The woman is big but she is not beautiful. I am somebody who likes beautiful women, regardless of size, in fact for a long time I thought the bigger the better, but not like this. She is big like the sun is big, like the sky is big, like the mountains out in Colorado are big. I am face down and naked on the table except for a towel draped across my middle, afraid of how big she is and disappointed that she is not beautiful.
I should probably make a few things clear before we go any further, but I have no idea what. Perhaps it is enough to say that I am a good person, that I hold the door open for total strangers. Also, I don’t think anyone is afraid of meeting me in a dark alley.
Beyond that I’ll say there comes a time in every man’s life.
The woman is over me. I have my eyes closed and my head nestled into that headspace at the head of the table. I can hear that she’s rubbing her hands together. Sometimes they ask if you want oil but sometimes they don’t. I suppose some are considerate that way, thinking maybe you don’t want to walk around smelling like you have recently visited the rub and tug, or worse, to go home that way to the wife or what have you. I don’t have a wife or what have you, so maybe the big woman has guessed this about me, maybe it’s a judgment call. She has an accent, though she tries to bury it. I think maybe she comes from Australia or New Zealand or someplace like that. I only know this because I have a neighbor who comes from that part of the world and tries to bury the accent, so I recognize it. I’ve asked my neighbor why she tries to bury the accent and she says it’s out of shame. I’ve asked her what’s shameful about it and she says it’s too shameful to talk about.
I think maybe everything is too shameful to talk about.
I have never been there, to Australia or New Zealand, have never been anywhere, not even Colorado. I know about the mountains because I went to school and watch television like everyone else. Human beings have no business being up in the air, which is why I haven’t been places. Another reason I haven’t been anywhere is I haven’t been invited. The rest of the world seems fine with me staying put, holding down the fort. Perhaps they don’t think I’d make for a good guest but they’re probably mistaken about this. I’d probably only stay for a night or two because I get restless. People love you when they know you’re leaving soon. I heard that in a song once and the singer sounded like he’d been a few places, had worn out a welcome or two.
This is why I only make half-hour appointments, even though the full hour is a better deal.
Maybe if someone invited me along someplace I’d join them, but all of it depends on any number of variables, X factors. Everything depends upon red wheelbarrows and incomprehensible shit like that. Until I can figure this out people know where they can find me. Until then I remain grounded.
That’s what my neighbor said to me once, after I asked if she’d like to get a drink sometime. She said it depends and I said on what and she said so much depends upon a red wheelbarrow. I disagreed with her, said I can understand things depending on weather or health or how much sleep you didn’t get the night before, but not farm implements. She said I was funny and that she was busy, that she had family in town visiting and then she was going out of town herself for a few weekends but maybe when she got back and things settled down.
I told her I’ll ask again if I can remember, said I was only talking about a drink, not painting a house together.
I wanted to make it seem as if I didn’t give this much thought. The truth is I didn’t give it much thought, so it was important that I make this clear.
The advertisement said the masseuse was beautiful, said she was stunning and strong. Most claim to be late thirties, but you overlook the lie, because you don’t want to visit a younger girl. There’s so much they don’t know about the business and you cannot teach them, it’s not what you pay for. Also, they haven’t filled out yet, haven’t let themselves go. So I am always on the lookout for the ones claiming to be late thirties big and beautiful. I have seen these kinds of women, the big beautiful ones, have been inside their apartments, have forked over fifty dollars for a half hour’s worth of time and effort and have been happy to do so. Pretty works on anyone and I am fine with this. My neighbor is pretty but not at all big. In fact, if you lined up these two women side by side you’d have a hard time believing they were the same species. What I’m saying is I harbor no prejudices when it comes to pretty, but I do like it when they’re pretty, whether they be neighbors I might have a drink with, perhaps leading to house painting, or a massive woman who should be able to provide a little relief and comfort in this time of perpetual need.
When they’re not pretty it makes me want to test them, ask if they’ll do some crazy shit, figuring they have to compensate somehow. But I never do this. I always wind up walking away, in my pocket three or four requests that would make a seasoned provider blush.
Also, I say please and thank you and am always polite with everyone. I talk to my mother on the telephone once a week. I never tell off-color jokes and sometimes I give a dollar to street musicians.
Now they all say they’re beautiful in the ads. These are the ones you find in the back of the alternative newspapers. There are always too many to go through, which is why when you find a good one you hold onto her, but then you get bored after four or five visits and think maybe someone else can do a better job. The someone else is never any better, though, only someone else, something different, and sometimes it’s enough, at least on the way there it is. It’s always about the way there, that’s the best part of it. Combing through ads, placing calls, leaving messages.
Some have elaborate instructions for security purposes. They want you to describe what you’re wearing, stand in front of a particular building across the street from them so they can get a look at you, see if you’re an ax murderer. I’m not sure what that would look like from across a city street, I’ve never seen anyone on the street with an ax, can’t see how they can ever turn someone away without one. Maybe they take pictures of you when you’re across the street like this. Maybe they have some kind of system in place that alerts the authorities and says, yes, this is the maniac who butchered me.
Once I did a little dance while being visually patted down, something between a salsa and the hokey-pokey.
I didn’t actually do this. I thought about doing it, thought it would be funny, but I don’t dance. I’m not insane.
I can’t remember who the last one that checked me out like this was. I think she said I was good looking. Not all of them say this, though you’d think otherwise. The truth is I am good looking, which surprises some people. Most people don’t recognize this about me. I don’t mind as I’m not good looking enough to care one way or another.
I think I remember that she was pretty herself, claimed to have great feet, which wasn’t the case. That’s all you have to look at when you’re face down. It’s important that their feet are presentable, polished nails, etc.
What happens on the table is always the same, always a letdown.
I see the neighbor from time to time outside my building. She has a dog that is small and a cross between two breeds that should’ve been left well enough alone. I say nice things about the dog but I don’t mean them. I have even petted the dog a few times, have crouched down to do so. I don’t know what it says about me or what it says about her, that she can love an ugly dog and that I can pretend to.
I think the neighbor is a high school teacher or was one once. I think she works in a bar now, but maybe she does both. I’ve heard her reference both jobs. I have trouble keeping certain details straight, but I’m good at pretending I know what’s going on. Actually, I’m not sure I’m good at this, but no one has ever called me out, accused me of not paying attention, being self-absorbed or any kind of similar wrong-doing.
Sometimes I run into her on the way back from a massage. I’m not sure if the conversation is awkward. I always think women know exactly what you’ve been up to all the time, particularly if you’ve just had an orgasm.
So, what have you been up to?
Just out for a walk.
Are you sure about this? Is there something you need to tell me?
I never say things like I’m only human and is it so wrong, no one is getting hurt, it’s a victimless crime and it shouldn’t even be against the law and yes, I know, sometimes some of the Chinese girls are shipped over in crates and could be considered slaves or indentured servants but even then I always remember to tip them extra and this way they can buy their freedom and live fulfilling and productive lives. It’s really for their benefit more than anything else.
You don’t have to say this sort of thing when one has her own practice, such as the big woman from New Zealand. You don’t know why they get into this line of work and you don’t ask.
I suppose maybe she is stunning given how big she is. This woman is probably the biggest one I’ve ever seen in real life. She seemed to take up the entire living room of her house when I first walked in. There is room enough for the table, a sofa, loveseat, bookshelves, and end tables and there’s still room to maneuver about these objects, so it’s not a small room is what I’m saying. She asked if I wanted a shower, but I said no. Sometimes I take the shower if it’s an Asian joint because the girls sponge you down, but this isn’t like that. She said, well, lie down when you’re ready, so I took off my clothes and got on the table. Years ago I would’ve kept on my shorts. I wouldn’t have presumed anything back then.
Maybe I’ve seen one bigger on television, but that doesn’t count. She isn’t fat necessarily, can stand to lose a few pounds particularly around the middle, but I’ve seen some real fat ones, too, so I know the difference. This woman has a wide back and broad shoulders. She looks like she works out with weights, like she can bench press four hundred pounds and a small house.
You don’t always see that, a big woman who looks powerful, who looks like she could rub you into a serious problem, into pain. What you see more often is fat fingers, fat wrists and arms. I’m not saying it’s my thing, but I’ve seen it. You can’t help seeing it.
Some of them, yes, the fat ones, they are nice people, except for the ones who aren’t, but who cares in the end, really. It’s not important for them to be nice, only good at what they do. Show a little enthusiasm, pretend. It seems maybe the fat ones are better at this, at feigning interest. One doesn’t like to make generalizations, but sometimes one cannot help from doing so.
In this case one is me. I am almost always one. Particularly when I say one doesn’t like making generalizations.
I am also you most of the time.
I like to speak on behalf of the whole world whenever I can.
My neighbor lives on the same floor as me. I have never seen her bring anyone home, have never seen anyone leaving her apartment. The noise that comes from her place is usually dull, sometimes jazz or the quiet drone of a television. The dog barks quite a lot if it hears something or someone in the hall. Sometimes I’m in the hall and the dog is barking and I know my neighbor isn’t home and I think about knocking on the door, slipping cheese under there, something. I think I heard once that dogs can’t digest cheese.
I see her outside the building, almost always with the dog. I see her talking to other dog owners. They all seem like nice people. I’m sure some of them get massages.
Some of the big ones like to get up on the table for leverage, but I’m hoping she doesn’t, hoping she stays grounded. It’s usually the Asian girls who do this, but they’re always tiny. Sometimes you can’t even tell they’re on the table with you. I think they used to walk on your back years ago, but I don’t think this is offered anymore.
I can’t say I was stunned when she answered the door. I can’t say I was surprised, either. I’m always prepared for disappointment. I’m more than prepared actually, I expect disappointment. It’s almost as if I would be disappointed if I wasn’t disappointed.
Maybe she is strong. I am waiting for her to demonstrate strength. So far she is lightly rubbing my back, not doing anything you’d need a license for, a certificate. So far she’s talking about her teenaged daughter. The daughter is giving her trouble, smoking, drinking, staying out late, lying to her own mother about smoking and drinking and staying out late. The big woman says she did all of these things back home, but she hoped it would skip a generation. I tell her it’s nothing to worry about, I tell her it’s normal.
She asks me what I do and I tell her I’m between jobs. I always say this, hoping for a discount. It’s never worked. Even still, they don’t need to know what I do and where I do it. I could tend bar, wait tables, drive a truck, practice proctology or be a state senator and the conversation would be the same.
There is music playing. She asks if I mind and I say I do not. If the music was bad or if it bothered me I’d say so. This one likes to talk a lot. She says she’d like to be on TV someday, wants to know if I know anyone who works in TV. I tell her the people who make television wouldn’t have anything to do with me. I tell her they have their own agenda. She makes a sound from deep in her throat when I say this, so I say that the people on television aren’t actual people, they aren’t the people you see walking around in the world.
Once I saw a mamasan on the street handing out business cards. She didn’t recognize me. Or maybe she did. Either way I kept walking.
This big one isn’t digging in. In fact, her touch is soft. Maybe she is afraid she’ll hurt me. Sometimes they ask if you want hard or soft. They always go soft later, before the flip, but it’s best to dig in at first, work the muscles. This one isn’t doing that. She drapes her body over my back and sometimes talks into it. Sometimes I can’t hear what she’s saying.
We are back on the daughter, I think. The big one says she is having a sleep over, says she is going to wind up pregnant. She says she cannot take care of a baby again, says once was enough. She is not ready to be a grandmother. I tell her she’d make a sexy grandmother, but it’s not true. Still, people like to hear this kind of thing about themselves.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with being nice to people, even if you have to lie.
She tells me I’m a good person. I like hearing this because it’s true. She tells me not everyone is a good person, but most people are, at least her clients. I want to ask how many she has, if she sees all of them here, but I don’t. I want to ask if any of them ask for anything crazy. I want to ask if she has a menu, any hard limits. But you can’t ask these kinds of questions the first time you see someone, the first time you’ve been inside their house.
I’ve been inside my neighbor’s apartment only once. She didn’t extend a proper invitation, but rather asked me to help her lug a desk up the stairs. She caught me at the wrong time coming home. Women know that men can’t refuse favors like this because they know we’d like one or two in return. It never happens this way, but even still, we hope for it.
The desk was an antique and probably weighed a thousand pounds. We lugged it up the stairs and into her living room where we placed it against a wall. By this time I was sweating, maybe even panting. She said, let me get you a glass of water, maybe you’d like a beer. I told her a beer sounded great. She said I should make myself comfortable. People do a good job of leaving me alone most of the time, so they almost never tell me I should make myself comfortable. I think most people can take one look at me and know better. I almost started taking off my clothes, but I caught myself while unbuttoning my shirt. She came back with the beer and said excuse me I have to make a telephone call. She disappeared into the bedroom, closing the door behind her.
I didn’t know what was happening, but I was happy to be left alone. I was hoping to collect my thoughts, consider what had taken place and what was likely to happen next. I also can’t remember if this was before or after I’d suggested having a drink together. It seems like it’s both important and beside the point at the same time.
She was inside her bedroom for about ten minutes. I couldn’t hear anything, couldn’t tell if she was actually on the telephone. I considered leaving, but thought that might be rude. I drank the beer and waited.
Finally she came back, apologized, said it was her fiancé. He was overseas in another time zone and they had a phone date, had to discuss something urgent, something involving someone’s health and life expectancy. She said something about an uncle or grandfather, about a hospital, about it not looking good. By that point I wasn’t listening. She asked me what I had planned for the rest of the day, said it was beautiful out, said she was going for a run. I hadn’t noticed the weather, but I thanked her for the beer and left.
I’m not sure what this proves, if anything. Maybe this is an example of me being good, maybe it exemplifies something else. I tell this story to the big woman when she asks if I have a lady in my life. She tells me I deserve better.
Then she asks me to turn over.
Five minutes later I’m getting dressed and thanking her. Five minutes after that I wonder what’s the point, why I bother.
On the train ride home I sit across from two young girls. They’re talking to each other, very concerned about something. Neither is big, but both are unquestionably beautiful. You can tell they have no idea there are other people in this train car, that there are other people in the world. This is the way with beautiful women. I can’t help it, I want both, even though neither looks eighteen yet. The one with the strawberry blonde pony-tail would be game, you can tell, but I don’t know about the other one. She might need persuasion. I know I’m not the one to do it, though, not the right man for the job. I’m too good a person and besides, I don’t usually go for the young ones.
Robert Lopez is the author of two novels, Part of the World and Kamby Bolongo Mean River, and a collection of short fiction, Asunder. He has taught at the New School, Pratt Institute, Columbia University, and Pine Manor College’s Solstice Low-Res MFA Program.
“Big People Everywhere” was originally published in The Glutton’s Kitchen (TLR Summer 2014)
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