“Infirmary” – Part Two

by Steven Anthony George

450 lbs.

Why did God make the insects change themselves from one form to another? Why do they begin as a worm, crawling and eating and crawling and eating, and after, it goes to sleep for a little while and wakes up as something different ─ sometimes something beautiful, like when the caterpillar turns into the butterfly? It’s for reproduction, I think. As the worm, it doesn’t do more than eat and store up energy; then, as a fly, it travels far and wide to find a mate. That’s why one part is crawling and the other part is flying. It can’t fly to find a mate and to find food at the same time; it would die from exhaustion or maybe never find another, because it’s too far away, but instead it does one and then the other, which is a perfect plan.

When I was in school, Mother wanted me to see rich boys, the kind of boys who played lacrosse, but they would never talk to me. If I passed a boy a note, he would read it and laugh and show it to others to laugh with him. I could read their joke lines as they glanced at me. They wanted girls with parents who had game rooms and big screen TVs like theirs had, girls with clear skin, straight teeth, and cheekbones, cheerleaders with waists, or debate team girls who would be accepted to expensive schools and have babies that nannies would watch, while they went out to fundraising lunches. So, after a while, I stopped going out much.

Public school makes becoming what we wish to be more difficult, though it should be easier. Everyone cares about how you look. I was never like that, even before. Many people change their attitudes, their gestures, and their whole personalities so they can be accepted by that strange miniature society, but eating something made me feel better. When you are young, life is like theatre. It’s simpler if your identity is a number on a ribbon or a State on a sash. People will even remember your State or your Country more than they remember your face and nearly always more than they remember your name.

It began with fingers inside me, so I know happiness cannot be found at home, even in your own bedroom, but a little distraction is useful at times, especially when you want to cry more often than not. You can stay in your room to find supports though, if you allow them in ─ beautiful friends who live glamorous lives that you should be living, but they’ll share it with you. They’re generous and kind. They wave to you and smile. They’re ambassadors of joy who have listening ears. They kneel down to speak sweetly to little children. You can see their points of view, because they are universal. They seem untouched. They are the closest to perfection a girl can get, because they are judged to be so, and it’s no easy job to be beautiful. A girl has to work at it, to practice the best way to walk and to speak, and to learn to make her hair and face just so, to struggle against the easier, middle road that could lead her down to drudgery.

550 lbs.

Characters:

Ralph, a rugged rustic, aged about fifty.

Pixie, a morbidly obese woman of about thirty, played by a thin, pretty woman of twenty.

(Enter Ralph SL, dressed in black. He switches on light.)

(Pixie is asleep. Food containers litter the table next to her bed.)

Ralph: That’s that.

Pixie: (Startled awake) What?

Ralph: People was askin’ ‘bout ya.

Pixie: Oh, I didn’t think they’d miss me.

Ralph: You been damn hard to miss.

Pixie: (Looks to walls, panicked) The pictures are gone! You took them down!

Ralph: Goddam right I took ‘em down. They’d start a fire. (Snapping fingers). Old, dried-up paper goes up just like that.

Pixie: NO! NO!

Ralph: You got bigger worries.

Pixie: (Screaming) NOOOO!

Ralph: Shut the hell up! Neighbors down the road be hearin’. They talk ‘nough as it is.

(Pixie buries her face inside her elbow.)

Ralph: How you gonna breathe like that?

Pixie: (Putting her arm down) Hard breathing anyway.

Ralph: Who’s gonna take care of your shittin’ and pissin’ and bleedin’ now?

Pixie: (Looking off R) I don’t know. (Feebly) A nurse?

Ralph: You payin’ for a goddam nurse?

Pixie: No.

Ralph: C’mon, look at you. (Ralph circles bed) Look at you, Pixie. Ya know what you’re up to now?

Pixie: I’m okay. I’m big; I’m not broken.

Ralph: Who you think’s gonna take care of you now? I’m callin’ the hospital. They can take care of it.

(Pixie looks away from Ralph)

Ralph: You’re thirty-the fuck-what next month? Too damn old for that Miss America shit.

Pixie: I need the light off! Use the little lamp!

Ralph: (Stopping L of Pixie) When’s the las’ time you got outta bed? When’s the las’ time you could get yer ass out the goddam bed? You cou’n’t go to your own mama’s funeral!

(Pixie’s eyes search the room)

Pixie: Nothing to see!

Ralph: I’m gettin’ you a doctor.

Pixie: No. I’m okay.

Ralph: You ain’t left this room in six months.

Pixie: (Voice rising) I’m just used to it!

Ralph: (Pulling bed sheet back) If you can git up, then you git up!

Pixie: Stop!

Ralph: Git up!

(Pixie begins to sob)

Ralph: C’mon roll yer ass over and git the fuck up!

Pixie: (Fixing her hair) If I could get up and out of this bed and walk around the room (Pixie sits up at the side of the bed, then stands), I would keep walking right on across the stage and down the catwalk in my gown (Pixie spins) designed just for me – in white, the most winning color. I’d smile, showing my perfect teeth, and wave to the people. They love me!

Ralph: (Pointing to his head) You need to be looked at upstairs, too.

Pixie: I believe an education is important for all children and more money should certainly be spent on schools. So many get so little out of the current system and today’s students are our future.

Ralph: (Circling bed) You look like someone dropped a goddam ball o’ Silly Putty offa the roof onto concrete.

Pixie: (Pantomiming) I’d hold the hands of my fellow contestants, my eyes closed. They’ve been such good friends. Here’s an embrace for each of the runners-up.

(Ralph continues to speak toward the bed)

Ralph: I worked hard for twenty years so you could feed yer fat face and so yer mama could buy you make-up to look pretty for me. You ain’t never worked a day in your life.

Pixie: Which means our new Miss Universe is Pixie Yarbrough, Miss USA!

Ralph: All you ever done is lay up in that goddam bed and eat and let your momma take care o’ you.

(Pixie’s holds the “tiara” in place as it is pinned into her hair.)

Pixie: Oh, my… Oh, the roses are beautiful!

Ralph: Ain’t no man want you. Aint’ nothing’d fuck that.

(Pixie returns to the bed and lies down.)

Pixie: (Holds “tiara” in place) It sparkles so much in the lights, like a hundred flashbulbs going off.

Ralph: You couldn’t give that shit away now.

Pixie: Everything, everything I always imagined.

At thirteen. 180 lbs.

Like animals in the forest, I mewled for sweets to touch to my lips. Like animals in the forest, we were tugging and scratching. There was a boy with arms and hands and we were speaking French. We were animals and speaking French as the sun filtered its golds through the canopy and, like a faun, I danced a short while on a stump of an oak. You wanted to see more, so I fluttered my eyelashes and undid my clasps. You pulled me down onto the litter of leaves and, like the animals, we whispered in whining tones as the smell of wet twigs from a distance flowed over us.

Like animals in the forest, other boys followed and tried to kiss me with their tongues, or did not kiss me at all, as I sat exhausted on a dead, toppled trunk. They wondered why it did not break. Maybe it was broken, but no, it was broken and even more broken now. The joke of all jokes is in the irony and repetition. So they laughed and retold it.

A storm moved in. It darkened within minutes, as if the night came crawling between the trees, and you or one of you, like animals in the forest, had something from inside me in your hand. I screamed like a badger in a snare as you squeezed me between your fingers. It hurt, but I had no tears, because it was touch.

They set the traps down when you’re weakest and the rain began to pour down. So I carried myself with effort along the wall to its end, to my abandoned little cottage, then passed through the kitchen and up the stairs into the bedroom where the wallpaper was peeling ─ the same paper I took home to make decoupage pictures in my room. I laid myself on the greasy old mattress, after pushing the door shut. Its rusted hinges squealed with a scrape across the floor. This was the last day I ever went out there. The roof leaked in through the ceiling in every room, pinging and splashing, or else forever after I could have happily fallen asleep.

After a few minutes, I heard a cautious knock at the door and I shivered. I stayed where I laid (Lay? Yes.) and whispered, “Come on in. Yes, you might as well. You might as well.”

THE END