By Michelle Reale, Jul 18, 2009

She counts on her tar tipped fingers the five reasons why she thinks I am always starving. Between the two of us, sheís the talker, for sure. For one, she says, eyes closed, finger pointing like that teacher you love to hate, your mother didnít breastfeed. Iím kind, so I consider that, which encourages her. Second, she says, gaining confidence, according to my Dad your Dad never really wanted you. Thirdly, she went on, that thing with your uncle, which was totally gross, right? It made you feel worthless, unsafe. So you ate and you kept on eating. I brooded.

Fourth, she started, and I could see she was struggling here, but I wasnít about to help her out. Fourth, she continued, well, that could just be plain loneliness not that Iíve ever really known what that feels like. I waited for the fifth, as if there was something she could tell me that I didnít already know myself. I held my arms under my stomach, cradling my girth and nursing hunger pains. I rocked myself back and forth on the curb like I was my own baby.

She hesitated. So, weíre friends, right, so I can tell you this, right? Well, yeah, I said, out with it. Okay, well, youíre just fat, really, and bigger girls just need to eat more! She punched my arm, and winked. She threw her head back and laughed. She slapped her thighs, congratulated herself on the punch line, which Iíd never seen coming. She really almost had me there, especially the one about my uncle which made the most sense to me, when I actually let myself think about it.

We sat out in the sun a little longer popping the hot tar bubbles in the street. She began to whisper fat, fat, fat, over and over just shaking her head, like it was the cleverest thing sheíd ever said. I made a move for her hand as thin as an X-Ray, which she thought I wanted to hold. It was when she looked at me with pity, I took a bite of her freckled arm. The taste of my saliva mixed with her blood satiated me in a way I hadnít felt in a long time. She cried, big, fat tears, and lightly fingered the deep grooves my crooked teeth had made in her skin. I mean, God, you knew I was just playiní around, right? She looked scared, but not at all angry like I wanted her to be.

We walked home together. The sticky tar on the bottom of our flip flops made a thwick, twack sound on the pavement. Otherwise, the air was quiet between us. I rested my thick sweating arm around her hunched shoulders, slowing our pace considerably. I stopped and turned her to face me. I guess big girls just donít know their own strength, my wide eyes innocent. Then I started to laugh. I waited for some sort of a reaction, but she had nothing left to say. Until tomorrow. Or maybe the day after that.

Michelle Reale is an academic librarian on faculty at a university in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Her fiction has been published in Verbsap, elimae, Eyeshot, Rumble, PANK, Pequin, Word Riot, Monkeybicycle, Danse Macabre, and others. Her fiction chapbook Natural Habitat will be published by Burning River Press in 2010.