“You’re too skinny; you eat like a bird,” her mother kept saying. Which was typically clueless, Lydia thought. She ate nothing like a bird. Birds, Lydia knew, ate like pigs. Except even pigs didn’t eat as much. If only she could eat like a bird, scarfing up her own body weight in pizza and chocolate or ice cream. If she ate like a bird, she could surround herself with gallons of Cookies ’N Cream, spoon it in with a trowel, and never gain an ounce. Just burn it all off as part of her daily routine: running to the bus—two gallons; walking from English to math—one gallon; waving her hand in the air to answer a question (as if she ever did)—at least a pint.
She could eat breakfast and lunch. Stop pretending to eat dinner. Could ignore this body always waiting to careen out of control, ready to betray her the moment she stops reining in its desire.
She could preen down the hallway like Madison Wheeler, cropped Capri pants, cropped tops, even her smile cropped off half the time, everything cropped short save the plumage of her long blonde hair that bounced in the whoosh of air created by the near-ceaseless chatter and circling motion of her flocking admirers.
If she were a bird, Lydia thought, she’d unshackle herself from the grounding weight of her form (a pigeon’s body if it were in fact a bird’s—soft and plump no matter what her mom or her friends say), sparing its crumpled shape neither thought nor backward glance as she flitted away, leaving it and everything else behind. Though not, perhaps, before taking a moment to peck out the eyes of Madison Wheeler. It’s possible she’d be that kind of bird.
work has appeared in numerous publications, including Colorado Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Cream City Review, Flash, Rosebud, and Man in the Moon: Essays on Fathers and Fatherhood (Center for Literary Publishing, Colorado State University, 2014); as well as in these W.W. Norton anthologies: Brief Encounters (2015), Short Takes (2005), and In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Non-Fiction (1996). Recognitions include the “notable essays” section of Best American Essays and several Pushcart Prize nominations. In addition, several of his full-length and shorter plays have received stage readings in GEVA Theatre’s Festival of New Plays and the Fringe Festival. He lives in Rochester, New York.