The girl looks at me with raised eyebrows and I know she is judging me. I am embarrassed, so I shove the food into the bulging bags as the checkout girl scans it. Punching in my PIN, I scowl at her and wait for the transaction to complete. When it is done, I ignore the girl’s fake pleasantries and bundle the bags into my trolley. People turn to look at me as I leave and hurry to my car. Once there, I throw the heavy bags of food into the car, push the trolley away and get in.
Then I cry.
After a few moments, I take a deep breath and wipe my eyes. In the rear view mirror, I see I’ve smudged my makeup and I laugh through the sobs. I shouldn’t care about how I look because it’s just gone midnight and the car park is deserted. But I do care.
When was the last time I shopped during daylight hours with all the other normal mid thirties women?
My name is Jessica and I am mid thirties, but I am not normal, I tell myself.
I have a dependant monster that eats faster than I can buy, a monster that always wants more when I have no more to give. Automatically, I begin touching up my makeup once my tears have been shed. There’ll be no more crying for tonight, because Adam will be hungry. I’ll get in at one in the morning because I have to drive to the supermarket two towns away so no one I know will see the mountain of food I buy. On the surface I am a normal looking woman. People say I have lovely long red hair and big blue eyes. They tell me I have a lovely slim figure and ask what diet I am on.
I laugh. Diet is a banned word at home.
There’s an urgent tapping at me window and I jump. Turning, I see the checkout girl bent over and staring into to my car. She’s waving a large rump steak at me and I frown at her. Winding my window down, I ask her what she wants.
“You forgot to bag this.” The girl is only around eighteen and has bleached hair that’s pulled so tightly back I realise she can’t help but look permanently surprised. “You on that Atkins diet with all the meat you bought?”
I grab the meat from her and throw it on the back seat, my face flushing in embarrassment. “I’m having a Barbie tomorrow,” I lie.
The girl screws her face up. I doubt she could look any uglier. “What, in winter?”
Now I feel anger bubbling to the surface. Not just at her, but at Adam laying in bed at home, waiting for his feast to be cooked so he could sleep before I woke him with breakfast. “How about you mind your own business?” I mutter, winding my window up and shutting her out.
The girl gives a “Whatever”. When she’s gone, I let out a big sigh, start the car and pull out of the car park. When I’m on the motorway, I push the car beyond eighty as there’s no one else on the road. Who did that girl think she was, judging me like that? She knew nothing of the life I have to endure with a husband that did not know when to stop eating. Always wanting more, Adam has become more of a mound of flesh than a man. When I look at him lying on the bed, stuffing food into his mouth, I feel revulsion. That thing is not who I married, but I know he is buried in there somewhere.
The car swerves into the hard shoulder and I jolt upright, realising I had slipped into a light doze. By the time I cook Adam his steak, it will be gone two. Then at seven I will have to cook his breakfast. Just the thought of all that meat cooking in fat and grease makes me gag and I wind the window down to inhale the cold air. My clothes constantly smell of cooking oil, no matter how many times I wash them. My nails always feel like they have bits of meat under them and I wash my hands obsessively.
Sometimes I scrub my hands so hard they bleed.
This is what Adam has done to me.
Five years ago Adam was unable to get out of bed from his weight. It was suicide he was committing, but a suicide that would take years to end his miserable life.
No one knows I am married. At work, I keep my life private and politely turn down the attention of men because I still take my vows seriously while others don’t. My wedding ring is in the back of a drawer at home, because I don’t want people asking about my husband. Then I would have to explain my late night trips to buy food because I am ashamed. After tonight, I will have to find another supermarket to shop in; that girl will talk about me and then questions will be asked.
No one must know about Adam.
Finally, I turn off the motorway. We live isolated in an old house down an unmade road. It had been Adam’s parent’s house when he was a child and we had taken it on when they had died in a car crash ten years ago. It was a dream house when we moved in and I loved the view of the countryside from our bedroom window. Now it is a prison and I yearn to leave it. Sometimes I walk out the back door and head across the fields and keep walking until the tears stop. I normally cover five miles.
I pull into the driveway. The house is in darkness, except for the light in Adam’s bedroom. It used to be our room, but I moved into the spare room years ago. The light falls on me as I stand looking up at the room. Rain falls and soaks my dress and I ignore it. Perhaps the rain can wash away my sadness, but I know I am hoping for too much. When I begin to shiver, I gather the bags from the car and struggle up the path to the door. When I go inside, the smell of grease assaults me and I cough, dropping the bags in the hallway.
His desperate voice freezes me to the spot. He wails down how hungry he is, and I hear a hint of sadness mixed with greed. I hate him, but I call out to him that I will get him food and grab the steak the checkout girl had brought to me. When I cook, it is in darkness. The sight of raw meat turns my stomach. Adam likes it bloody, so it doesn’t take long. As it’s cooking, I shove left over roast potatoes in the microwave and slump to the floor as the timer counts down and the sizzle of frying fills the kitchen.
The smell of meat is like death. I cough as though I smoke fifty a day. When the potatoes are done, I load a plate up, dumping the steak on top. I imagine the blood dripping down into the potatoes and swallow back the sick. The offering is complete and I pause. In that moment I can see my future stretching before me. Adam wants more and more and do not know how much I can give. I find myself praying he has a heart attack, but by some miracle he clings to life and my guilt is heavy. Sighing, I carry the food upstairs and it feels heavier than the shopping bags I had struggled in with.
When I enter Adam’s room, his face lights up as he sees me. Before me is a mound of flesh that struggles to form the shape of a man. It takes a lot to look at him without the nausea creeping over me. I hand him the plate and sit on a chair next to the bed as he tears chunks from the meat, the blood dripping down his chin. I want to go, but I stay until he has finished.
“Is there more?” Adam asks. “I’m still hungry.”
I clench my fists and feel my nails digging in. “I’m tired, Adam,” I say. Tears roll down my face and before I know it, I am crying. “I can’t do this!”
A hand reaches out and touches my arm gently. I look up and see Adam is crying silent tears. “I’m sorry, Jess,” he says. “You know I love you more than anything. I just wish I could go back to how I was.”
I wipe my tears, moved by Adam’s declaration of love. Looking at him, I see a frightened man who has lost control. I see desperation in his eyes, hurt and pain. And I smile, knowing that I have done what I set out to do. “Did you love me when you slept with that woman?”
Adam’s hand falls from my arm, his face filling with fear. “You forgave me.” His words are cold. My heart is ice.
“Do you think any woman would look at you now?” I get up and take the plate from him. When I had found out about the affair, Adam had begged me to forgive him. It was just a mistake and the woman meant nothing to him. I never told him I forgave him, because each day the betrayal made me bitter and the desire for revenge was great. I knew that Adam had been fat as a teenager and I wondered if I could turn him so big he would be repulsive to all. So my vengeance had formed in my mind and my path was clear.
Now he lay before me, helpless and disgusting. My revenge was easy, but living with it was Adam’s revenge. How could I abandon him now? After all, he was my husband, no matter how much he repulsed me.