Karen approached the Caffé Umbria counter with nervous trepidation, like a 16-year-old approaches a 7-11 cashier while trying to buy beer with a shitty fake ID. Her eyes cast downward in shame, she stood in the line patiently until it was finally her turn to order.
“Good morning!” chirped the coffee shop employee. “What can I get for you?”
Karen leaned forward as far as she could and whispered, “May I please have an apple fritter?”
The clerk happily complied, and in her booming voice, announced to everyone present, “Those fritters are the bomb. I thought when I first saw them come in, who puts bacon on a fritter? But it works, right? They are the best. We usually sell out by now, so you’re lucky to get one!”
Karen was embarrassed and annoyed. “Do you mind?” she asked. “Can you please keep your voice down?” Feeling bad for snapping at the young woman, Karen changed her tone. She peered at the clerk’s name tag.
“Look, Crystal, I apologize. It’s just that I don’t usually indulge in this sort of treat for myself. The thing is, I have a lot going on. I have two trials coming up, and a big writing project to start on right after they are done. I have gained a lot of weight lately because I stopped taking a medication I’ve been taking for years, and one of the side effects is a slowed metabolism.
“I work out every day, but the pounds keep creeping on me. I just finished a crushing workout, in fact. You see how sweaty I am, right?”
“Oh yeah, for sure,” Crystal replied. “I like your shirt, by the way. Where did you get that?”
Karen had to think for a moment which of her favorite t-shirts she was wearing. She looked down at her sweaty and larger-than-usual chest. Ah, today was Putin-walking-Trump-on-a-leash-shirt day. Out of all of Karen’s Resistance t-shirts, this one was probably her favorite.
“Google ‘anti-Trump t-shirts’ and you’ll find hundreds out there,” Karen answered. “Anyway, I wouldn’t ordinarily buy an apple fritter for myself, but for some reason today I just feel like I really need it. I won’t eat the whole thing, you know. I plan to cut it up into several pieces and eat them over the next few days.”
Crystal blinked, and looked bored.
“I don’t even remember the last time I had a donut,” Karen prattled on. “When I was a kid, sometimes my dad would take us to Kienows to get donuts on Saturday morning. There is still something about the smell of donuts that makes me feel wistful, even after all these years. Did you know that this store used to be a Kienows?”
Crystal craned her neck and looked around for other customers in need of help. Unfortunately, Karen was the only game in town.
“This thing must have like, 600 calories, right? But if I cut it into six pieces and eat it over six days, that’s nothing. Plus, I will probably skip lunch today. Maybe I’ll have some almonds. I don’t know.”
Crystal considered this woman before her, making excuses and justifying her purchases to a stranger, and felt sorry for her. Her discomfort at listening to Karen’s ramblings gave way to empathy. Crystal was no stranger to carrying around a few extra pounds, but she never really thought about it much. Her boyfriend loved her and made her feel beautiful every day. She was suddenly grateful for her life, and her body, and she couldn’t imagine being this sad and insecure at Karen’s age. Of course, Crystal was only 22 at the time. She had no idea how much life planned to kick her in the tits in the years to come…
“So, do you want the apple fritter or not?” Crystal asked.
Karen realized she sounded like a loon. What was she thinking?
“Men never do this, right? Has any man ever ordered a highly-caloric item from you and tried to justify his entire existence, including his dietary choices?”
“Never,” Crystal replied, “and I’ve seen some real fatties come through my line.”
Karen sighed, took the treat from Crystal’s outstretched hand, and paid the $5.00 for the donut that would give birth to a blog.
“I’m working on it,” Karen said. “I’m working on myself every day.”
Crystal smiled, and nodded in agreement.
“Aren’t we all?”