially since coming to college, but had so far managed to
cram it full of food. Now, being with Keith, anything could happen.
The party was disappointingly civilized. Hes Not Here had
been a much more lively scene. Keith offered to get me a beer,
but I declined. I didnt want to seem like a girl who drank
beer, and also I had no desire to take in any extra calories,
unless I really wanted them. Being with Keith had a magical amphetamine
effectI felt I would never need to eat again, except maybe
gracious and gentle bites of fruit, vegetables, and brown bread,
leaving many mouthfuls on the plate. I would eat slowly and patiently,
an elegant still life, a rich pattern of fruity pastels and shadows.
Keith talked about the only thing we had in common, the flute.
He asked me what I thought of our teachers playing, his
emphasis on overtones. That lasted for maybe two minutes. I tried
to think of something else to say, but it was hopeless. I looked
around the room, partly wishing for a hint; maybe there would
be a sign imbedded in the elegant woodwork that would bring forth
conversation. There wasnt.
Instead, to my horror, I saw Tina, Marie, Maggie, and the soccer
girls. Marie was talking to a good-looking guy who, except for
the little wooden cross hanging on a leather cord around his neck,
was wearing the khaki pants and white button-down uniform of the
brothers. Tina, Maggie, and a soccer girl came over to talk to
us. Maggie and the soccer girl knew Keith from chemistry class.
They seemed surprised to see me there. I introduced Keith to Tina.
I saw her give him a look that meant she was after him. He seemed
equally nice to everyone, oblivious to the fact that Tina wanted
to seduce him.
Soon I was mostly talking to Maggie. Tina, Keith, and a soccer
girl went out on the porch. Maggie asked me if anything was wrong.
I asked her why she thought anything would be wrong. I said I
was just bored and wanted to go. I walked out on the porch to
When I got there Tina was laughingthat easy, feminine laugh
that guys loved. I wasnt sure then, but it sounded like
I heard Tina say to Keith, See you later. She then
followed me into the dark front yard.
Tina and I had never had an easy friendship, but since coming
to Chapel Hill it had been both better and worse. Because she
and Marie were the only ones who knew that I ate so much, she
had taken on an almost motherly role. Whereas usually she seemed
to enjoy any chance to show me up, that night she seemed to know
I was a mess and refused to kick me when I was down. But if she
went after Keith, I knew it would be the end. For the thousandth
time I evoked the Goddess of Anorexia and tried to imagine myself
skinny, skinny, skinny.
But horribly, I only evoked my little aunt Belle, my great aunt
who had died several years earlier. She was referred to as Little
Belle because, sadly, my other Aunt Belle was stuck with the name
Big Belle. Little Belle had no children and was an in-law; shed
married Big Belles brother. My sister had told me many times
the story about Little Belles proclamation that, of course,
my sister would have a fat stomach, because her mother had had
a fat stomach, and her mothers mother had had a fat stomach;
it was a family curse. Little Belle being an in-law and having
no children was doubly protected. In my vision, she was sitting
at the pump organ playing Wondrous Love, her favorite
hymn. Surprisingly, she paused to tell me that I might as well
go eat whatever I wantedthere was no joy in being little.
Eat and grow large, she insisted. Thin may be
in, but round survives.
By now Tina and I were walking past the administration building.
She interrupted my visitation from Belle. Where are you
Im going to practice, I lied. I was headed for
Franklin Street, the pizza place to be exact.
Do you want to go down to the pizza place? We could have
a salad at the salad bar and then walk home.
I didnt know what to think then. Was this Tina, the evil
one, facilitating my downfall? Or was this Tina, my friend, using
the salad bar to keep me from going on a binge?
Come on, she said. She pulled on my arm. I followed
her, and we made our way through campus under the rolling oak
trees, those giant aproned grandmothers waving their arms. They
were trying to tell us something very important, but they spoke
a language wed forgotten long ago.
That was probably the last time Tina and I had fun together. She
stayed with me and tried to keep up with my eating. It was as
if she ate to keep me from eating. We went to the pizza place
and attacked the salad bar, fully partaking of the French bread,
the little balls of butter, the creamy cheese soup. We then had
meatball sandwiches (something new!), thick pizza, and three kinds
of cheesecake. We ate Rocky Road at the Baskin Robbins before
lumbering off to Hes Not Here where three guys with long
hair and receding hairlines bought us beer. Alcohol made me forgiving.
We drank and entertained these fellows by counting every calorie
wed consumed that day. We had to ask people in the bar how
many calories were in a meatball, how many calories in strawberry
topping, but people were happy to donate their knowledge for a
cause. A tipsy bank teller loaned us her pocket calculator and
the calorie reference page from her Week-at-a-Glance Book. Perhaps
we estimated on the high side, but our new friends encouraged
us to think big. The bartender finally announced the totals. Mine
was higher by at least five hundred calories. The crowd cheered.
and I started swimming at the indoor pool. Each time we rented
the one piece suits and bathing caps from the university. We swam
long, dreamy, chlorinated miles and came out wrinkled and quiet.
One night when we were leaving the gym, we passed Keith. He whirled
around when he saw Tina and called, Hey there.
She turned, and I saw her break into an involuntary smile. Then
she mustve remembered me standing there; she just waved
at him. Hey.
He stood, as if waiting for more. She said, Ill talk
to you later. He waved and went inside. I dont think
he even saw me.
The two of us passed the library in silence. She said, more like
a statement than a question, Whats wrong.
Nothing. I just hate you is all.
Theres nothing going on with me and him. Youre
being paranoid. She stopped walking. Were just
But you could, couldnt you? You made sure you had
the option. You wanted me to know that.
Oh, please. What do you want me to do? Just hang out with
you all the time?
I walked away.
changed my major to psychology. As part of a requirement for my
class in abnormal psych I had to work as a volunteer in the state
mental hospital near Durham. I asked to work with the physical
On a cold November day, I took a bus to the hospital. I had to
show my ID and be checked off of a list at the front entrance.
I was fascinated by the place, but also terrifiednot just
of the patients, but of the hulking, creature-like staff. I walked
through three long buildingsthe unlocked kindto the
physical therapy unit. In the badly lit corridors, vending machines
glowed. I sampled them, taking in the full spectrum of salty-crunch,
chewy-sweet, and fizzy-wet.
The physical therapist, Jenny, was peppy and well-built. She chewed
gum. I watched her help an old man whod just had a hip replaced
walk between some parallel bars. Aside from the fact that he didnt
say anything, I couldnt see anything unusual or crazy about
him, but I watched, wanting to learn.
Jenny chatted away to both me and the man, even though I was the
only one answering her. It turned out that ten years ago she had
lived in the dorm next to mine. She was engaged to be married
to a research scientist. It seemed my job was to make small talk
while she did the actual physical therapy. She sent me down the
hall to the staff lounge to get coffee and donuts, and she never
minded if I went back a second or fourth time. When there werent
any more patients, she asked me if I wouldnt mind cleaning
out the whirlpool. I put on big orange rubber gloves and squirted
rust-colored disinfectant on all the chrome surfaces; I used a
big brush for scrubbing and a hose with a powerful spraying nozzle.
Over the weeks I noticed that most of the patients who came for
therapy were old. Their physical problems seemed related to their
premature burial inside the walls of the hospitalstuck joints,
atrophy of muscles, erosion of skin. I ate wildly on hospital
days and worried that some day Id end up a patient there.
I imagined how as an old woman Id go to physical therapy
and tell a young student how I used to live in the dorm next to
hers. Id blow her mind.
Then, during my third week at the hospital, a man in his early
thirties wheeled himself in from the drug and alcohol unit. His
brown hair hung around the collar of his flannel shirt. He was
handsome, in a cowboy sort of way. Because he had one leg in a
cast, his pants leg was ripped up to the thigh. As he waited for
Penny to finish with a patient, we talked. Hed gotten drunk
and crashed his motorcycle a few weeks earlier, ending up in the
hospital to dry out. He rolled back and forth in his wheelchair,
I can walk with crutches, but I like the wheels better for
these long trips to PTfor speed.
We sat next to the fake tree in the hallway. His name was Ed.
He told me about being an alcoholic. He talked about it quite
openly. He seemed to understand the whole problem: hed quit
going to meetings and lost touch with God; one thing had led to
And then maybe because hed told me so much, I told him about
how much I ate. I actually cried at the time. Sometimes
I wish I was an alcoholic. It would be so much less embarrassing.
He laughed and squeezed my knee.Watch what you pray for.
Then he looked at me for a few seconds and said, You know,
youre a pretty girl. Youre not a bad-looking girl.
You just need he paused I dont know,
something. To relax maybe.
ate a lot that Thanksgiving and Christmas. It seemed every time
I turned around I gained another five pounds, though sometimes
I would lose it again after a few days of Tab and cigarettes.
Tina started going out with Keith in January, but by then I didnt
want him anyway. I felt too big.
Then one night in the donut shop, I ran into Ed. Id just
bought a box of fresh ones and was headed over to the bus station
front yard to eat them in the shadows. He was walking with a cane,
and as I started to hurry past him without speaking, he caught
my shoulder with the hook. Hey there, Sweetheart, not so
fast. Then he mustve remembered about my eating thing;
he saw the box of donuts and pretended to be shocked. Oh,
no. Youre gonna stay right here and give some of those to
me. And while I hated to eat all those donuts in front of
him, I felt relieved by his openness, his command of the situation.
We sat in a bright pink booth for over an hour. He drank coffee
and helped me with my dozen. I ate only three before he drove
me home in his VW bug.
We began meeting there at night. Id go there to study and
drink coffee. He always made me eat donuts as soon as he arrived,
even if it was a diet day and I hadnt eaten anything yet.
He called it my therapy. He said I should get out more and socialize.
He flirted quite openly, though I wondered if he just did it because
he thought it was good for me. I liked being with him, but guys
that old were forbidden fruit.
So one morning when Marie asked me if I wanted to go on a retreat
with her and the Campus Life people, I accepted.
It doesnt have to be such a big deal, she said.
She stood in the doorway of our room in her white terry cloth
robe. Its just God. She didnt mention
any detailslike St. Paul, or Jesus for that matter.
I smiled. I wished I could see it that way.
We gathered in a parking lot on a Friday afternoon and piled onto
the bus. Most people were in hiking boots, jeans, and flannel
shirts, and a lot of the guys had guitars. Most of the Campus
Lifers were attractive, correctly-sized people who looked like
they could sell Jesus on TV and convert millions. Like me, there
were a few oddballsa slutty-looking girl with frosted hair,
a fat guy with sideburns, a loud girl who told jokesbut
everyone was friendly. They had to be; it was their religion.
As the bus climbed through the mountains, the air grew thinner
and colder. We were going to a place called Windy Gap. In a large
meeting hall, while a fire crackled in the fireplace, we sang
hymns, songs by the Beatles and Bob Dylan, songs from Godspell
and Jesus Christ Superstar.
On Saturday night the time came for the unsaved to be saved. I
watched as the new and renewed Christians walked to the front
of the room. When one of the guitar players came to my row and
gave me a special invitation to receive Jesus Christ into my heart,
without thinking I told him I was already saved. Marie gave me
a curious look, but at that moment it seemed true. This guy in
his white button-down didnt have to know the details. I
didnt have to join their country club to be holy. I thought
of Ed and decided to call him when I got home.
It was already dark the next night when he came to pick me up.
We drove several miles outside town, through frost-bitten fields,
to where he lived on his mothers land with a pack of dogs.
He showed me the old woodshop where he made cabinets, and then
the trailer where he slept. There were still Christmas lights
along the top of the picture window.
He lit a fire in the woodstove. When he looked up, I must have
looked scared because he said, Whoa, wait a minute,
and came over to where I was standing. He touched my face, and
then we hugged for a while. When we started kissing, I was aware
that unlike the guys Id kissed before, he seemed to know
what he was doing. Different parts of my body were feeling desire.
I discovered another mouth and stomach below my waist; my legs
became arms to hold onto him. It was as if I had another self
I hadnt known about, and now this other self was tearing
the mask off the one Id pretended to be.
It snowed that night over the fields, the white flakes falling
like Christs blessings, equally touching all creatures of
Smith has previously published in Tri-Quarterly, Confrontation,
Louisiana Literature, Phoebe, Yellow Silk,
Iris, and other journals. She was nominated for Pushcart
prizes in 2004 and 2005.
grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina and currently lives and
works at a center for
Tibetan Buddhism in the mountains of Northern California, and
she teaches English part-time.