13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

When We Went Against the Universe

We went against the universe at the McDonald’s on the corner of Wolfedale and Mavis. On a sunny afternoon. Mel and I hate sunny afternoons. Especially here in Misery Saga, which is what you’re allowed to call Mississauga if you live there. In Misery Saga, there is nothing to do with sunny afternoons but all the things we have already done a thousand times. We’ve lain on our backs in the grass, listening to the same Discman, one earphone each, watching the same clouds pass. We’ve walked in the woodlot pretending to pretend that it is Wonderland, even though when you stand in the heart of it, you can still hear cars going by. We’ve eaten dry cupcakes at that dessert place down the road where all the other kids go. We don’t like other kids but we go anyway, just for the bustle. We’ve sat behind the bleachers sharing Blizzards from Dairy Queen, the wind making our Catholic school kilts flap against our stubbly knees. Our favorite was the one with the pulverized brownies and nuts and chocolate sauce, but they don’t make it anymore for some reason. So we’re at the McDonald’s on the corner eating McFlurries, which everyone knows aren’t as good as Blizzards, even when you tell them to mix more things in.

We’re bored out of our minds as usual, having exhausted every topic of conversation. There is only so much Mel and I can say about the girls we hate or the bands and books and boys we love on a scale of one to ten. There is only so much we can play of The Human Race Game, which is when we eliminate the whole human race and only put back in the people we can stand and only if we both agree. There is only so much we can talk about how we’d give it up and what we’d be wearing and with which boy and what he’d be wearing and what album might be playing in the background. We’ve established, for the second time today, that for Mel it would be a red velvet dress, the drummer from London After Midnight, Renaissance wear, and Violator. For me: a purple velvet dress, Vince Merino, a vintage suit, and Let Love In, but it changes.

So we decide to do the Fate Papers. The Fate Papers is Mel’s name for when you tear off two small bits of paper and write No on one piece and Yes on the other. You shake the two balled-up pieces in your hands while you close your eyes and ask the universe your question. You can ask aloud or in your mind. Mel and I both prefer in your mind but sometimes, if it is an urgent matter, like now, we ask aloud. The first paper that drops is the answer. Now we are asking if Mel should call Eric to see if he likes the CD she made him of her favorite Lee Hazlewood songs. The Fate Papers already said No, but we’re doing two out of three because that can’t be right even though the Fate Papers are never wrong. Next, we are going to ask if I should try talking to Vince Merino again after yesterday’s fiasco attempt.

The Fate Papers say No to Mel again, then No to me.

The universe is against us, which makes sense. So we get another McFlurry and talk about how fat we are for a while. But it doesn’t matter how long we talk about it or how many times Mel assures me she’s a fucking whale beneath her clothes; I know I’m fatter. Not by a little either. Mel has an ass, I’ll give her that, but that’s all I’ll give her.

If I win the fat argument then Mel will say, so what I’m way prettier than she is, but I think face-wise we’re about the same. I haven’t really grown into my nose yet or discovered the arts of starving myself and tweezing. So I’ll be honest with you. In this story, I don’t look that good, except for maybe my skin, which Mel claims she would kill for. Also my tits. Mel says they’re huge and she assures me it’s a good thing. Maybe even too much of a good thing, she says. It’s Mel who got me using the word tits. I have trouble calling them anything even in my thoughts. They embarrass me and all the words for them embarrass me, but I’m trying, for Mel’s sake, to name my assets. Even with my skin and tits, though, it’s still Mel who looks better. She’s got psoriasis and a mustache she has to bleach and still. It’s definitely Mel who has any hope in hell with any of the boys we like. Which is I guess why she claims the men at the next table were looking at her first.

I hadn’t even noticed them. I was busy eating my Oreo McFlurry, hunting for the larger pieces of Oreo that sometimes get trapped at the bottom, which I hate. It’s Mel who points the men out, saying three o’clock to me without moving her lips or making much noise. I turn and see three businessmen sitting in the booth next to us, eating Big Macs. I assume they are businessmen because they are wearing business suits, but they could just as easily be suit salesmen or bank tellers. At any rate, they are men, their hands full of veins and hairs, each pair of hands gripping a bit-into Big Mac.