Being Fat

You live in a terrible and expensive home. It’s hard to move around in it, nothing works right, you’re always uncomfortable in this house. The bushes are full of trash, the doors don’t really open or close, it’s hot inside all year long. And it’s expensive, and the landlord is raising your rent every year.

Your neighborhood is nice. Everyone has nice houses, everywhere you look there are nice houses. And when people walk by your house, you’re embarrassed, you say something. You say, “Jesus, your house is lovely, my house looks like shit…” and the people smile and say, “your house is fine!” or “look, that’s *your* house, don’t let anyone tell you it’s awful, just live there! Love it! It’s your house and it’s beautiful!”

But everywhere you go, it’s lovely houses in great shape. Every magazine cover features a nice house, one that seems to have been meticulously cared for. A house that has been loved – been maintained. Everywhere you look, it’s houses with perfect, straight picket fences and high clean lines, the windows half open to let in the breeze. And you know that the people who own those homes aren’t lazy, aren’t bad people, they care for their homes, they maintain their homes, they WORK on their homes.

And you tell yourself that the pictures of the homes aren’t real pictures – everyone knows they’ve been doctored. And those famous people can *hire* folks to clean their homes, can hire doctors and mechanics to keep everything inside the house in perfect shape. And more than that, you know that most people’s homes are in good shape purely because of what the parents passed down to the kids. It’s *genetic*, that people who live in shapely beautiful homes give the gift of shapely beautiful homes to their children.

But none of that matters because you still have to live in this house. Walls littered with barnacles, impossible to move from room to room, steep stairways that leave you out of breath… And all those people who say, “your house is fine!” – those people say that *first*, and then, a few sentences later, will start telling you their secrets for why their houses are SO MUCH NICER than yours.

I just takes work. That’s all, you just have to work on it. You have to deny yourself the impulse to do things that mess up your house in the first place. Twenty minutes three times a week, is all. You just have to do a half hour of maintenance every morning. You need to do a little bit of work in the evening, after the kids go to bed. You have to stop letting stuff come *in* to the house that makes it a mess, even if that’s the only stuff you can get.

And you listen, thinking, “I spend hours and hours every week. I didn’t stop letting in crap, I stopped letting in almost anything. I work on the house for hours, and I’m humiliated during the time that I don’t. If a day goes by and I haven’t tried, desperately, to change everything about the house, then I feel bad ALL DAY.

While I’m doing *anything*, the SECONDARY thought running through my head is about how to accomplish that thing, but the PRIMARY thought running through my head is about how terrible my house is, how humiliating my house is, how everyone who sees this house is repulsed, how everyone who sees this house knows that within its walls lives a horrible crouching church gargoyle, catching its own leaking feces with its hands and desperately hiding it behind a couch cushion.”

And you get older and the doctors say, “this house is literally killing you. If you live in this house, you will die. Maybe not right away, but this house will give you pain in your joints, early onset diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, reduced kidney and liver function, insomnia and an early death. This house will make your wife a widow and your children cry at your grave.”

And so you move. You have to move. One day, you simply say, “Even if it’s an hour of sprinting every day, I can’t live in this house any more.” And you pack. You spend hours and hours, deep into the night, packing and the night drifts away and it’s been a day and more and more and there are more hours and you’re still packing. The boxes piling higher than the things in the boxes had been piled, the boxes filling the rooms so that you no longer can move from room to room, and you turn around and all of your things are still there. The boxes are full, there is less room, but none of the things have been packed. There is no more room for another box, but you still have the exact same amount of stuff to pack as you did when you started.

How? How could I have tried this hard for this long, and I’m not in the same place, I’m actually worse?

You have to move the boxes to the truck, it’s the only way, the truck parked out front, the truck that your family and friends and neighbors have been wondering why you didn’t hire *years ago*. You bring out a box, then two. You pick up a box and go down three flights of stairs and back up a flight of stairs through the basement door, because the other doors and windows quit working in this horrible house years ago. You load it into the truck and go back down, then up and up and up and get another box.

And the day gets long and turns to night and the night breaks and it’s now day, or maybe the next day, or the one after that. And your neighbors and family see you packing and they’re proud of you. Yes, right now you live in this horrible house, green with moss and tangled with cobwebs and rat shit, but you *are* trying to move. At least *now* you’re no longer the kind of man who just *lives* in a place like that.

And the day turns back to night. Your arms ache, your thighs are shaking with each step, but you go back to the room and you see there are three boxes left. And you have two choices –

You lift all three boxes, barely able to hold them, and you cross down one, then two, then three flights of stairs, and across the mud and offal filled basement floor, with decayed and discarded children’s toys and ancient indistinguishable black vegetables from a Salad Never Eaten and then up a flight and out the basement door, legs shivering and twitching, back breaking and sweat pouring from your body, OR

You lift one, make the trip, make the trip back and then lift one more, make the trip and the trip back, and then the last, muscles now twitching, back now breaking, sweat so bad rolling down you that you can barely hold the box, t-shirt black from where the loads have rubbed into your disgusting moistround gut, and swimming ankle deep through the sludge and up the basement stairs for the last time…

But either way what happens then is this. You slide the box into the truck and you turn back to look at the house. And it’s more horrible than you remember but the worst part is this – you see that it’s structurally sound. The house will not fall. You can see that your name is on the front, engraved, never to come off.

And then you turn to look into the truck and it’s empty. There are no boxes there, and when you turn back to look at the house, you aren’t outside looking at the house anymore. Suddenly you discover, you’re back in the room, nothing is packed, there are no boxes, it’s simply days and days and weeks and months later and all the work and the sweat and the pain was only that- it existed only to be work and sweat and pain because your goal will not be reached. It will lead to nothing. As hard as you want to work, maybe you’ll get one piece of garbage out of one bush. But your goal will never be reached.

And you slip out of the house, just in front. And your neighbors and your family and your friends, somehow not totally repelled by the smell coming off you, somehow not understanding that their time would be better served doing literally *anything* other than talking to you, come by and put a hand – not on, but *near* your shoulder and say, “it’s a good house. I think your house is just fine. This is where you live, you should love it.”

And you know you’re going to die before they die. And you know it’s the house that will kill you. And you know it will never work, but you know you have no choice. You pick up the box and go back inside to start packing again.