The automatic doors whooshed opened before them, and a beleaguered woman trudged into the mega-plex discount store with her mother on one side and sister on the other.Her family members spent their hard-earned money here at least once a week, but Delia rarely accompanied them on these stress-inducing trips. She dreaded the sidelong glances of other shoppers and stares of unsuspecting children.
Delia’s legs moved slowly under her massive weight, but she hated to use the electric cart provided by the store for people such as her. Even if she didn’t have to wait an hour for one to recharge, it was humiliating to maneuver the damn thing through the throngs of people circumnavigating the aisles along with her. Many hushed comments befell her ears. She wasn’t deaf — or stupid — just morbidly obese. And the public generally has little compassion, usually outright disdain, for others they deem lazy and sloven, with fat-shaming being one of the few still outwardly accepted prejudices in America. It’s unacceptable to blatantly name-call based on someone’s race, religion or sex, but you can label them a “fat ass” all day long and never blink an eye.
She felt the looks falling down noses of the people around her and tumbling onto her lowered head. Their disdain laid heavy upon her conscience, obvious to her although her line of sight seldom left the floor. Delia had trouble finding clothes that fit, except for the women’s section here, especially anything within her measly price range. Hence, her current outfit. Warmer weather necessitated a short-sleeved blouse, which revealed the mottled red skin of her arms. It was no one’s business what made them look like that, but assumptions were made nonetheless.
She could tell by the looks she glimpsed on their faces, as if she were dreck, worthless, “less than.” Judgment abounded at her every turn, her paranoia running wild and making her second guess why she’d come out today in the first place. Her mom or sister could always go to the store instead, but Delia wanted to get out the house every now and then. The walls closed in on her, and there was only so much Court TV she could take no matter how much she enjoyed it. She wanted to see life, instead of just watch it on Ellen, regardless of how her knees creaked and her other joints ached.
Sure, Delia had gotten herself into this shape. Years of having babies and a sedentary job and lifestyle had taken their toll. She was too far gone before Jane Fonda and Susan Powter set America off on a health craze. An abusive home life was probably the impetus of her downhill slide, and Delia’s late husband browbeat her about her appearance for years on end. As if her self-worth could get any lower.
Her kids were grown now and living their own lives. They, as well as her doctor, tried to encourage her to get help, but there’s no quick fix.
She knew she had to eventually somehow exercise to lose some weight but was in too much daily pain to do so. It wasn’t just a matter of changing her eating habits. Her physician said the gastric bypass surgery involved too much risk without massive weight loss beforehand. A whole lifestyle change … in her 50s? A losing scenario no matter what.
Delia existed in an endlessly rotating vicious circle. On darker days she felt that remaining a recluse or dying were the only possible outcomes.
A bearded man was rushing after his child and came careening around the corner, fully-loaded shopping cart in tow, pursuing little Olivia or Sophia at top speed. Delia, standing silently assessing the price on Folgers Breakfast Blend, apparently blocked his way. He said, “Good God a-mighty, lady! Could you look out?” She fixed her eyes on the tiles below her feet and turned profile to allow him to pass. The cart bumped haphazardly into the shelves in his self-absorbed pursuit of the little delinquent. Delia caught the ugly sentiment muttered under his breath as he passed, “You god damn cow, blockin’ my way.”
With a single tear welling in the corner of her left eye, Delia set the coffee back on the shelf. She turned to her sister and whispered, “I’ll be waiting in the car,” and she slowly shuffled away.
*This post was prompted by red at Studio 30 Plus.