It was the end of another long day: up at the crack of dawn to clean outside the hotel around the pool, then helping with breakfast, more cleaning (stripping beds and doing bedrooms), a break for a few hours in which I went to the local shop for supplies then sat in my room with the curtains drawn shoving junk food in my mouth, more cleaning, then helping with dinner.
When it got time for me to eat I binged even more than normal, piling the food that little bit higher on each plate; going back for one entire plateful over and above what I normally did. It was a wonder I could pack it in there but I was somehow able to. It made me think about the scratching I had had when I was in my old life. Back then I would have felt bloated after half of one plate. Nowadays I was having four; eight times further on than I would have said stop in the old days.
I didn’t play poker with Maxine and the girls. The cook finished in the kitchen earlier than normal. I saw him headed out and followed after him. I caught up with him on the stairs up toward his room.
He turned back but the look on his face wasn’t a happy one. He looked put out.
I gave a shy, needy smile. “Where are you off to? Are you having an early night?”
“Er... I, uh... I’m busy tonight. Out for drinks with friends.”
“Oh.” I smiled. “Can I come?”
He looked pained. “It’s just men.” He continued up the stairs. I walked after him.
“Are you going out right away?”
“Not... In a while. In half an hour.”
“Oh. I might come up then and hang out with you while you get ready.” He was moving quickly in his lithe slim body. I struggled to keep the same distance between us in my bloated, sagging one. He reached the first landing and hurried down the corridor to the back stairs. He was pulling away. “Hang on,” I said, giving a nervous chuckle. “I can’t keep up.”
He stopped and gave off a sigh. I waddled up behind him. The skin around his eyes and mouth was taut. Had anyone ever looked at me like that in my former life? No men surely. Men had been fawning or lustful, kind or generous, charmed by my looks and my personality.
“What is it?” he said. “I told you I’m busy.”
“I just... wanted to spend some time with you while you were getting ready to go out,” I said.
“Why do you want to come up? I don’t have time for sex. I’m going out.”
“To... talk? I was feeling... I’m a bit lonely. Are you sure I can’t come out drinking with you?”
The tightened skin around his eyes spread onto his cheeks in ribbons of white. “I want time away. That is the whole point. I don’t want you there. It’s embarrassing.”
“Pfah.” He walked away.
“Wait,” I said. “Embarrassing how?”
He stopped, scratched his forehead, didn’t turn.
“Vasilis. What is it?”
He showed me his face. “I like... big women. That’s why I like you. But you’re too big now. Too fat. Look at you. You’re gross. My friends think I’m an idiot being with you.”
He walked away then paused. “If you want to fuck later then you can come up when I get back. I’ll knock on your door.” He looked pissed off like I’d just done him down somehow. “Do you want that?”
The offer was made like he was doing me a favour.
I thought of all the men who had pursued me in my life as a beautiful model: hundreds of handsome guys willing to do anything to earn my favour. There was no pursuit here. Even his initial interest had been lackadaisical. If anything I was the pursuer and looking at his gaunt, sunken face, bony body and protuberant eyes, his greasy skin, I saw reflected my own level of attractiveness. But it wasn’t just looks; it was all about self-image and confidence. Out of the two of us, he had assumed the dominant role. I was the one desperate for the connection. He could take it or leave it.
“Well” he asked. “Do you want to fuck later?”
My mouth quivered. I looked at his dirty shoes. Still looking at them, I nodded.
“Fine,” he said offishly, again as though he were granting a boon. “If I feel like it I’ll give your door a kick on my way past. You can follow me up.”
“But do something about your appearance first for God’s sake. You get fatter and uglier each time I see you. And cleaning makes you smell.”
He turned away again and this time he didn’t look back.
I stood there in the corridor, trying to understand what had just happened for well over ten minutes. All I could think about was the man I’d spied flirting with Melissa next to the pool; how into her he had been.
Surely I had almost achieved my goal in full now. I was no longer treated like the woman I used to be in any way.