Jamie is a midget – not really a midget, but close. This hasn’t hampered her life in the slightest, but she’s always aware of where she stands relative to everything around her: she’s constantly in a state of comparative analysis, assessing objects as they relate to her stature. Some are three-times-Jamie; others are half-Jamie or quarter-Jamie. And every now and then, an object shows up that is exactly-Jamie: four foot one on the dot.
Anne is like that, four foot one, at least in certain positions. In bed, Jamie’s catalogued Anne’s length, scrolling over her black body with a mathematician’s precision, ensuring that no angle or dimension is ignored. Anne seems to like the thoroughness of Jamie’s attention, but there’s one particular morning when they wake up in bed that alters Jamie’s view on things.
“I’m walking to the corner store in a towel,” promises Anne, hung over. She coughs, a splash of coffee gone rogue in her esophagus. “If I choke, you better help me.”
“No one chokes on coffee,” Jamie tells her.
Anne swings out of bed. Naked next to the window, she doesn’t care if the world sees her. Jamie would love to take a protractor to her body and figure out the equation that links all those limbs and features together. “You know,” says Anne, “there isn’t a thing I don’t like about you. I know that sounds like a negative way to say something positive, but it’s true. I mean, I wish you were a bit taller, but otherwise… bang!”
“Yes, just that. Dare me about the towel?”
But Jamie wouldn’t dare dare her to do anything, because she would always lose. Anne picks a beach towel from the closet. Laughing, she throws on her sandals and opens the door. A ten dollar note in hand, she’s gone.
“Taller,” says Jamie. She puts hands on her body, measuring. She hasn’t grown in five years. In that time, she’s finished college and secured a job. Moved three times, vacationed in Europe. Wrecked a car and discovered public transit. Shaved her head and plastered herself with three tattoos. But grown? That she hasn’t done.
Jamie is half-Yaohnanen, on her father’s side. He’d actually been in Vanuata in 1974 when Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip had visited. There’s a little-known story about how the Queen had gotten diarrhea on the trip, and a local doctor had insisted on dancing nude on the hotel roof until the Queen’s shits had solidified. Hotel staff, apparently, had even confirmed this by penetrating the room’s plumbing to survey the situation, sending progress reports to their man on the roof. The doctor had been refused admittance to the Queen’s banquet the last night of her visit, but Jamie’s father had been there, serving pickled lap-lap while wearing white clothes brought in from New Zealand. Jamie can picture this in her mind, but she herself has never been to the South Pacific.
“Wish fulfilment is one of the primary benefits of the Prince Philip Movement,” says her father on the phone. “Prince Philip, bless his body and spirit, alluded to this on his trip.”
“I don’t care about Prince Philip.”
“Dad, come on. Prince Philip is not a mountain spirit.”
“No? Then why are you calling me, daughter?”
“Well, I am interested in the wish fulfilment part…”
“Oh ho! So my daughter’s lesbian lover wants her to be taller so daughter calls father who tries to tell her about Prince Philip’s divinity but she’ll have nothing of it!”
“Sort of, Dad. Okay, fine. Bless Prince Philip and his mountain spirit thing. How does the wish part work again?” Dad starts singing verses, then explains what substances she’ll need to grind into a poultice.
“Are you sure about this?” he asks. “I like your lesbian lover. I also like saying ‘lesbian lover’. But she’s just a girl, daughter. And you are pretty much perfect.”
“You’re a charmer, Dad. Thanks for the info. Cheers to Prince Philip and all that.”
“Yes,” she returns, surveying the list of ingredients. “Bless him.”
The poultice tastes like porridge but looks like congealed gravy. Jamie washes it down with a beer, then sits near the window and repeats the verses that Dad taught her. It’s a surprisingly-cute invocation whose flowery prose manages to withstand the introduction of Prince Philip’s name at various stages. In her mind, Jamie replaces ‘Prince Philip’ with ‘Anne’, believing this to be more to the point anyway.
“Hi, what are you doing?” asks Anne.
Jamie finishes up. “Meditating. Yoga. Exercise.”
“Right. I got curry. You get plates.”
When they’re finished eating, they walk along the Danforth and ouzo-hop. The restaurants and bars pass in a blur, each a destination for the liquor they shoot down their throats. Mostly-drunk in the August heat, they pull up to a patio and order saganaki, instantly regretting it when the burst of heat from the flaming cheese smashes them in the face.
“Ouzo!” cries Anne. “Ouzo will make this better!”
Four shots arrive. Jamie knows, when two of them pass her lips, that these little vials are a determining factor today. She stares at Anne. “I want to go home now.”
“I bet you do.”
You can’t get lost on the Danforth, thinks Jamie, as she drags Anne by the hand. The apartment door is barely closed before Jamie loses her clothes and pushes Anne to the bed.
“Easy!” cries Anne. “Easy, babe!”
“I’m not easy, or a babe,” growls Jamie. She can still taste ouzo, but is going to make that go away. Anne curls up on the bed, pretending to resist. When Jamie unravels her, Anne tries to use her longer body to take control, but that doesn’t work either.
Later, Anne is smoking at the window. Music is playing outside. When she finally comes to bed, she cuddles close.
“What the hell?”
“Huh?” asks Jamie.
“What is this?”
“What do you mean?”
Anne pulls back the covers. “Look for yourself.”
Jamie stares at her body in the dim light. At first, she looks for wounds or a lump, but then starts to measure herself, one hand at a time. Anne has never seen her do this before, and Jamie moves quickly. When she’s done, she adds up the hands in her head: five foot four.
Jamie runs to the bathroom and turns on the light. In the mirror, she calculates her dimensions, arm-span to torso, leg-to-body ratio, quick assessment of waist circumference. Her proportions are fine. There is nothing wrong with her at all. But she is taller. Previously, she had to tip-toe to see her chin in the mirror. Now her entire head is comfortably in the frame.
She spends a moment recalculating her growth, back to the last perceivable moment that she actually grew – it was a long time ago, so long that she doesn’t recall what she was doing exactly when she realized that she’d stopped. But then Anne’s behind her.
“How did this happen?” she asks.
“Ouzo?” suggests Jamie.
“Not fucking likely.”
“Does it bother you?”
Anne puffs on the cigarette, a deep drag that she holds in for a long time. “I don’t know,” she says, after she exhales.
Jamie walks down the middle of the road. There are people everywhere: food stalls crowd the sidewalk, and she almost walks into a tent giving away orange juice. A taste of Greek yogurt rests in her mouth.
“Daughter!” says Dad on the phone. “It’s so loud there!”
“Street festival. Big one.”
“I hope you have a good time. I’ll see you in two weeks! In the meantime, be sure to offer blessings to Prince Phillip, body and soul, eh?”
“Sure Dad. In two weeks, Dad.” She hangs up and throws the yogurt cup into a recycling bin. Her sandals slap the asphalt.
In front of her is a stage. Music is playing, Greek style, a warm song that makes her want to snuggle with the crowd. A little boy steps on her foot and yells ‘sorry’ as he rushes away.
Jamie reaches the hard plug of crowd around the stage. She catches a snatch of conversation: “belly dancing is sick!” Through limbs and heads, she can see someone on stage. They are moving around and around, in a big even circle. She calculates the circumference, the diameter, the surface area of that skin – there are proportions there that have been measured by a power that she can’t begin to understand.
Silks are flying. The dancer’s skin is dark and inky, and the sight of it sends a thrill through her. Jamie pushes against the crowd to get a better look, because Jamie has a feeling inside her, a pure endless feeling that she’s never really been without. But no matter how hard she tries, she just can’t get through the crowd. Can’t see around it, can’t see over it. She wishes, for one moment before she can stop it, that she were a bit taller. Just a bit. But this is a silly thought, and she knows it, because while Jamie is not exactly a midget, she stopped growing a long time ago.