A funeral was no place to have an epiphany. Epiphanies galvanise people into action and the only action you could get away with in a church pew was discreet fidgeting. Even that was considered unseemly when a heart-felt eulogy was being delivered by the deceased's mother, as Mary was finding out to her discomfort. The priest was beginning to shoot her dirty looks.
But really, as epiphanies went, it was a brilliant one. She couldn't believe she had taken this long to realise it. She was fat. Plain and simple. Mary was much too fat. It explained everything. Her husband had left her for a skinny bitch because she was fat, the university she'd wasted half a decade on refused to give her tenure because she was fat and her dog had knee problems because, much like Mary, Spot was fat.
Everything Mary came into contact with miraculously gained weight, became squishy and stopped trying. Except for her ex-husband who had gained weight, gone all squishy, and then tried so hard he had landed a pre-pubescent stick-insect with inflatable breasts. And then he'd had the audacity to die mid-coitus, his hands fixed on the stick-insect's presumably heaving bosom and his face frozen in a rictus of glee so obscene the mortician had recommended a closed casket.
Well clearly life wasn't fair. Or Ben wouldn't have died and left Mary's alimony to his filthy little child-bride. And if life were fair, Mary wouldn't have felt compelled to attend the funeral of the man who had abandoned her for perkier pastures. And certainly, if life were fair, the pastures in question wouldn't be right across the church aisle from her, undulating across her peripheral vision like fresh waves of bitterness.
So here she was, stuck in her asshole of an ex-husband's funeral when she should be doing something, anything, about the fact that she was much too fat. She wouldn't even be quite this fat if it weren't for him. She had been skinny once, a gazillion years ago before her boobs had headed south along with her career and her marriage. Something about being married just made people fat. After a while it was almost as though they were spurring each other on to greater girth just to see if his heart would give way before her knees did. He won that particular race. And now Mary really was single. She'd never felt like she was, even when the divorce papers came through and Ben gadded off to the Bahamas with his barely-legal mid-life crisis. But there was something irrevocable about a casket. Her husband was dead, and she had the certificate to prove it. She was single. And she was going to be skinny.
There were sitting down exercises she could do while stuck in the pew… She'd read about some sort of a butt-crunch. You had to tense and relax your muscles in quick succession. It seemed easy enough. And she could do it without anyone realising she was secretly vibrating her butt muscles. Except the article had failed to mention fine details like the fact that a minute or so of vigorous butt-crunching could result in a wedgie so severe Mary felt like she was wearing a thong. She tried to butt-crunch the wedgie away but it seemed underwear didn't ride down with equal ease. It was actually starting to hurt. Mary wriggled in her seat, earning another glare from the priest. She could fish it out, but the priest would probably kick her out if she tried that. Not that that would be a bad thing. The church had been stifling before but now, with a wedgie creeping up her butt, it was absolutely unbearable.
She shouldn't have tried the butt-crunches. Her butt wasn't even that bad. She'd always had a nice ass. Ben used to love her ass, right up until he fell for the teeny-bopper's chest. The problem was her tummy. She was so thick around the middle even her folds had mini-folds. Mary had to create the illusion of a waist with industrial-grade spanx while Ben's stick-insect had a waist so tiny you could probably snap her in two. The minute the funeral was over, Mary was going to rush out and do a thousand crunches. Not the butt kind, because her underwear seemed to ride up higher if she so much as thought about those. Regular crunches. So many that she'd have fat leaking out her ears by the time she was through. That was her plan and she was sticking to it. And no more late night snacks. She'd got into the habit because of Ben. They used to curl up with biscuits and hot chocolate every night. Ben would read his detective novels while she marked papers. It had been nice. Spot would snuggle between them like a living bolster. But now there was no Ben, just a whole lot of hot chocolate and Mary's flabby gut.
It was really unbearable in the room. Mary could hardly breathe. She fanned herself but her face was heating up and she really couldn't breathe. Mid-gasp a sound burst out of her. It was loud and it took her by surprise. And then there it was again, like a hiccup. All the while the pressure built behind her face, her eyes, and tears were rolling down and for some reason Mary was sobbing, ugly sobbing with snot and random howls. The funeral had blurred through her tears but she could feel someone's arm around her and she stooped over, sobbing. It was so odd, but there she was, crying at Ben's funeral.
As she cried a part of her couldn't help speculate about the calories she was burning with her inexplicable tears. But mostly she thought about Ben.