Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Fat Kid ["C" Edition]

I have to preface this story with the fact that I knew a man once who was five-hundred pounds; he carried it well, however, and looked like he only weighed three-hundred. He was funny, intelligent and talented. He was also quite sardonic, blunt and outspoken, and so I like to think he would have liked my story. He showed a great deal of bravery in his life, more than most will ever be called upon to show. This is how he inspired this story and why I dedicate it to his memory, rather than simply because he was fat.

My Fat Kid

for L.E.B.

It was bound to happen. For years they had been talking about the rising rates in child obesity and the melting of the ice caps. Now, some of Florida was back under water, but fat had overtaken flooding. As infants they were both heavy. They didn't want to learn to walk, or we didn't want to teach them. They just sort of rolled around, like hungry fat worms. Her first word was “Baghdad” but his first word was “Coke.” We should have spent more time with them, but as we both had to work, this was not possible. Perhaps the sitter watched the food channel a lot. Perhaps she just gave them treats to shut them up because we weren't paying her much. Perhaps we should have hired someone more professional, or a least someone we could communicate with, shared some rudimentary common language. Knew what country they were from. Perhaps we could have been more active ourselves, cooked our own food, made better choices. But the workday is long, and coming home none of us had the motivation to do anything, much less make healthy choices. We bought items labeled "healthy choices"; they had hearts and other salutary symbols on them. Weren't they healthy choices? We didn't really go over each line on the packaging and even if we did, how were we to know? Programming the TV was quite enough. Coming home was quite enough. Remembering everyone's name was quite enough.

Perhaps if we had just bought less food. But it was cheaper this way, to load up at the wholesale club. It was something we used to do together: the kids would scout ahead on their scooters and come back with items. We manned the wagon, until it was too heavy to push. We were the carrier, the mothership, they the returning scout vessels bringing back treasures of Kosher hot dogs, Chicken Kiev Puffs, Microwave Yorkshire Puddings, pre-seasoned tenderloin, giant frozen Neapolitans and Yule logs you could eat all year long. We would all try the samples. We would stop together at the cafe and get pizza and another to go. It was easier. It was convenient.

Our house became something of a warren, drums of ranch dressing from COSTCO, pallets of Combos and Alfredo sauce. It looked like we were opening a restaurant. We were happy for a while.

Of his sister, our daughter, and the stupidity of the war she died in, I will say nothing, because it is still too sad. She went away, anyway. We were all so proud. We were supposed to be proud now. But this story I want to tell now is about my son. Though I cannot truly tell their stories separately, I will just pretend that I can, for now.

I was a rebellious teen myself, so I expected as much, but it all happened so early. It all starts so, soon, so young. I don’t understand it. They have so many things we did not have. I suppose that Lynndie’s enlistment was a form of rebellion, too. But I could never have dreamed the form it would take for him.

Being a large kid, he started hanging out with some of the bulkier kids at school. We thought this was pretty normal, but they really seemed to be into just eating, and with some sort of attitude.

On the door of my son's bedroom: EAT CHIPS and die.

Soon they were getting into minor trouble, tagging trains with their favorite foods and artists: Beef stroganoff, MC Salisbury steak. We were concerned that the acting out and constant weight gain were signs of some other conflict, but the only conflict we could really seem to identify were the acting out and the constant weight gain, both of which were really reinforced by the fact he started listening to Fatcore music.

I like the Nutter Butters

More than any motherfuckers

Buy a cake

And freeze it

Don't you know it's all Tastee-Freezee

And you know like my eats come eazy

put some chocklit' on it!

put some chocklit' on it!

put some chocklit' on it!

Hey put some chocklit' on it, bitch!

I tried to get behind his whole portly scene, but it always predictably backfired and I got little more than:

"You don't get it. Eating is cool. Sleeping is cool. Fat is cool."

Things were worse the quarter he dropped out of college and moved back home. He had gained a lot of weight on the meal plan. He was now the biggest person we had ever seen. He could not fit into any of the clothes we sent him to school in. He needed special facilities, accommodations. They had these in every dorm at his school. They had special dorms. He wasn't the biggest one at his school. Far from it. The schools had tried to adapt. It was driving tuition up, because the students could not get to class without special transportation and if they did, they couldn't fit into the older buildings. They were using tractors to bus them around, and bulldozers as lifts. There were lawsuits.

When he moved home we had to fix the toilet and redesign the shower and then fix the toilet again. This was all part of plans we all had, hopes. We moved Lynndie’s weights back into her room, made it into kind of an exercise room. My wife said she would cook; she thought that would solve everything. We thought we could help him. I don't know what he thought then.

I know what other people thought: because they told me all the time. They were trying to help me, I know. Saccharin is sweeter than sugar: I know. Whole grains have a lower glycemic index than processed: I know. Bananas make you feel full: I know. Thirty days to a new habit: I know. If you feed him, then you are in control: you are enabling him: I know. Overeating is a means of coping, of filling a perceived void: I know. You cannot help someone if they are not willing to admit they have a problem: I know, I know, I know.

It rapidly became impractical to plan a meal together. For one thing, he was always eating. Our living room no longer merely looked like an entire obese frat lived there. It looked like a recycling center. If you threw something away, an open container of sour cream, or a dented, flat and nearly empty 2 liters of Squirt and backwash, or stale set of McDonaldland fries, he would know. He would know, because it was his nest, his landscape, his journal, his world and he would get angry and there would be an argument. And when he was angry and there was an argument he would eat more.

Eventually there were nothing but arguments and he was angry all the time and we were angry, then sad, then disgusted. His mom cried every night. We both lost a lot of weight, which he took badly. Then one night she stopped. She moved out. I think I could have gone with her, but then who would take care of him? It was just me and the fridge. And him.

It was not surprising. It was hard for us to admit, for me to admit: he was just a monster to us now, something that ate. He hardly wore clothes, because nothing would fit him and he kept getting bigger. He smelled awful because it was impossible for him to bathe properly and he sweated a lot. His face was always moist. His mouth always had food in it. The TV was always on the food network. He cooked, but rarely cleaned. To be fair, he could barely get around.

He had friends, though. People he knew from school, and from the local fast food places. They would come over for cookouts. I somewhat encouraged this, as I thought it was good for him. They stuffed themselves. They didn't seem to be about much else besides food. They would come over with their own fast food, not share any of it and then have a cookout. They talked about food stuff that I couldn't follow. He even had a girl over a few times. She busted the couch. I said not to worry. I still said things like that. She just laughed. She had weird bruises and smelled bad. Asymmetrical piercings that looked terrible. Once I was over in that part of the house trying to unstuff the toilet. This is what I heard:

"Put the Big Mac wrapper over my face. Pour the milkshake on my clit. Lick it. Now hit me with the hammer."

I never went to that part of the house again.

Eventually it came to a crisis. It had always been a crisis, but I just couldn't stand it. It was on my mind all the time at the gym. I couldn't go on this way much longer. I couldn't afford it. He didn't have a job. The walk-in cooler was full of junk food and he wanted another full-size for his bedroom. There were brownouts. I left notes. He ignored them. I could not talk to him. He was always eating. Or sleeping.

I did something I had promised I would never do, that it would never reach this point. True, I had only promised my wife, and she was at Pleasure Island, Dubai this season. I put a lock on the walk-in cooler. That first night, I lay awake, listening. It was easy to tell what part of the house he was in, from the heavy breathing and creaking of the floor. I had planned out this confrontation, many, many times. I had rehearsed my speech. I would come out, not angry or confrontational and we would talk. The substance of the talk would be: I am your father. You are an adult, but I am your father. Etc. I would wait for another time to bring up the subject of food.

I waited a little too long. He called his friends and went out. The next day, I planned to speak to him, as though nothing had happened. I found he had a decent breakfast out of the cupboards. The day after, I found he had pried the lock off.

I never really got around to my speech. My strength and resolve were gone. I had just enough wherewithal to put locks on everything. He had just enough wherewithal to bust or break them: he cut through the cupboards once. Another time, he unscrewed the compressor and fished food out of the walk in cooler. We had a silent nightly contest: it was like trying to trap a rat. Only it was my son.

Then, one day, I decided that this was the answer. I would poison him.

I cleared out all my accounts. The house was paid for. I had made good money as a gym instructor and nutritionist. I made one last trip to COSTCO. I left a pallet of Slimfast, Hungry Man Edition, in the living room. He would have the Food Channel for another month. Then he was on his own.

The first thing I noticed in my hotel room is how everything I had brought with me reeked, like the dumpster to a fast food restaurant. Like him. I retched. And cried.

It was a few weeks later I got a call. He was angrier than ever. I was angry too, this time. There was no new content, but no restraint this time. I shouted and I knew I was shouting. I told him I wished he had never been born. On this, we seemed to agree.

The next day, I woke up early and ordered breakfast. On the terrace I called the wife: we had a nice conversation: she had learned a lot of things while traveling, done a lot of things she had always wanted to do and some other things as well. It was good catching up. We promised to get together sometime, someplace in Europe.

You mustn’t think she was a bad person, a bad mother. She was just very good at cutting her losses. It came from her career and training as a psychiatric doctor. She urged me to be good to myself, to protect myself, to live for today. She had been saying such things since we first moved everything out of Lynndie’s room.

The city sent me a letter, a year later: I was still the owner of the house. Apparently, it had become something of a nuisance, with gangs of fat people camping out in the yard and having cookouts at all hours. It was impossible to say who was living there, but it was a cited as a sanitation hazard and an undesirable slum of obesity. The police had been by many times: gangs had taken to jumping pizza deliveries (which had blacklisted them after so many robberies) and holding up chicken joints and all-you-can-eat-buffets.

It was becoming a global phenomenon: the vastly, morbidly and incredibly obese were forming gangs and associations with an unclear political platform. Supposedly, they opposed the Federal government and the World Health Organization for their health initiatives, which they viewed as "genocidal" and for some reason, the National Weather Service. They threatened to blow up health clubs if the FDA moved to ban trans fats. Reports described mobile task forces roaming the country in special modified school buses that ran on deep fryer fats, sustained on a cell network of “mirrors” that worked out of fast food windows.

Tags such as "FATSOS," "AYCE", "DONUT", "TRANSFAT-KLF" and "The 88 OREOS" started showing up scrawled all over Applebee's and neighborhood Chili's. In South America, they started taking over whole grocery stores as squats. As the FATSOS movement became International, the FBI began cracking down. They were looking for their leaders "Jabba," "Pizza the Hutt," "Mistah Kurtz" and "Lard Humongous." Now that nearly 90% of the population was certainly obese (the definition having been stretched, many, many times), it was very hard to identify the fat activists, or "Fatscists" as the media had labeled them (also "Blimpists" "Phatlangists").

You would not know that the world was fat from our advertising and TV. The elites were scared: they had circled their wagons and stayed skinny. In fact, the fatter the general populace became, the skinnier the models, despite many claims to the contrary. Photos of models and stars eating pizza later turned out to have been photoshopped. From their Bergen-Belsen runways the models grinned at us, delirious. They were barely able to walk. They smiled victory: fashion had at last succeeded in repudiating the body entirely.

I knew the real state of the world from the gym, because I couldn't use the newer equipment, designed, like the new planes, hospital and prison beds, for a whole new class of person. But the giant stairclimbers were never used anyway. I had to drive my new car with the seat moved all the way forward. It had a built in tray for supersized fast food. I was living in a world of giants.

More letters came: special laws had been enacted to deal with the growing crisis: I was probably far from the only parent who had simply abandoned his home so it became a campground for fat people. I knew I would have to go back someday.

The old neighborhood had changed. It was nothing but burnt-out fast food restaurants and discount groceries. The convenience stores had led the way in a new era of suburban fortification, but now to protect their Nutter Butters as much as cash. There was garbage everywhere, Whopper wrappers, chip bags, food service barrels of mayo. Most disturbingly, the dumpsters were reinforced like safes, and Blackwater Security rode shotgun on garbage trucks as well as delivery trucks.

My house was the center of it. It was literally, a mountain of garbage, pizza boxes, split sweatpants, broken chairs, and Stouffer's boxes. It was surrounded by a still smoldering chain of barbecue pits and grills that dripped evil smelling grease. The atmosphere was a sickening mixture of the feculent and the savory, but choking with the smell of a herd of overweight humans. Who were nowhere to be seen.

Instead I saw their indiscriminate waste and refuse, and several new slogans that I did not recognize: "AYCE 4EVR," "FATSO HQ," "XXXXXXXXL AND IN CHARGE" "ONE DOLLAR, ONE BIG MAC”, "NO PIZZA, NO PEACE." "NOBODY DOESN'T LIKE SARA LEE." My head spun. I was suddenly quite tired. I kept walking through my old house, cheeze puffs crunching underfoot. Every room was the same crawling pile of grease stained cardboard, clotted spaghetti sauce and ranch dressing. I came to his room. The floor had given way. Here, as throughout, the corners and doorways were busted and dented from the egress of titanic beings and the walls and furniture showed the tremendous wear and stress of an enormous struggle, like they had been in the den of an elephant: the enormous daily struggle of my son getting around. At points, the dented hand prints and elbow marks showed the first layer of paint in the room: the paint we had chosen for his room as a baby.

This is where our baby lived. This is where he slept and played. This where he had his first Hostess Ding-Dong. I sat on the crumbling edge of the bed and cried. I fell into that stinking pounded mattress, quite literally spilling into its crater, so full of that wretched sweaty stench, the stench of my child. I pulled the sheets and KFC containers on top of me. I wept. In a pile of stale Cheetos, I wept.

I did not move, a long, long time.

I suppose I slept, but when you are really unhappy sometimes you cannot tell. Certainly I did not move.

It was not hard to hear them coming: the whole house creaked. I would rather they appeared to me like a dream, but they arrived like dump trucks. I did not need to hide. It is not easy to be snuck up upon by the hugely obese. I suppose I let them capture me. I had nowhere to go. They wrapped me up in my son's blanket and dumped me in the back of a vehicle.

-Where are you taking me? I asked, from the back of the Krispy Kreme truck.

"To see Jabba" they said, and they threw milk duds at me.

With the sheet around my head I could not see. I was sure they were taking false routes to confuse me, that is, until I heard them bickering about directions. They also stopped for snacks a few times. And at least at one Big Boy's, because I heard them at the take out window. Fortunately, I was well provided for inside of the sheet: I couldn't even finish the slice of Chicago style pizza that I had been inadvertently wrapped up with.

When the sheet was removed I realized they had just driven me to the cheesecake factory one town over. By cheesecake factory, I mean, factory where they make cheesecake. Of course, I thought. My abductors left me as though they had made a delivery, with no explanation or instruction, but with a seemingly strange deference I suppose owed to a stranger in a strange cheesecake factory. Still, I thought it was careless of them, leaving me totally unsupervised after having abducted me. It seemed really beside the point. In fact, I stood there awhile, expecting to be handed over, expecting something. No one paid me any attention. The nearest worker seemed to be quite occupied managing some cherry topping, with frequent audits of its taste quality. I waited, and yet no one came or paid much attention. I immediately thought of escape. And yet, escape to what? Why I had I gone home? Why was I here now? The whole thing had the unreality of a dream: I had gone to my old home where our baby grew up, to sleep in his bed only to waken aboard a ship full of obese silent titans, tacking at some inscrutable journey.

I am not sure if I sized up my situation, or simply started to wander. The cheesecake factory was indeed busy producing cheesecake. It was clear also that the vast hordes that had been camping in my yard were living there. Significantly more, even: everywhere I looked I saw vast backs, some lounging, but many at any number of industrial tasks, not all of which seemed cheesecake related. The corridors were lined with all sorts of supplies and equipment and crates and unknown tarped shapes filled the factory floor. It seemed as though they had taken to hoarding more than just food. It reminded me of our living room.

Wherever I went, however, it was as though I was invisible, too skinny to register on their eggy eyes. As though, being underweight, I had no significance in their world. The cheesecakes rolled off the line with sublime calm, each a pale, dense, fat nourishing sun. Under the various tarps I found an unsurprising and dented array of cooking implements, but also tubing, farming implements –advanced medical equipment, things I could not recognize. Intrigued, I opened a crate with government markings. This I knew from posters in our daughter’s room: it was a M-47 Dragon Medium Anti-tank Weapon System.

I never knew what to believe anymore and I considered myself well-informed. The news did not ask you to believe it anymore. Everything was photoshop and pre-release. The word “terrorist” didn’t have any meaning anymore: everything and everyone was a terrorist if you believed the news.

It made no sense. A weapon like that would destroy a semi full of Tostitos, much less a pizza delivery truck. It was no good for getting take-out. Had they, in all their madness, turned to destroying food? Maybe tanks were delivering pizza. I was suddenly aware that I should be more aware. My girl, my Lynndie, would have known what to do. I was suddenly ashamed I no longer knew what that country was called now, couldn’t say what it was all about. I crouched as I had seen her crouch, as I had seen characters in videogames crouch. From where I was crouching I could still see the person going at the cherry topping. After a moment’s reflection, I realized she could see me. I made like I was doing something down there. No, not putting the tarp back. Something with the shoes, like tying my shoes. I wished my shoes had laces, but they were self-tying running shoes and there was nothing to adjust down there. It was a really awkward and counterintuitive pose, that went on too long, but I do a lot of yoga.

I decided to move on casually.

I saw others. I waved. They saw me but did not wave back. They did not seem hostile; rather there seemed some forbearance in their indifference. A tone of deference, almost, like I was a privileged observer from another world.

As I proceeded further into the factory I saw they had what I though were tents, which were clothing. Then they had what actually were tents, of superior winter grade. These were all lined up by a warehouse-sized industrial freeze room. I slid open the enormous door.

I had seen many things in our cooler at home, things like what I took to be world record sized pizzas and funnel cakes, chewed on and folded up like a banner. But nothing prepared me for what I saw in the frost. The cooler was enormous, designed for industrial freezing and storage. In the white fluorescents, it seemed infinite and cold. I wrapped myself in a shirt I found; it provided several layers and dragged behind me.

The first structure I saw was little more than a built-up tent, made more permanent with the addition of pizza boxes and many, many empty Cool Whip containers. However crude, it did seem to have a complex working chimney, and a grill.

The next structure combined taco wagons and an aircraft hull in an unlikely yet serviceable way. At first I thought it was a gymnasium, because it was full of evenly spaced trampolines, but as I examined the hanging upturned 2 liter bottles of Mellow Yellow by each trampoline, I realized they were intravenous feeds. This was some sort of mobile field hospital.

The structures grew increasingly complex and sophisticated; many I could not understand, except that they were made from refuse from Pepperidge Farm. Then finally, I reached the end, a white nullity. Here was something I recognized: it was pale and round and absolutely symmetrical. Against the freezing blankness of the freezer, it was hard to make out, like it was there and not there. It was simple. It was hard to say if its simplicity was primitive, or the realization of an abstract ideal. It was pure. It was as though I had stepped into a movie set. It was a pale, solid, sunken sphere. It was a dome. It was an igloo. It was well made, with a translucent window. The material was unmistakable. I touched it. It was cold and packed solid, without gaps. I tasted it. It was cheesecake.

It was absolutely surreal. It reminded me of a high-concept advertisement. But for what?

It was maddening. I had wandered into a freezer to find an igloo, like a New Yorker Cartoon awaiting a caption. An igloo made of frozen cheesecake, as though I had wandered into their dreams, an edible icebox awaiting some midnight raid. If I looked closer, would there be a candy cane forest? A cairn of McNuggets?

I had also reached my physical limit. My extremities had stopped tingling, the frozen ends of the shirt dragged stiffly behind me. On the way out, I almost missed him, for he had been still. He was the largest Eskimo I had ever seen. It was not surprising I had not seen him: he did not move. He was completely motionless above an ice hole. He held a trident. He’s waiting for a seal, I thought. I thought this because of an episode of Animal Planet. There was an enormous Eskimo by the igloo in the cooler fishing for a seal through an ice hole cut in the floor of an abandoned cheesecake factory. He waited with patience, alert. From his eyes, I could see he was not really an Eskimo. Perhaps he had seen the same episode of Animal Planet. But he seemed to really know what he was doing. He had been there, patiently waiting in the sub-zero; I knew he would be there until he succeeded. I could not stay and watch any more. I wasn’t sure of what I was seeing.

My extremities stung coming back to life in the heat of the factory floor. I rubbed myself. All that time in the cold had given me an appetite. I helped myself to a hunk of Traditional New York Style. It was thick, dense, like seal blubber. But faintly sweet. Hunting a fat seal, I thought. The fat flooding my system and draining to my stomach made me woozy. A fat seal in an ice hole in the floor of a cheesecake factory. Cheesecake is a fatty food. Fat is the most efficient means of storing food.

It made me sleepy. I was exhausted. I slept.

I awoke later than usual. I had no sense of time in the factory, but it felt like late afternoon. I felt stupid for having slept in. I was hungry, though. I supposed this was lunch also. There was, of course, cheesecake. I sat in a squashed out cardboard box and watched a group of them organized on the factory floor. I could not tell what they were doing, exactly, if it was an exercise, or training, or some sort of dance. They were surprisingly agile. What could the goals of this inscrutable company be? Didn’t they understand that there would be no more free handouts, no more free lunch? Wasn’t there some sort of natural law that unrestricted growth could not continue indefinitely? How was all this possible? What did that igloo mean?

Over the next few days, I observed: They are organized into shifts. The shifts are organized. They are organized into squads, platoons. They have committees. They have a big rally every week. The first time, I hid. I was afraid of getting caught in the massive human deluge. I still haven’t gone, though I know I could. I hear parts of speech, speeches. I hear a name repeated, chanted. New vocabulary terms: thermohaline circulation, cortisol, hibernation, anthropogenic forcing, autophagocytosis, anoxic event, extinction event. Endurance. Ice Age. New Ice. I am afraid of something, not yet ready to hear or to know. The energy of the rallies is enormous. The factory, the earth, quakes.

After the rally, the shifts switch again, the posts are relieved. They are on a schedule.

The poster read: What is a Yumman? Which was helpful, because that was my question, what is a Yumman? The answer was not that forthcoming. It read: A Yumman is a Guardian of Yummanity. I thought about that every day for a while.

The factory produces more than cheesecake; indeed, I cannot say what it does not produce, nor where it is coming from. It all seems to be on automatic, everything is going by itself with nothing coming in and everything going out. Santa Claus was a fat man. He lived at the North Pole. The North Pole is cold. Didn’t you ever wonder where all the material for all the toys came from? How he got around is just a distraction. Where did it all come from? We could never keep popcorn on the tree because the kids would eat it. We made lots of popcorn. We had lots of candy canes. Off-season, they would go and get them out of the closet. They learned the secret of having their own Christmas. We thought we were doing it, feeding them, buying gifts and clothing. We thought we were in charge.

Why do I think of these things? Because there are more and more folks dressed like Eskimos.

I found a pile regular clothing left out one day. Running suits, shoes, items too small to be of any use. All men’s items. Was it from other abductees, prisoners? Where were they? I had seen no one my size. Were they being held in some reverse fat camp? Why was I allowed to wander? Were they slaves? How long had this been going on? How long could it continue? And how far? A thought had been coming up that I did not want to consider, but it was logical, given the resource situation. Was there an abattoir somewhere? Where was all the fat for these cheesecakes coming from? And the spinach dip, what was that all about?

A jet, close. Only a military jet sounds like that. But then it sounded like it was running away.

What do you put into the freezer? Things to be stored. Things you will later want. The freezer is a museum of the future, waiting to be thawed. It told a story, but it was not my story, which is why I turned away.

If they have a philosophy, it is this: the body is the picture of the human soul.




And then the final banner:


And then


They came from everywhere. This was some kind of special event. They rode in on bulldozers, which they sat on like riding lawn mowers, dune buggies and snowmobiles. They rolled off C-130’s. They must have plowed over the whole development for the runway. I saw fat people of every race, creed and color and their favorite foods. This time I came to the great hall and listened. The assembly chanted one name, over and over and before he even appeared

I knew who it was.

I knew who Jabba was.

They had brought me here to save me, so that I might be forgiven and forgive.

Fat is the body’s response to stress. That was where the fat was coming from, from the stress of the planet, a dying planet. Their bodies were the planet’s response to stress. Fat was not coming from food, it was coming from the future, like a rain of margarine.

My children had purpose. This is why they were not afraid to die, or become really, really fat. I have no purpose. That is why they do not see me. I did nothing. I participated. My life was about convenience: others and mine. That was how the world went round. That world was over. It was really nothing and the future happened anyway.

He is building the true city, which is a promised land a little bit like Big Rock Candy Mountain and a lot like an all you can eat buffet.

I live in the factory now. There is always plenty to eat and some of it is actually good for you. They were, right, they knew. The meat grows leaner now, the days shorter. The squads train, and train. The dog sled teams are always barking, racing around the factory. I, too, am training. I am preparing myself. I am preparing myself for when he is ready. I know he is there, in the great hall. I know he is too busy to see me. I know we have both prepared letters for each other, many, many times. I know he will ask my forgiveness, and I know I will forgive him and I will cry like a child and find reception on his enormous breast. So I must be ready. In the meantime, he keeps the cheesecakes coming, each passing like a pale fat sun, and endless procession that is the future and hope that of our kind, something might endure.

I don’t have to say why I stay. But fathers are like that. It’s because I am proud, so very proud.