I was reaching for a particularly large and delicious looking peach when my hand was grasped by somebody else whom apparently had been eyeing the same tantalizing fruit. With a start, my face turning the same shade as the peach which had caught my attention, I looked up to see a man with a boyish face who was probably in his thirties or early forties turning to look at the person whom had gotten to the fruit before him. He had a kind face. I guess, that's what I look for first. I'm so used to people not being kind that I am always desperately hoping that when I'm forced to talk to somebody they will be nice, at least.
The second thing that I noticed was that it was a very attractive face which intimidated me. His eyes were dark and smallish, his hair chestnut shaded and his body was fit and athletic.
Everything mine wasn't.
My hand instinctively went back, leaving the peach in its former place for him to take. I watched has the stranger picked it up and smiling handed it out to me.
"This is yours, I believe," the man said and I realized that his voice was nice too.
"No...I...uh...you can have it," I returned, fumbling with my words but trying to smile so he knew that I would hold him no ill will for taking the coveted fruit.
He turned the peach over in his agile fingers and studied it. "We can cut it down the middle," he suggested. "It has the line and everything."
I looked at the thing and what I have always thought about peaches, but had never really told anybody other than my sister, found its way out of my brain and past my lips before I had intended it to. "It looks like a bum," I commented and then looked up into his eyes in embarrassment, my cheeks turning red once again.
To my surprise he laughed and looked at me with a little more interest than I would have ever expected. "You know it kind of does?"
His smile and laughter were infectious and when he asked me out for lunch I said yes even though I'm terribly shy. We found ourselves in a little coffee shop close to the market shortly after that. We talked about our histories for a bit. I was shocked to learn that he was a Doctor; shocked and even more self conscious about my weight recalling two in my childhood whom had made me feel bad about it. But he never brought it up: didn't scold me for choosing a double double instead of just taking it black. I told him that I have anxiety issues and OCD. He was kind about that too and seemed to become a little more protective which I liked.
By the end of it all, though, we were back to arguing about the peach, a matter he solved by asking for a bowlful of water, dipping the peach inside of it, wiping it off with a napkin and then taking the knife from off the table and splitting it in two. Of course the pit posed a problem but he won against it in the end.
"Eat it now, it may not last," he had told me.
I had done as I was told, although I had hated the way the juice had dribbled down my chin.
"Sorry," I apologized in an embarrassed sort of way.
"Don't be," he had tossed the apology away and looked at the trail of juice on my face. Grabbing my napkin, he wiped my face off for me and made me blush even deeper by offering this bit of wisdom:
"The plump ones are always the juiciest."
* * *
Julian ended up giving me his phone number. I still don't understand why and we ended up talking for a bit here and there even though telephones intimidate me and I try to avoid them whenever I can. He's worth the effort though. He's apparently just broken up with an older woman he'd been involved with for a bit. I wonder how in love with her he was and still is and try to remind myself often that the man is just after a good old fashioned friendship. Picking a fat woman is probably a good idea for that. No need of me getting the wrong idea because why would he like me anyway?
I can't ever forget that I'm fat. All throughout school the other kids were there to remind me if I did. Surely this fact hasn't escaped Julian's notice either. He's a Doctor, after all, and probably guessed my weight and accompanying ailments the first time he noticed me. I'll never be a Disney Princess. Dumbo is all I can hope for. But Dumbo is cute too with his large sweet blue eyes and he's kind, at least, so there is that.
Dumbo has a friend too which is more important than a prince sometimes. And if Dr. Julian Mercer wants to be my Timothy that would be fine by me.
Telephone conversations turn to actual in person meetings at this restaurant or that. People look at us like they don't understand what a fine looking specimen like Julian is doing with me but I never see my new friend sharing that sentiment. He's not ashamed to be with me. Maybe it was like that with the other woman also. Julian doesn't seem to care about what other people think, though. That's my fault.
Still, I would rather we not go to restaurants where the bill is what I'd expect to spend on groceries for the month. "Can we just go to McDonald's for a change?" I ask him one night outside of another posh eating establishment.
He looks at me with those thoughtful brown eyes and I'm worried I'm about to receive a lecture on Mickey D's Nutritional Facts. He just smiles though. "Yeah sure. I haven't been there for ages."
"Let me guess," I say hesitantly. "Since you became a Doctor?"
"No," he replies, taking my hand in his own. "Since about two weeks ago."
It's another good date...Date? Is that what this was I think to myself after we've finished our meal, walked for a bit and he has taken me home. I know that it might have been a date when he kisses me very tenderly on the cheek and tells me to meet him at the hospital where he works the next day. I nod and tell him okay.
In my bed, trying to sleep, I touch where his lips had touched my skin. Was it a date? Maybe if he had kissed me on the lips I'd know for sure and I wouldn't be so confused.
Of course, when you have OCD you are always confused and always in doubt so I can't be very sure.
* * *
When I go to the hospital at the time Julian requested, I wait in the waiting room for him and I am approached by a nurse.
"Obstetrics is on the third floor," she informs me, obviously thinking I am pregnant.
It's like a kick to my gut which she obviously thinks is holding a baby inside of it and I try not to water up as badly as I want to. If I was pregnant my tummy would disappear in a few weeks and I'd have a beautiful baby to show for it at the end of it all even if I still had a few extra pounds. As it is, I'm just fat.
Something I have basically admit when I say that I'm waiting for Dr. Mercer.
"I'm his friend," I state.
The nurse looks at me and then at my round belly and I know that she's wondering what Julian is thinking dating somebody as unhealthy has I am. I don't like the way she is making me feel but I hate the negative judgement she is making against Julian far worse.
"I...I have to go," I suddenly say no longer able to take it. Still I hate thinking of my dear friend looking around for someone who is not there. I tell the nurse to let Julian know that I had to go.
I don't give instructions for him to call me for another date or another meeting, whatever it is that is going on between us. I think it is better to just end things now before we both encounter more of his colleagues whom will share the same opinion as this nurse: that Julian is a bad Physician and has lost his mind by choosing to be seen with me.
I don't want to hurt Julian Mercer because I know that I'm in love with him by now.
* * *
When the phone rings, I know just whom it is that is trying to reach me. I expect him to give up in a few days but am surprised when the phone keeps on ringing. He's a persistent individual. I'll give the good Doctor that.
The phone I can easily avoid. I do it all the time; part of my avoidant personality, I guess. I'm not expecting one night to open the door for the pizza I just ordered and to find him standing there with the dumb thing.
"You quit your job to deliver pizza?" I say. "Bad career choice, Julian."
"You told me once that you get the 50% off deal every Monday," he tells me. "I bribed the pizza guy to let me bring it here."
"How much?" I ask in curiosity.
"$20 plus the cost of the pizza itself" Julian confesses.
I nod thinking the pizza guy was lucky; that was more than I was going to tip him.
I take the pizza out of Julian's hands and place it on the closest available hard and even surface which just so happens to be a coffee table. Since he's already in my house, I ask Julian to eat the pizza with me, embarrassed when he comes and sits by me on the sofa and I open the box to reveal a double cheese deal. We eat a bit in silence until he puts his slice down and stares at me.
"Does this have extra sauce," I ask him in an attempt to delay what's coming. "I don't think it does. They sometimes don't put it on when you ask for it."
"Erin, why have you been avoiding me?"
I sigh and look at my hands on my lap. Or what would be my lap if my stomach didn't get in the way. "Because when I went to see you a nurse there thought I was pregnant! Then she looked disgusted that you were my friend. I know most of the people you work with would wonder why you were dating someone like me. I wanted to save you from that."
"So you just decided to ignore me instead?" Julian asks, his hurt obvious. "I've been there before; it isn't very nice."
"I'm sorry," I say sincerely as I turn to look at him.
"You should have heard what the nurses thought when I dated the last woman I was involved with," he states with a wry smile. "They thought I was in love with my mother. I didn't care. People will always judge others because they are afraid to judge themselves."
"But you don't look at me and see everything that's wrong or could go wrong?" I ask plaintively.
"So you're overweight? So are half the people I see," Julian says honestly but kindly. "If it isn't causing you any physical problems and you're happy with it, why should it matter? When I look at you I see somebody I love. What matters though is what you see when you look at yourself, Erin. What do you see?"
First off, I'm startled because he just told me that he loves me. Secondly I'm surprised because he's forcing me to face the real problem here. It's not that he is disappointed in me...it's that I am disappointed in myself.
I think of my weight. I'll never be thin. I've tried that with exercise and diets. It didn't work. The one time I did, I hit a plateau and have never been able to lose anymore weight again, no matter how hard I try. But in the end does it matter? Most of the women I would like to be as thin and attractive as have all had their beautiful skinny asses cheated on. Beauty does not equal love and if a guy just goes with a girl for that reason he's likely to chase the next good looking woman whom crosses his path next too. There are a multitude of gorgeous faces. There is a shortage, however, of decent souls.
Which leads to the next question:
Do I like what's inside of myself?
Sometimes yes and sometimes no. But I always try to be a good person and try to be better when I know that I haven't been. Being human, that's all I really can do.
So I guess, in the end, I am happy with me.
"I see somebody who loves a lot and who tries a lot," I say softly.
He's scooted over to my side of the sofa in an instant and is kissing me before I know what's going on.
It's a pleasant sensation and my first one if you don't count the time I was kissed by my sister when I was playing Princess Leia to her Han Solo when I was about four or five years old.
"Hey," I say when he's allowed me a moment to come up for air. Something I am grateful for and disappointed about all at the same time. "Why are you finally kissing me on the lips now?"
He gently takes my face in his hands and presses his forehead against mine has he replies, "Because now you see yourself as I see you."