I get up at six to make the bus to get to Cynthia’s place. She got out of bed at eight, just in time to open the door for me. It’s not easy for her, four hundred fifty pounds altogether; she tells me that her heart races like mad when she straightens up in the morning, and half the time she expects to have a heart attack in the shower. “What are they going to think about it, finding me naked in there, sprawled all over the place?” she used to say, as though anyone cares what dead people look like.
“Morning, Cynth.” I’m taller than her, so I lean down. She holds my hand when we kiss, always has.
“Nicely done, that kiss,” she says, giving me her rating out of ten. She pulls me inside and feeds me coffee. She cleaned up from the night before, but later I pull open the garbage bag and find the pizza box and the six-pack of pop, the quart of ice cream licked clean, and a full head of broccoli all wilted and yellow.
“What did you have for dinner last night?”
“Broccoli. I steamed it and made some cheese sauce. It was disgusting.”
“Why didn’t you stir fry it with some chicken?”
“Chicken doesn’t make broccoli taste better. Come in here.”
She’s in bed and tells me to join her. “It’s not polite to go through people’s garbage.”
The day goes by. We snuggle in the bed, and she takes great pains to pretend she’s not loosening up my clothing. “Tell me about your lawyer schooling, Mr. Lawyer,” she breathes, and then in the tradition of the best part of Cynth, she pretends to be one of my professors, delivering a lecture. It’s amazing how many legal terms Cynth has picked up on, how easily and accurately she uses them as part of her lawyer jokes. I laugh, half-naked. She has no qualms about lying on top of me. “When are you going to dump me?”
“Tomorrow, more than likely. Over the phone. While fucking some other girl.”
“A lawyer girlie?” she asks. She is moving on top of me now, carefully and slowly. There aren’t enough adverbs to describe exactly how she is doing what she is doing. “I don’t mind. It’s inevitable.”
“You know it. Couples like me and you don’t last. Most of the time they don’t even begin.”
“You’ve done some research have you, Cynth?” I ask, helping her onto her back.
“I spent longer in school than you,” she breathes. “I belong with a fat guy. But I hate fat guys.”
“I know a couple of nice ones. Funny thing is, they’re all nice, aren’t they?” Cynth shows me her teeth. “But you’re right. This won’t work. It can’t work. It’s written down somewhere. It’ll probably be a lawyer girlie that I dump you for. Redhead. Thin as anything but with lots of muscles. Mini-skirts all the time, and nice tight whore boots on the weekend. Rich folks. Audi but heading for a Porsche. Nice apartment uptown.”
“I hate redheads,” she growls. She pulls me towards her. I always tell her that the other thing is inevitable, too, that I happen to be sure in moments like this that Cynth is a type of goddess, one men would have worshipped long ago and carried around in a litter or something. I tell her over and over again about the first time I saw her, what I saw, why I came over and asked to sit with her, why I bought her a coffee, asked her out, introduced her to my friends, my folks, stayed with her for four years and counting. But mostly I ask her why I have to tell her any of that. And when she pushes the issue, I mention that it’s just a matter of gravity, the inevitable draw of mass being attracted to greater mass – and though she hates that little joke, thinks its beneath me, it makes her so mad that she proceeds to fuck like a bandit.
Later, she uses a little voice to ask for chicken wings. “Bad idea, Cynth. Don’t think you need that. And you know I hate chicken wings.”
“Posh lawyer, always looking for capers and curries and the like. Just dump me already.”
“Later maybe. After I feed you some soup. Are you ready for the weekend with my cousins? Still nervous about the plane trip?”
The retching sound she started at the mention of soup dies down. “I’m more nervous about the cousins than the plane.”
“I had to get you two seats. Airline rules.”
“So? Tell me about the cousins again. What do they look like? What do they do?” I flip through the photos on my phone. “Which are the funny ones?” she asks. I show her. When we’re done, she throws the phone on the floor. “Do you know that I am 2.8 times heavier than you?”
“Who bought you a calculator? And then showed you how to use it?”
And Cynth stares at me. Her eyes are blue, like a deer’s would be if you could paint them on the moon. She takes care of her eyebrows, and her hair is straight and blond, long enough to touch her shoulder blades. Her skin is perfect, and white. Her ears are shaped like pearls. “What is wrong with you?” she whispers, and then waits for the response that I make for the hundred thousandth time, a few words different from the last version, but not many. Not many at all.
When she’s asleep, I order the chicken wings. They show up in half an hour, a plastic basket with checkered wax paper holding plastic tooth picks shaped like swords. I unwrap them on the living room table. At least they sent some vegetable sticks, wilted celery and dried-out carrot with blue cheese dressing that’s old enough to have separated. Cynth is snoring hard, enough to make the bed click. I listen to her. This weekend, it’s Monterrey for Cynth; next month it’s Santorini in the Greek sun. After that, she has a full schedule on the family circuit, ending with my grandparents in Toronto. Cynth has a lot to do with me. It’s inevitable.
The wings are staring at me. I eat one; it’s terrible. I put some hot sauce on the rest and dig in. It’s hard to get through them all, but the beer in Cynth’s fridge helps with that. When the wings are gone, I flush the bones, because sometimes Cynth likes to chew on them. All that’s left are the vegetables, and they look awful. I wrap them up in the wax paper, which is slick with barbeque sauce. Walk to the bedroom and nudge her. “Hey wake up. Come on, I got you some food.” She’s awake. And she doesn’t like my joke. And she doesn’t like it that I don’t like chicken wings. But she chews through the celery with a sneer on her face, then licks the barbeque sauce off the carrots and eats them too. She gets around to laughing eventually, and tells me to put my ear to her stomach so that I can hear it rumbling. She’s right. It is.