I saw an enormous woman on the F train today. She was as round as a gourd. Her arms hung from her body at 45 degrees. She was very neat and almost angular, despite her evident softness — very clean and almost sharp. She wore clean black sneakers — her after-work shoes, I guessed — black tights and a black skirt that stretched across her legs and waist. It didn’t stretch in an uncomfortable-looking way.
Thank god she wears her size, I thought. I hoped it was out of sensibility and pride rather than resignation. Whatever the reason, it’s better than squeezing into something she’d spend the rest of the day spilling out of.
The only bit of color she wore was a lime green top, sleeveless, I would imagine, over which she wore a black jacket. Simple earrings. A bracelet or two. A neat hairdo, piled casually on top of her head.
She was totally captivating. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She was beautiful and terrible. It was like examining something you see all the time — just a stranger on the train — something that all of a sudden looks totally foreign and reveals things you never think of otherwise.
I make up stories about people like this in my head. What’s her name? Where is she coming from and where is she going? How old is she? Where did she grow up? What is she reading? Is she covering her face with it hat newspaper? Who gave her that watch? Did she have a good day? Where does she work?
The most arresting thing about her was her face. Her face was swollen but very soft-looking and smooth. It was like a lump of ice cream sliding out of a cone. She had gorgeous, radiant skin. And she wore so much make up, very well applied, that the blush on her cheeks and the illusive shapes and contours she gave herself made her look severe and angry. Her face was a blank canvas shaped with color and shadow. Did it thin her out, or was it merely her style? What would she look like out of make-up?
Her eyeshadow was very dark. Black. No, almost black. I imagined she gets some happiness from knowing that it’s really a dark blue — even though people must surely think it’s black. Like a little trick she plays on the rest of the world. Like a secret.
Her fingernails were meticulous and done in a French manicure. Did she attend a wedding last weekend? Was she a bridesmaid? How big her dress must have been! I hoped it wasn’t one of those ruffled taffeta numbers. I hoped it wasn’t a bright color. I imagined she’s very picky about what she wears — and knows well by now what flatters her figure and what does not.
She takes such good care of herself, I thought. She clearly cares about her appearance. Why is she so fat?
I imagined her feet must hurt. Her shoes didn’t have laces. Just something that slips on and off. Something easy. Can she even touch her feet? She should sit down in the subway car, I thought.
She was reading a magazine. And she kept raiding it to cover her face. Like she was about to sneeze. Like she was hiding from something.
I have this perverse notion when I see a really fat person eating ice cream or a piece of cake, that he or she is very unhappy. That she hates every lick. Or that he puts every bite out of his mind and ignores that little voice on his shoulder.
Maybe it’s the one treat a month he allows himself. Maybe she’s just decided to start a diet.
Or maybe she’s happy with herself. Maybe I’m the freak for thinking so much about it. Maybe someone loves her. Maybe she loves herself.