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The Visiting Room
Magazines are spread decoratively across the polished glass coffee table which reflects my face perfectly. The image is pale, faint, like a ghost. Dark rings frame my vapid eyes.
Perfectly groomed women in orderly environments glare, with expressions of covert hostility, out at me. They bore into my soul, taking in all my obesity and ugliness and humiliation. I clutch the tyre of soft fat round my belly and try desperately for a brief moment to tear it from me. I want it off. It’s suffocating me. When I hear footsteps I stop, and fold my arms secretively over my waist, hunching forward on the settee. You must not see. Nobody must see me.
Your eyes rest on me, then move away. Then her eyes take a turn. They creep over every inch, locating the weaknesses. I try to smile in your direction. I manage a flinching grimace and recoil immediately. This all happened so fast in real time, but for me it is far too long.
“Hi, Gabs. How’re you?”
She is speaking to me. A nameless dread engulfs me, drying the saliva in my mouth, cracking my ribs on by one. It constricts my heart, now beating like a hummingbird’s beneath my lapel.
“I’m fine thanks and-“
She walks away. I can just tell she is disgusted by me. She can’t even stand listening to one sentence leave my lips, just because they are mine. Eyes downcast again, I feel the humiliation intensify.
Why are you forcing me to be here?
“Don’t you want something to eat? I got you a fruit salad from Woolies. It’s in the fridge,”
In the pit of my grossly oversized belly there is a rumble. I ignore it.
“I’m fine, Dad. Maybe later.” Now I hesitate. Considering whether to say what I am considering, “I told Mum I’d be home at six. Is that ok?” Now I regret the words. There is a silence. You suck the air through your nose as if smelling something rotten.
I know it is not fine. I know you cannot face the truth that I can’t stand being here. I take out a book, anything to make it seem as though I am not just counting the seconds. My eyes read the words on the page but there is no comprehension. The feeling of fear is too overwhelming.
The hands of the clock are finally inching closer to six and I know we should leave soon. I want to tell you we should depart, but I don’t want you to be angry with me, so I wait for your word. You pick up your keys. We are leaving.
We have made it to the front door, the key inserted hopefully into the lock. You refuse to turn it. Why?
“Have you said goodbye to Bells and Delecia?”
The nameless dread suddenly overpowers me. I shake my head, and turn, head down like a beaten dog. I know I have to go through the door, your door. I have to see your life and your family now to say goodbye. I will be polite, like I should, and knock. I will peek in timidly and wish them farewell. Their smiling faces will tear the last veil of security from my eyes.
I will peak into the world, your world, the world I was never allowed to be part of.
You led me away deliberately because I was spoiling everything. Now I am a visitor to this place. I am a fat, stupid, lifeless visitor. And I will sit in the visiting room.
And now you know: this is how it feels.