--THINGS CHANGE. THAT’S ALL THEY EVER DO
How to Shrink a Human Head
One night the silence caves in around us until my husband becomes brave enough to share. In a voice not quite a whisper he says, “You used to be so lovely.”
Through the fabric of my sweatshirt, I grip a rim of stomach flap as if it’s the last life raft. My legs feel leaden, two waterlogged halves of a discarded totem pole.
He says, “You did,” and stares.
“Well?” I say, trying not to squeal or scream, unable to stop the little bug of cheek flesh from twitching and giving me away. “No one’s making you stay.”
He doesn’t slam the door when he leaves like I wish he would. In fact, his footfalls down the hall make no more sound than house slippers. When I press my ear to the seam, I hear the couple two doors down making crazy monkey love the way we used to do.
In the bedroom I stand on a stool and take a box down from the closet. Half of it is filled with candy bars, the bottom half with a shoebox of old photographs. The girl in them is indeed pretty. Thin. Leggy. A single chin. An oval-shaped head instead of a bucket.
When I was younger I ate whatever I wanted when I wanted. Mother told me my metabolism would catch up to me someday, but what kid believes anything a parent tells them? “Willpower has everything to do with this,” she’d say, thumping my skull with a finger.
I disrobe, step on the bathroom scale, but it’s impossible to see how much I weigh because my belly hangs too far out and when I lean back I almost topple.
I walk to the mirror to look at myself, but my eyes won’t move past my shoulders. I know the truth, but I don’t want to see it.
I stare at my face, the melon cheeks, the way my head has gained girth, too. How can that be?
I need to start somewhere. It’s now or never.
On the computer, I search terms like “Top Heavy” and “Big-headed” but most are porn sites or ones linked to cures for arrogance. When I type in “Shrunken Heads,” pictures of rubberized skulls appear, most with their eyes and lips stitched shut.
I tell myself that’s what I need to do-- just make a start.
The paragraph below the photos is titled, “How to Shrink a Human Head.” It talks about decapitation, boiling, how red seeds are placed underneath the eyelids… It’s entirely explicit.
Just make a start, I tell myself again.
In the kitchen, I withdraw the biggest knife from the butcher block. I fill a pot with water and turn on the stove. But before I do anything else, I get my sewing kit out and thread a needle with fish line. I pull my upper lip out and drive the tip through skin. I do it quick. I don’t give myself time to change my mind.