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Gain On Guard
You know it’s funny, because I always said this wouldn’t be the story of my friends all being proven right. This was supposed to be the story of me going “In your FACE!” to them all. Time has a way of going in circles, though, whether we like it or not. And I guess what I’ve learned is that if you brag that “I won’t end up like my parents”, you’re not just going to vaguely follow in their footsteps... but right down to the toeprint. |
I was never too close with my dad. He was a detective, which sounds cool to your friends, but really just means he wasn’t home a lot. Most of my treasured childhood memories were between me and mom, and me and dad time usually included being shushed so he could hear the TV. I didn’t really mind it, though, because most of the time he’d watch TV he’d let me lay on him and watch too. He had a pretty massive belly, and no matter how old or uncomfortable out couch was it was always there and soft to lay your head on. Come to think of it his belly is probably what I remember most about dad. It’s pretty weird but I guess it’s true.
I remember thinking how silly it would be to have a big belly. At that age I thought you just always had it. You were either born fat or skinny, and I was born skinny. I was pretty tall and pretty lanky as a kid. I was that kid that got picked last on every team sport, but first in track and field because my legs could outpace most of the competition with half the amount of steps. It would be way weirder running with a belly, I thought. The idea of it bouncing up and down while I ran was immensely amusing, but it wasn’t really a frequent thought because I was always so trim. Sometimes I wondered why police officers had such big bellies if they had to chase bad guys. It seemed like poor hiring choices to me. Still it didn’t really matter because I was going to be an artist. I went through phases of different art, from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics to surrealism and comics. Drawing was really what made me come alive, because I felt like I could make worlds come to life by my very hands. These worlds were way more exciting than the real one I had to live of pizza and takeout several nights a week because we couldn’t make the car and house payment every month on dad’s salary.
I guess looking back on it art was a silly aspiration for what I wanted to do, but most of my friends were wannabe artists growing up, too, so it seemed normal. My best friend throughout high school, Ty, was a wannabe musician. He could play the guitar really well, and had a fantastic voice. We’d stay up late talking about our futures and whether we thought we’d make it. Ty was always worried about his body image, though. He was always a chunky guy. Not fat, by any means, but PE was not his subject, we’ll say. Ty was always fun to be around, and despite his own insecurities was always the first to cheer me on and tell me to not worry about what anyone else had to say. He was there when I won the district art contest in 8th grade, and when I tried to start up my first webcomic and subsequent animated Flash series. I always felt like there was just something about him that made him comforting; something about his soft yet commanding presence. I always told him my presence had the command of a pointy thumb tack.
“I’ve seen your dad, James,” he’d say, “Give it a few more years.”
Right, I’d laugh.
When senior year of high school came we both talked about where we wanted to go, and decided that we’d both apply to go out of state to CalArts together. He’d go for music and I for animation. We talked about how competitive it was and about our plan b’s but he was the one that said we should just go for it!
That was when the first major blow of my life hit. Ty got in… but I didn’t. We talked and talked about our options, and going in state and saving money and living together, but it just didn’t make any sense. I’d clearly weigh him down, and he needed to go live out his dreams. I’d figure my life out here. I mean we have the internet, right? It’s not like I’m so far away from accomplishing my goals, anyway.
When Ty left, things really started to seem different. I never paid attention to just how much time we spent together, at each other’s houses, him cooking for me, me for him. I suddenly lost all of the urge to cook for myself. I started eating out like 6 nights a week and that 7th night would be one of those shitty microwaveable dinners. It didn’t really matter because my metabolism was so high. I ate like this as a kid and was still the fastest runner in 4th grade.
I actually took the semester off and decided to do a gap year to sort my life out a bit more. I thought maybe if I really hunkered down and practiced I’d be able to reapply for next year and still go out of state. In reality it meant I started my job as full time Netflix viewer. I caught up on every show I wanted to, and ones I never knew I wanted to, watch. Ty would come visit on holidays and tell me about how awesome California was. He started going to the gym more and lost some weight. I was really proud of him! I, on the other hand, seemed to have out of control eating habits.
“You never used to eat like this before,” he remarked.
“I did, you just never noticed because you were too busy eating yourself,” I smirked.
He poked my stomach which seemed a little bit distended. I was still rail thin, but there was a tiny bloat he seemed to find amusing.
“What did I tell you, it’s only a matter of time and you’ll be twice as big as I ever was.”
I laughed and cleaned my plate of the last few fries.
While I seemed to be happy with my new lifestyle, my parents were not. My dad seemed to get really obsessed with the idea of me getting a job. I mean I could see his point and all, but I just thought that’d be counter productive to what I was working towards. Besides, what was I going to do? Work at Starbucks? As if.
Then came blow two: dad got sick. His health already wasn’t the greatest, but we certainly weren’t expecting it. He had a heart attack on the job, and had to go on leave for a while. Suddenly the question of if the rent was gonna get paid and if I had a college fund for next year fell on me. Real life fell on me, I guess you could say.
Mom suggested I work security, which I thought was stupid. The position she showed me was an overnight position, and while it made the right amount of money for my relative experience (read: low), that meant my schedule would be flipped from all my friends and collaborating partners.
Times were tough, so I took it.
The application process wasn’t too difficult considering the hiring manager knew my father. I had a background check, had to take a few tests and get licensed, and had an extensive physical, and was prepped for the job.
“You know I’m glad to finally see someone of your age in this job,” my supervisor laughed. “All of the guys in your position before have been old overweight men. I don’t know what attracts that type to this position.”
“Haha, well you don’t have to worry about me,” I said as I patted my tiny belly. “Besides, from seeing the ground I’ll have to cover it looks like this job will be let me get my daily walking in which is good.”
“Yeah. just don’t get too excited,” he chuckled.
And he was right. Nothing happened at this place at night. My daily routine became a cycle of “walk around, sit around” repeated ad infinitum. At first I thought I’d struck gold! I could watch videos on my phone, doodle and get paid! However after a while it got tiring. I’d eat out of boredom. Eat, patrol, help walk a little old lady to her car so she felt safer, eat some more. I’d always thought it was silly how cops were always portrayed as drinking coffee and eating fatty donuts nonstop, but then they became the highlight of my night! They became my treat: my sign that the night was moving along smoothly and only 5 hours to go before I could get out of there. The coffee became my lifeblood. I’d make a new batch every couple of hours and even if I burnt it that would provide a new little texture to my life.
Unfortunately all of this eating and drinking led to some surprising changes. I didn’t really feel any different or notice that I looked different, but there were clues around me that something wasn’t quite right. I went from a size 32 waist to a size 36. I thought at first that it was just my security belt that put unnecessary pressure on my waist and it was my work pants, but my casual jeans seemed to shrink, too. My belly was now its own little entity now, too. It certainly wasn’t massive, but it was noticeable. At first I thought it was just a little extra weight that I could just burn off with a little more running and maybe a gym membership. However, as the months went by I started to realize just how out of shape I was getting. Walking up the stairs to handle complaints suddenly started to become taxing.
When did this happen? I wondered, Has it always been like this?
The slower things became at work, the more insatiable my appetite became. My mother and friends became appalled and, admittedly, slightly fascinated, by how much I could put away. My new best friends before and after work became the all night fast food joints. I remembered back to senior year of high school where I couldn’t even finish a medium combo and now I was adding on to the super size and getting a milkshake to go!
Things were depressing, yet peaceful, up until the middle of May. That fateful night turned into more than I ever could have imagined in a routine patrol.
It was just after I finished off three slices of pizza and a bag of chips so I was pretty stuffed, but I was walking around enjoying the breeze when I heard faint screams. It wasn’t usual for that type of activity at this time of night here, as most of the residents were older. The closer I got, however, I saw there was a group of kids, that looked to be in their late teens to early 20s. They all appeared to be harassing one kid on the ground and calling him names that I wouldn’t dare repeat.
“Hey, what’s going on here?” I said.
“Jesus, what are you going to do about it fatty?” the apparent leader snarled.
“You better watch your tone or I’ll call the police.”
“Can you even lift that walkie talkie up without having to catch your breath?”
“J maybe we should just go,” another member of his crew piped up.
“Your friend is smart,” I said back sternly.
What happened next surprised even me, as the leader inched over very cautiously towards me. I’m not allowed to carry a firearm but I reached slowly for my baton. I started to get really nervous, but he didn’t appear to want to hurt me. His eyes widened and a snarl curled around his lips. He looked ready to pounce. Then he moved his hand out and patted my belly, then shouted “Run” and the boys scattered.
I ran after them, or… tried to. My belly bounced up and down and I quickly lost the ability to even see straight in front of me I was so out of breath. As I was panting and feeling the “thump” of my belly hammering into my belt every step I had a flashback to being an 8 year old kid again thinking about officers running with big bellies. The thought alone was enough to make me hard.
I turned around and noticed that one of the boys was still there. It was the boy that was tormented by the others, and I quickly hurried over to see if he was okay. It turns out he was incredibly handsome. One look into his dark pools of eyes and I was hooked! He had a short-ish conservative-style cut, large pouty lips and a small and slender frame. He reminded me of myself before my transformation.
“Are you alright?”
“Oh yeah I’ll be fine. Just some dicks hating on my voice for sounding gay. What can you do?”
“Do yo...are you? I mean… Umm, do you need a bandage for your elbow?” Saved that one, I thought.
He smiled back at me, apparently seeing everything in my brain written sloppily across my face.
“I mean who’s a guy like me to turn down a free bandage?”
I brought him back to the station and was immediately embarrassed by the mess I had lying around. I had everything from Twinkie wrappers to old catalogs to random drawings scattered about.
“I’ve been meaning to clean everything, I…” He could definitely tell my face was turning red.
“It’s cool. All this shows me is your personal bio without you having to say a word. Like you probably,” he scans the room, “like to draw!” He picked up a book: “And read sappy romance novels,” they both chuckled. “And eat lots and lots and lots of food!”
After so much criticism from family, friends, and even strangers I braced for impact.
“Yeah, I should really go on a diet.”
“Why would you do that? Food’s awesome!”
At first I thought he was teasing me. Of course food is awesome to someone as small and slim as him. He doesn’t have any problem attracting people, but I was turning into a tub of lard! Granted I didn’t really mind it, but it was always my own little secret. Could he be in on it?
“You look confused,” he said.
“I mean I guess I do have one question. What’s your name?” I smiled, impressed at my ability to pass off my embarrassed confusion as some form of flirting.
“Nice to meet ya!” We exchanged smiles and “official” handshakes.
“Listen James, it was lovely meeting you, but unfortunately I should get home as I work first thing in the morning.”
“T...think you’ll be doing any more walking tomorrow evening around my same patrol time?”
“I think that’s the only logical time to feel completely safe.”
By this time my insides were pretty much all grinning, if that’s even possible.
The rest of my shift was basically a crawl. At first I didn’t even want to eat, I only wanted to think about Christian. That didn’t last long, though, and I eventually had a sandwich and dug into a family size bag of chips. Normally the more I’d dig into the bag the more guilty I’d feel and the more I’d hate myself after, but that brief remark of Christian’s just kept playing in my head. You know what, food is pretty awesome!
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