The people in passing stopped to watch, eyes wide, the spectacle of the two-headed Golden Retriever jumping through hoops and hurdles, their eyes fastened to my every move. I was used to being a freak, hell I invented an industry, and I made millions showcasing my failures. My blog had national readership, the video feeds were getting 138,000 hits daily and I was receiving advertising dollars from three of the industries top corporate sponsors. I was a celebrity. But making this walk alone, outside of the goldfish bowl, I felt somehow deserted by my own size.
Two ham hocks struggling one after the next support my 460 lbs frame, my arms giant pendulums keeping time as I walk up the hill to convene with the promise I had made her. The hill is the one from the recurring dream, an obscure place, nowhere I had ever heard and she had never been, but she knew it was where she was meant to be.
I can feel my arms going numb from the time they have spent vertical, my legs ready to give out under the pressure but I continue the momentum burning through another five, ten feet, thirty, I am half way to the top before I see them again. They watch as if I am going to at any moment shed the suit and sprint for the top, I laugh a little inside, this will never happen. The hill is not very steep, and no one has offered a hand or asked me why? They only part before me gawking. No one speaks, only whispers.
I carry myself thirteen more feet and stop for the fist time on a park bench. The wood creaks beneath my large rear, I am afraid it will snap but dare not show my spectators. Gawking a hefty young girl, maybe ten, probably twelve carrying a pink bottle approaches. It is a hot day and she wears a cardigan over her collared blouse and thick black pants. I am afraid she will laugh, her face melting in the sun I am also afraid she will point out the sweat seeping up through my own collar.
“Hello!” the sweet voice chirps from within her plump body.
“Hello?” I answer trying not to question yet somehow curious
“My mother is over there,” she looks into the crowd but no one looks back “don’t worry she knows I am out here with you, I’m not like trying to be abducted or anything, not that you could… never mind. She wants to know if you need this?” she hands me the large pink cylinder of water.
“Oh my…” I was not expecting this “Thank You!” I open the water and fill my mouth with its sweet cool embrace. I feel my mouth drinking in the flavor, my throat opening and my body rushing with hydration.
She opens her mouth, breathes deeply then exhales confused.
“Were you going to ask me something?” I smile “My name is Timothy but you can call me Titan, everybody does”
“Hi I’m Elizabeth.” Extending her hand climbing up adding her moderate weight to the bench I cringe not for my own but her embarrassment “everyone calls me Headie, ‘cause of my last name, its kind of a weird last name but it makes it so people can tell who she’s talkin’ about in class. Is Titan your last name?” she gives me no time to answer “I don’t mind it too bad but I prefer Lizzy or Beth, or my favorite is my gram’ calls me Lizbeth.” a tiny laugh escapes her like a breath “But I think she’s just old.”
I laugh slightly, how refreshing “Hello Elizabeth. Tell your mom thank you for the water” I lift the bottle
“Well it’s not like you can keep it, we kind of need the bottle back she’s only just lending you the water if you know what I mean.”
“Oh certainly, I will be swift then, I won’t keep you” taking another gulp, I try to savor the moment, the rest, the water.
“Say, what’s that?” she points at my mothers urn, it takes me by surprise and for the first time I begin to think of how to explain her request.
“This?” I lift up the urn “Is my mother, she died last year”
“I’m so sorry” her voice turns soft and empathetic “what happened to her?”
“She was ‘just old’” I try not to mock her reference.
“Did you always look like this?”
I had been asked so often and yet the honesty in her eyes somehow I am not offended “NO” I answer honestly shaking my head “I was once very young and happy, I think that helped”
I think about my story, about Maike, Johanna, about her life. How I could have changed, how I have allowed this to become my life. “I don’t know…I can not answer that”
“My mom says you are a lost soul” saddened eyes “ I’m big too”
“Oh, don’t cry.” I place the urn between my enormous thighs and reach a hand toward her. She falls into me something I never imagined.
My first impulse is to shed myself of her. I know she needs me, but why? I rub her back gently. A bright flash comes from the dispensed crowd, they all look on, and some have begun to photograph us. I place a hand on her hair and shush her. I wonder what kind of mother would leave her child like this?
“Your mother seems like a very smart and caring woman. She is only trying to help… but look at me Elizabeth,” I turn her head to see my face, she is wet with perspiration and emotion “I don’t know you right?”
“And you don’t know me.”
“I do now!” her eyes hopeful
“Only what I have told you, and you have told me” who am I convincing this girl in my arms or myself? “But you think we are the same. You think you will become like me. Listen.” I hold her face gently “Even if I am ‘a lost soul’ and I probably am” I scoff “It is not something that has anything to do with you, you have a brightness, definitely a soul.”
“How can you know?”
I grab the urn and lift myself out of the bench “Will you walk with me?”
“OK” effortlessly she jumps off the bench and grabs my hand.
I feel lighter knowing she is with me. The stares are irrelevant. For a while we walked together in silence.
“Did you cry when she died? Do you miss her?”
“Very much so”
“Was she a smart caring woman, did she only want what was best for you?”
“Yes, but I was a very strong man and I did not let her.” I haven’t thought about that night since it began.
“Where are we going?”
“My mother had a dream about a shining valley, a bright light that will burn away the sins... She told me to come here.”
“The park” I point straight up the hill.
"Up there? the park ends, it's only a parking lot."
"Whether it is the place she dreamed of, or as you say. I know why I am here" She leans her head toward my solid arm, a simple gesture and what may be my own end.