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I stood in the grocery store staring at a box of donuts. They were those small ones, with the white powder caked onto them.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to take a box off the shelf, but “my favorite donuts” was neatly written in blue on my mother’s grocery list.
The box crinkled a bag of Cheeto’s as I tossed it into the cart. Five one-liter bottles of Mountain Dew, a carton of double chocolate chunk ice cream, and a bag of frozen French fries surrounded it.
After I fulfilled my mother’s high calorie list, I pushed my cart by the produce section. I stood there for a minute, looking at the rows of bright red apples and strawberries. I stared at the bouquets of bananas, green at the top, blended into the yellow towards the bottom.
A slender woman was inspecting a container of strawberries. She looked all around the sides and the bottom, checking each individual strawberry. She finally placed them in her cart and walked away.
I walked over to where she was standing and picked up some strawberries. I copied her method, not sure what I was looking for. I did the same with the apples and bananas, gently placing them on top of my other items.
I knew I didn’t see any fruits written on the grocery list, but after watching this woman, I felt like they should be added.
I headed to the check out, not hesitating to put the fruit back.
As the cashier scanned my items, he looked down at my shirt, most likely staring at my stomach bulging over the top of my jeans.
Scanning the bottles of soda, he asked, “You having a party or something?”
I looked down. “Uh…no,” I replied quietly.
He cleared his throat and pushed some buttons on the screen. “That’ll be $125.36”.
I winced as I slid my credit card into the machine.
The bagger finished putting my purchases into the cart as I zipped up my purse.
“Have a nice day,” he said, looking right at my stomach.
I didn’t even bother to thank him.
Back at home, my mom watched me unload the groceries. When I took out the bag of apples, she snapped at me.
“Who is going to eat those? That’s a waste of money. You know none of us eat those!” Her coarse voice cut through my ears.
I ignored her and kept unpacking. I unloaded the rest of the fruit last, making a show of it.
“It’s a waste of money!” she repeated.
I kept my back to her and started washing the apples.
“Emily! Don’t ignore me!” she shouted.
I shut off the sink and spun around. She was staring at me with flared nostrils, clenched teeth, and raised eyebrows. Her hands were on her pudgy hips.
“You know what’s a waste of money?” I asked quietly.
I opened the cabinet and took out the box of donuts. My mom watched, her dark eyes beginning to widen.
Lifting the lid on the garbage can, I dropped the box to the bottom.
“Those are a waste of money,” I said, staring at her shocked face.
She walked over to me, her belly leading the way, as she huffed with every step.
She grabbed my shoulders with her chunky hands and said, “What is wrong with you?”
“This is wrong with me,” I said, squeezing my belly fat with my hand. “It’s what’s wrong with all of us. It’s all because of you! It’s your fault that we’re all so unhappy!” I yelled at her.
She let go of me and messaged her forehead. “I did my best to raise you girls,” she said quietly. “Don’t you dare blame me for any of this.”
Later that night, I sat in my room looking at an old photo album.
The first picture was the only one of our entire family. It was taken at our old house. I sat between my two younger sisters, my hair in pigtails. A thinner version of my mother sat on one side and my father sat on the other side.
It was taken a week before he left us. I stared at my father’s white smile, groomed mustache, and light brown eyes, the same face I used to look at while playing with my dolls in the living room.
I slammed the album shut and threw it on the ground.
When I got to the kitchen, I reached into the garbage and took out the box of donuts and ripped it open.