First there was Ernest.
He told her to keep her talking and writing to herself.
“Stop all that cussing, preaching, and truth shit. You’re a match in a snatch of timbers. Keep quiet. Keep low. Or you might end up dead.”
“Or free,” she countered
“No money in freedom.”
“Well, I’ve always been poor.”
“Yeah, but at least you been breathing.”
Damn that Ernest.
Next time she’d walk home instead of getting in his pickup. But it was so hot, it was North Carolina, and it was Ernest. Ernest, who she had lusted over for a summer before New Haven and who she wanted to be at least her third. Her memory of longing was so strong she had floated into that pickup, and hoped for something, a brush of his hand on her thigh, a touch of a cheek…any cheek. A long kiss. Until she found out he was a messenger for the rest of them, not the quick piece she thought he’d be. Damn that Ernest.
Ernest yelled something to her back as she climbed out that truck and walked to the door. Whatever he said made her run to the bathroom. As the bathroom door slammed she threw up all that lemon cake from the Frog café. It had tasted so good going down. Now...well.
With the cake came all the curse words, revolutionary words and “smart” words she wanted to say to him, and the rest of them in that town. She had stuff to say. Good stuff. She had a right to say it. Her words travelled freely from her cerebellum to her tongue and fingers and made themselves comfortable wherever they wanted to. She had to let the words come. She had to. She’d die if she couldn’t.
But they didn’t want her to. This town. Her town. They all wanted her to stop. Ernest had fired that first bullet at her thoughts, at her convictions, at all that damn education she had plastered on the wall of the room she grew up in. Goddamn them.
The dry familiar taste started to take hold in her mouth. She pulled herself up by the edge of the toilet and steadied herself on the sink. She grabbed the toothbrush, and then looked up in the mirror and didn’t recognize the person looking back at her. The mirror had never made her look flattering, but at least she knew every morning who the hell was in it. Now she wasn’t sure.
Her nose seemed to have narrowed. Her cheeks had become hollowed, her arms had become stringy. All in the matter of a few minutes of vomiting, her shirt now billowed around her stomach and her pants suddenly fell to her ankles. Some Stephen King shit was happening, except there wasn’t any pie.
An apparition looked back at her from the mirror. An apparition. Her 340 pounds had whittled down to 100 pounds in a matter of minutes, all because she had not slammed the pickup door fast enough. Ernest’s words had done what they had intended.
She was no longer full of herself.