“Harder! That’s it! Harder! Go!”
“Jesus fucking Christ, Fran!”
Fran was kneeling on the feet of a favorite client, passing the medicine ball back and forth, coaxing power from the woman’s nascent triceps as she crunched her lateral obliques.
“Do it! Go! Come on, Madeline! Four more. ”
Four lactic acid inducing passes later, Madeline lay back on her mat, arm above her head, groaning and breathless.
“I must be some kind of masochist to pay you for this,” she huffed.
“Hurts so good.” Fran pasted on a smile as she gave her standard reply. She was checked out, half-aware of her surroundings,the world around her drowned in a sea of in emotional noise. Not even phoning it in. Texting it in.
Every conversation about pain – and she had a lot of them, as a trainer – set of a landmine of emotional noise in her head, a chaotic echoing barrage of “pretty, sweet, thin, nice.” Every conversation about weight – ditto – set off a landmine. If I were still a lawyer, Fran wondered as she led Madeline through stretches to minimize tomorrow’s delayed muscle soreness, would conversations about probate or legatees make me think about my essential shortcomings as a human being?
Whatever the reason, her heart or her job, Fran’s days that week were pocked with landmines. The journalist who wanted to know how she came to feel so confident about her shape. (“Is there a biological basis to that attitude change?” What the hell kind of useless question is that??) The new client who emailed an emotional braindump about how Fran’s book had made her realize how her own body shame prevented her from living the life she truly wanted. (Can someone please write a book that does that for me? Fran thought.) The blogger who linked to Fran’s own blog, commenting, “Thinspo can suck on this, my friends. Health at every size is where it’s at, and it’s beautiful.” Landmines, all. Fran spent a lot of time in the bathtub.
“Same time next week?”
Fran snapped back into the world. “You bet. Don’t skimp on the meditation – it’s just as important as the cardio!”
Landmine. She hadn’t meditated since Charles. Her mindful eating practice was a shambles. The noise in her head simply would not let up, and every bite of food screamed at her, shamed her.
She didn’t see Mick again until their Friday dinner, and in the meantime he only emailed to ask about what she wanted to eat. (“You!” she didn’t answer, “You and your hands that made me forget, for just a few minutes, that I’ll never deserve love.”)
She felt self-conscious now about her request. She hadn’t considered any emotional consequences and had been frankly unprepared when her friend’s principle objection was not lack of sexual interest but a fear of complicating things. It never occurred to her that there might be anything that could seriously interfere with their friendship, not after nearly a decade of significant others, career changes, house purchases, his suicidal thoughts, her heartbreak. Why would being naked together change that? How could a few orgasms affect anything?
And after all, he started it.
Her body trusted him, just as her heart and mind trusted him. And that’s really all it took to have a perfectly satisfactory sexual escapade. If he decided he wasn’t interested, that was fine, she’d look for some other way to stuff the bullshit noise in her head back into its box. But the time she had spent with his hands on her had been the only time in the last week that it was quiet in her head.
And she longed for quiet. Every client she worked with, every hour spent answering journalists’ emails, every word she wrote on her blog, all of it had happened with a background noise, like the roar in your ears before your faint. Like a series of landmines exploding when you put your weight in just the wrong place.
So when Friday came, she greeted Mick at the door with a battered smile and no expectations. She had managed to get dressed this week – well, yoga pants and a t-shirt – and she was proud of that. It showed progress from last week. And she had only cried once that day, briefly upon waking. Either she was less of a mess, or she was getting better control. Either way: win.
Fran had always been aware, in an academic way, of Mick’s physical appearance – after all his athleticism had been was made her approach him that first time. But tonight her eyes tuned in to the breadth of his shoulders under his blue striped Oxford shirt, the shape of his thighs in his jeans, the strength of his wrists where they showed under his rolled cuffs. He was a beautiful man. And he had brought chocolate.
In fact it was all he brought – chocolate fondue, to make up for the previous week’s deficit. He hadn’t even bothered with a main course. Fran clapped her hands and bounced like an eight year old.
“See? This is why I let you in the door every week!” Landmine. Charles always wanted to shoehorn in on her Friday Night Dinners. Maybe if she had been nicer to him…
They sat with the pot between them on the table and an array of cake, fruit, candies… Fran was particularly impressed with one dipping option: “You brought chocolate to dip in the chocolate fondue? You have learned well, Little Cricket.” She rolled her fondue fork in her hand and watched, awed, as the melty goo wrapped around and began to melt the little hunk on the tines. Mick grinned and shrugged and bit into some pineapple.
Fran put the chocolate in her mouth (Landmine!! Fat, fat, and more fat. Still fat, after all these workouts. Pretty, sweet, thin nice. None of the above. Blammo.) and chewed morosely, hoping Mick wouldn’t notice her mood.
“I thought about the thing,” he said abruptly. He had noticed.