Burdens

 

By Laura Susan Johnson

 




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Mama and Aunt Sue are already ready for church at eight-thirty and I’m still worrying my way through a scant assortment of "dressy enough for church" clothing, all in size twenty-two, woman. It’s Easter Sunday, and my three skirts, five blouses, and one dress are all in dark colors more suited to fall or winter.

I try the dress first, a somber navy blue with buttons down the front and too large white lapels...too tight, everywhere. My bloated middle pooches far out and I can see my own pale white belly flesh through gaping holes the buttons create. The shoes follow suit, cutting into the tops of my feet and leaving red dents. That lovely time of month is probably close at hand, not that I keep track, or have any reason to. My knee length black skirt fits okay, so I try my maroon cotton button-down shirt. My boobs look huge and saggy and repulsive. I get so mad sometimes. Lord, why couldn't you have given me a couple more inches in height rather than this…this overly abundant tit tissue?!

But He never answers that question for me. The gold and black silk shirt with gold threat embroidery has the same effect as the maroon one, only ten times worse. Too loose in the wrong places, too tight in other wrong places. It has a ruffly, frilly collar and frilly sleeves. It looks plain stupid. I add a black scrunchie to my long, straggly mousy hair and laugh at myself with meanness. I look like an overgrown eight year old. Disgusted, I finally settle on a stretchy lycra-cotton blend long sleeved blouse in the bleakest shade of solid black. Halfheartedly, I decide I have to have some kind of embellishment for the plain skirt and plainer blouse, so I carelessly throw a black and gray crocheted shawl around my neck and shoulders.

Outside, the sun is coming up over the treetops and the birds are singing their praises. I look like doomsday from head to toe. I smear pancake colored makeup over my pimples and the dark circles under my eyes. Lastly I shove on my black loafers. I’m trying to disguise my gait with confidence, but instead of a brazen stomp or even a proud march, I have the same ol' familiar waddle that reminds me that I am overweight. Mama and Aunt Sue sit at the table, clicking their shoes on the linoleum and their long nails on their coffee cups. Mama smiles. She always smiles. "Hungry?" she asks. "We still got about an hour," Aunt Sue says chirpily, "even though we oughta get goin' in about twenty minutes or so." Church was a half hour's drive away, in Monroeville.

I feel my black pantyhose pinching into my waist and shake my head. If it were possible, I'd peel my skin apart and have my soul jump into a thinner, trimmer, more comfortable body. Like Lainie's. She's my cousin, Aunt Sue's daughter. They're from up north, Nashville. And they do so look like country singers. Aunt Sue, with her red hair and long burgundy painted nails, looks a lot like Reba McEntire. She's wearing a really bright pink dress with big white flowers and lace at the collar. Tall and slender. Mama, like me, is short and rotund. I wonder if Mama's ever been jealous of Aunt Sue. I know I'm jealous of Lainie. She has beautiful platinum blonde hair with bangs that behave themselves in spite of this deep southern humidity. She was ready for church hours before I was. She used her curling iron this morning while I was still in bed, watching her do her hair with one eye open and the other eye drooping shut, wanting more sleep. Since hitting twenty-nine, I have no energy, I tell you, none! Yesterday, while we were at the bazaar in Monroeville, Lainie was full of pee and vinegar, dashing here and there, with Aunt Sue keeping right up with her, while Mama and I sort of walked a few yards behind. I got pooped out just looking at them. Lainie's twenty-two, seven years my junior. She's ahead by millions of points...attractive, young, energetic. She stepped effortlessly into a