Noreen closed the bathroom door behind her. She was drunk. She stood in the mirror. Her face looked fat. Her cheeks were brioche buns and her jawline was a slab of pork belly. If Noreen had a food blog, which people probably assumed about her all the time, that line would go great in a piece about how people and their favorite foods start to look alike, like pets and their owners. Pulled Pork with Sweet Relish on Buttered Brioche Bun – Noreen P. from Portland.
She had gained a few pounds this year, sure. Noreen had no problem with that. She had a scale and mirror, but how she really knew she had gained weight was this: she hadn’t heard a fat person joke in a long time. When she was skinnier, Noreen recalled, she would often hear the casual fat jokes that skinny people share freely in the company of one another. Now, she was officially the girl that you shouldn’t make fat jokes in front of.
Noreen ran cold water over her fingers. She pressed down along her cheekbones, a boxer being smeared with Vaseline between rounds. Her face was ruddy from rum and winter.
There was one semester in college when people thought she was gay. And how did she come to realize this? She didn’t hear anything gay related all spring. Finally, someone made an “insensitive” remark in front of her and quickly apologized. So, thought Noreen, maybe it was safe to assume that behind closed doors, skinny people said things about fat people, straight people said things about gay people, white people said things about black people, dogs said things about cats. And vice versa?
Noreen messed with her hair. Damn split ends.
It would be a shame, thought Noreen, if overweight biracial rumored lesbians were privy to fewer “inside” jokes than, say, verified straight white males. Noreen loved a good politically incorrect joke. She could laugh at herself just fine. And others. She had thick skin. That pork belly fat. Hah!
What if her friends were talking about her outside now? No, they were good people. Open minded and loving. She could probably get laid tonight if she wanted to. Yes, there were a few gentlemen here that could win a ticket to the rodeo—
“Shit or get off the pot already!” The old door rattled.
“Just a minute!” said Noreen. She could puke.
Guys didn’t like skinny girls. Girls didn’t like skinny girls. Hell, only magazines liked skinny girls. And Hollywood. Same with blonde hair and blue eyes. Noreen had never met a person that actually said they liked blonde hair and blue eyes better. Was that just because it sounded too Nazi-ish? Or was it because people simply didn’t say that in front of her? Maybe that’s why she always heard people say they loved curves and brown eyes and that black was beautiful. Was it okay to say white was beautiful?
Noreen collected water in her hands and drank, like a little duck. She felt better.
Why was she mean to skinny people? That wasn’t nice, thought Noreen. Not nice at all. Some people were skinny because of disease, for Christ’s sake. A girl in her middle school had bulimia. Amy Bora. Poor Amy Bora. Throwing up her Lunchables behind the PE locker rooms. Where was Amy Bora now? Probably a supermodel somewhere. On a yacht. Making millions of dollars. Wait a second, screw Amy Bora. Why should Noreen feel guilty? She was simply thinking these thoughts, after all. In a bathroom.
Yes, actually, Amy Bora could kiss her ass. Toss her salad for all she cared. Hah! Salad. Another food reference. There was an idea for a food blog entry: 10 Food-Themed Derogatory Insults. Lick my cornhole. Snack on deez nuts. Eat shit and die. Wait, that last one didn’t work.
Ugh, thought Noreen. She shouldn’t drink so much. Come New Year, she would drink less. Yes. And eat better. And spend less time online. And think nicer thoughts.
Noreen dried her hands. She would not puke. She left the light on and went back out to her friends in the little kitchen. They were painters and singers and nerds and “free thinkers” and they talked a lot. But come to think of it, they didn’t talk about art or Tibet or global warming. They talked about people, often who were not in the room. They said mean things. They laughed.
As Noreen settled into her chair and poured another rum, she felt better about the world. People were people. Yes, always were, always going to be. Behind closed doors, people just liked to talk and, well, what was so incredibly terrible about that?
Image © Kıvılcım Güngörün
Vincent Chu is originally from the Bay Area and currently lives in Germany. His short stories have appeared in the East Bay Review, Stockholm Review, Chicago Literati, The Collapsar, Bookends Review and WhiskeyPaper.