“You could gain some weight,” my neighbor told me. “A lot of weight.”
“How are you?” I offered.
“You must not be drinking nearly enough beer. That’s your problem.”
It looked like we were going to continue talking about my weight.
“I don’t know if that’s my biggest problem right now.” Instead of making eye contact, I watched a drop of water slowly muster up the courage to leave a leaf and explode onto the ground. I imagined my brain was the water droplet.
“You need a good daily dose of Coors or Corona.” I don’t know why he was speaking like a doctor because it was clear he hadn’t seen one in years. “Maybe mix in some Bud Light, too.”
I wished he’d stop naming beers. I have no interest in beer, and for some reason people have been trying to change that since I was nine years old. “If you wanna be a man, have yourself a beer!” said my friend’s dad to 9-year-old me. I’ll never understand why people worship beer so much. When I was 12, I saw my priest chug a Coors after a midnight mass.
“Just look at you. You’re thin as a rail.” I’d heard this phrase before, and I didn’t like it the first time.
Some people worship my weight almost as much as they worship beer. If people started caring about other things, maybe the world could be a better place.
“yeah, yeah,” I eventually responded, not knowing what I meant. I probably meant to say “I wish you were dead,” or “You should’ve joined that rain drop.”
What really bothered me was that he was not the first person to comment on my weight this week. Three days prior, my grandfather told me I looked fatter than usual. The day before that my friend punched me in the stomach and said, “Nice six pack, faggot.” I don’t talk to them anymore.
“I can get you some beers if you want.”
I was appalled we were still talking about this. This man is of the age where people wouldn’t flinch if he died, so I would think he had other things to talk about aside from beers. Maybe he loved three people in his 30’s but they all left him due to his alcoholism. Maybe in his 40’s, he built an entire house by himself. Maybe he fought in the civil war.
But all he wanted to talk about was beer and my weight.
“Come on in, and I’ll bulk you up.”
Now, what the hell does that mean? I was not interested in finding out, especially in today’s circumstances, so I told him I was late for school even though it was New Years Day.
“That’s no excuse. Come inside.”
The format of this story is becoming almost more irritating than the conversation with my old neighbor.
I’m not ageist, it’s just relevant.
“Yeah, I gotta get going,” I said as I wondered where I should go.
I was starting to question why I was here in the first place, and I remembered I was supposed to give him a gift. I was not giving this old man a gift. No chance. Not anymore. I’ve never been into gifts, but this was a situation I knew how to navigate.
The gift in my hands was a bunch of homemade chocolates that apparently taste fantastic.
“I have a gift,” I said, holding the chocolate in front of his nose as if he were a baby.
“You know I like chocolate,” he said.
I sure do.
“Spot!” I called out while rolling my eyes that people still name their dogs that.
The old man’s dog came running up to me and I fed Spot all the chocolate I had.
“He loves it,” I said with a smile.
The old man neighbor was frozen. If he hadn’t had so many beers in his lifetime maybe he would be able to squat down and help his dog.
“He’s going to die,” the old man finally mumbled.
“I’m just helping him out,” I said. “He’s thin as a rail.”
©2022 Jake Schick