“You weigh too much.”
is the bland diagnosis.
He hates the doctor’s guts. The distasteful tone. The carefully constructed carelessness when it’s time to pay. The manufactured solicitousness. His hatred doesn’t stop at the guts.
So he goes home and looks at himself in the mirror. Why couldn’t he have said he was carrying a few extra? Instead, making it a statement about him, instead of what he has, consigns him an eternity of loserdom.
He lifts his eyes and looks at himself in the mirror again. He only feels like he is looking at himself when he looks into his eyes. Everything else is just stuff that belongs to him; it’s not what is him. No, he doesn’t weigh too much. But he is certainly carrying around a heavy load.
There is the paunch from too many beers downed, trying unsuccessfully to disguise envy as happiness for Rajesh’s successes. Why should he pretend any longer? Rajesh has moved on to the upper offices and won’t be bothered with old cigarette buddies anymore. He probably doesn’t even smoke anymore. Anyway, tobacco never tasted that good. He lets out a deep breath, like he used to, trying to clear away his clogged lungs. That actually feels good. Of course, there was no cigarette smoke in his lungs a minute ago. And now, no more Rajesh beers either.
The hanging bum is comfortable. The chairs at office would be a nightmare to sit on all day, if it weren’t for his natural cushioning. But it gets in the way on the train home. And the inter-state bus rides are heavy with the irritation and judgement of the person sitting next to him. Thirty-seven deserves a better seat. Well, thirty-seven deserves a better job, better chances too. What is a company that doesn’t even give him a decent place to sit? The job of his dreams when he was twenty-five. The bum used to hurt all the time then, he remembers. Sweat trickling down his back, making it itch too. But it would pay off some day, he had thought. It’s gotten more comfortable in the last few years. The comfort of not going anywhere. He wishes he still felt hungry. For someone who owns so many kilos, his appetite is nothing to speak of. Can you be hungry for hunger? Maybe he can. He closes his eyes and concentrates a deep black pinpoint of emptiness into his middle. Something stirs. A silence murmurs deep within the noises that his stomach is making, clear as day.
He moves to the refrigerator, noticing his own waddle, letting himself linger on it instead of switching to something else. The feet, like halved jackfruits support equally voluminous legs. Tied down to domesticity, to disapproving eyes on mounting bills and shrinking salaries. Tied down and swollen. Jackfruit, what a horrible plant. Stinky, unwieldy and ugly coloured. An incident from his childhood – a half jackfruit sailing across the garden and falling into the gutter. It could have hit someone. Don’t you know there are starving children in the world? But he didn’t care. What a relief, what a joyful break for freedom there was in throwing that carcass-smelling yellow thing away!
He kicks out his right foot, hitting the wall. The flesh ripples. It’s a disgusting and satisfying feeling. He kicks again, harder this time and aiming so his foot touches the wall, squarely. A tremor goes up his shin. He continues kicking. By the seventh kick, the jackfruit has come dislodged and is rattling against his real foot. It slaps back with a sickening sound, each time. In two minutes, the offending fruit falls to the floor. His new/old foot lifts up again, this time for a crowning kick and gives it one whack that sends it sailing through the wall.
He looks at himself again. His eyes twinkle back, in hunger, in encouragement and in celebration. Then he goes to work on the other foot.
When he goes to his next appointment, the doctor has to read his case history thrice over to figure out what happened. And he still can’t understand it.
“just taking off what isn’t mine.”