Her hair was long and limp; there was not much life in the fine hair that sat on her shoulders, but it was clean and smelled of expensive shampoo. She sat in the restaurant with her oversize bag leaning against her left leg. The weight of the bag was a gnawing reminder that she had a decision to make. She absently ran her thumb against the hang nail on her left ring finger.
“Mrs., would you like me to refill your water?”
The waiter who was dressed in head to toe black had been nothing but kind to her. Male waiters are always kind to fat women alone in restaurants. They know that there are two ways to play the waiter game. The first is to be flirty and hope that the tip is in direct relationship to the amount of flirting that is done. The other is the sympathy route, be kind and attentive, and hope that karma intercedes when the tip is left. The waiter knew that flirting wasn’t going to work with this patron; she was much too distant to pay him much mind.
“Your soup, Mrs.”
He placed the bowl of soup down in front of her. The light brown broth steamed up in long delicate curls. The heavy woman with the limp hair slightly bent down and touched the bag still leaning against her left leg. She nodded her thanks at the young man and lifted the spoon to her mouth. The broth was silky and salty. With subtle sips she moved the soup into her mouth. Never slurping, because “a lady never makes a sound as she eats,” her grandmother had always said. The warm liquid calmed her nerves and every so often she leaned just to the left to touch the bag still propped gently against her leg.
After the soup was finished, she gently laid the spoon across the top of the bowl and moved it to the side of the table for the waiter to pick up on his next trip through the restaurant. Her goal in life has been to blend into the background, be affable and amiable, and never leave people with much of an impression at all. She dressed in a way that called no attention to herself. Solid colors that leaned towards neutrals: browns, tans, beiges, the occasional moss green. “Never in a shiny fabric, always a matte,” she had been told. Her grandmother had always told her that she was much too large, and that her demeanor would be the only thing that would ever attain her any regard. Grandmother never understood that while she gave these lessons on being delicate and niceties, the soundtrack from Evita played in the plus-sized women’s head. As Grandmother chided her for slurping her soup she fantasized about masturbation and regeneration. Dressed in a beige top and navy dress pants she waited for the rest of her meal at the restaurant. She waited for the waiter dressed in head to toe black to reappear.
“Your sushi, Mrs.”
Again with a nod she wordlessly said, “thank you,” and filled up the tiny reservoir on her plate with soy sauce. The weight of her bag still gently pressed against her left leg. With nimble fingers she maneuvered the chop sticks and picked up the seaweed wrapped rice, salmon, and cream cheese. Gently she dipped each section into the sauce, never once did she leave even a dribble on the table cloth. The plus-sized women smiled a wry smile and leaned to touch the bag pressed against her left leg.
Having finished her meal and gently lifted the linen napkin from her lap, using the corner to dab at her mouth rather meekly. She thought about her grandmother and all the lessons she had been taught. Be demure, be soft, blend in, never be invasive. Her mind wondered to the bag pressing against the left leg clad in navy dress pants. Inside the bag are the normal things you find in a woman’s purse: a wallet given to her for Christmas, spare change, lipstick, ink pens, a necklace that seemed too gaudy to wear, receipts, and an envelope containing a check made out to Francis Callister for $13,612. During the entire meal the affable woman had been thinking about the check made out in her mother’s name. The $13,612 was the remaining estate of a daughter that had been cast out for a presumed sin. That daughter had never lived in the affable demure way the grandmother had insisted, but now the grandmother was in an upscale retirement center with a mind not near as sharp as it had been even the week before.
“Your check, Mrs.,” the waiter dressed in head to toe black said with a smile.
The fat woman with dainty eating habits smiled back, and a soft “Thank you” was released from her mouth. The waiter walked away and the woman reached inside her purse and withdrew a $20 bill to pay for her lunch. She slipped the money inside the leather tablet and placed the envelope underneath. With the waiter’s pen she left a message on the envelope in beautiful cursive handwriting.
“Please accept this check and live a life more grand than I was ever given a chance to. Take the check to Wilchester & Associates, they will help you cash it. If they have any questions tell them that Evita sent you. Love, Evita.”
And with that she grabbed her bag and began humming Don’t Cry for Me Argentina as she pushed through the doors of the restaurant and entered into the world a freer person.
I wrote this using a prompt from the book 642 Things to Write About. The prompt was “She was a fat woman whose eating habits were dainty. There was a check for $13,612 in her purse, not made out to her, but, you know. She was good at figuring these things out. Start with her hair.