LeQuan heaved her baby pink backpack over her broad shoulders, sighing at the added weight on her back. Her muscles ached. Her bones were tired. Her feet were sore. But no matter how far she walked everyday or how little she ate, the massive rolls of fat seemed to make deeper folds in her skin, pushing against her heart and making it ache. Even breathing was hard - she had to pace her steps precisely so that she wouldn't breath too loud or too hard; "The Bulldog" as her neighbor's kid called her.
She tried to shuffle out of the door as quietly as possible, but her mother's voice resonated through the puff of smoke from her joint. "You better walk to school. Don't be takin' no buses. You better walk all that fucking weight off."
LeQuan nodded slowly, running her hand against her hair. "Bye," she mumbled, and continued making her way out onto the landing of the run-down apartment building in which she lived. She shifted her schoolbag time and time again, its heavy weight pushing the hooks of her bra deeper into her skin.
LeQuan was the only one in the 5th grade that wore a "real" bra. All the other girls wore light undershirts, or cotton training bras for the budding teenagers. She, on the other hand, had to steal an old bra from her mother to support the heavy load on her chest.
Just thinking about walking down the long winding road to her school made small beads of sweat form on her upper lip. She wiped them away with the back of her hand, and wiped the back of her hand on her weathered jeans. The walk of shame began.
People walking on the sidewalks would always throw nasty comments at LeQuan, especially the younger boys. Always making stupid quips about her weight. "I'll show them. Someday," LeQuan would think to herself.
The sun beat down mercilessly against her forehead, causing more sweat to dribble down the sides of her face. The heat made her clothes cling to her body. Added weight. Sweat stains in the most unforgivable places. LeQuan felt the perspiration form between the folds of fat on her belly and her back.
"Fatass," a boy in his early teens yelled, lowering the volume on his boom box to make his voice heard.
LeQuan thought of glaring at him with her tiny slits for eyes, but she knew that his retaliation would be much stronger; more painful.
Just like the other day when she'd told a boy to shut up after he'd called her a whale. He'd thrown his tin lunchbox at her heavy-set legs, hurting her. The contents of his lunchbox spilled out onto the concrete pavement, and a hungry LeQuan had examined them quickly before hurrying on her way to school - an apple, some carrot sticks, and a juice box. "Are you gonna eat that?" the boy had roared, cocking his head to the side like he was ready to fight. "Fucking whale. Go on!"
She put her thumbs underneath the straps of her heavy backpack and continued walking, a multitude of colorful threats chasing her.
School was no different. LeQuan sat in the back of her class and had no friends, except for this one scrawny Mexican girl, Amelia, that hung around her because she was the only girl in class that couldn't speak English as well as the rest of the students. Amelia got called names too; Wetback. Illegal immigrant. Taco breath. The list went on.
LeQuan and Amelia would sit on the steps leading to the playground, and Amelia would give LeQuan half of her sandwich everyday. "Quieres mitad de mi bocadillo?" she'd ask in her squeaky voice, and LeQuan would nod slowly as she watched Amelia part her sandwich in half. They ate the same cream cheese sandwich everyday, but LeQuan didn't complain. She never got to eat cream cheese at home, or anywhere else, for that matter.
By the time LeQuan came home everyday, she was soaked from head to toe in her own sweat. Funny enough, the scale gave her the same number everyday. Sometimes it would go up a little, but never down. She would sit under the shower head and scrub herself silly, as if the weight would come off the harder she scrubbed.
Lunch was deep fried. Everyday. It was the easiest way for her mother to cook - frying anything and everything in hot oil or lard so that her child would be full and so that she could go back to smoking joints and watching old TV shows.
LeQuan would be too hungry to refuse a meal, and though she understood how too much grease could clog her arteries and kill her, she didn't care. Sitting on her ratty bed and staring at the pictures of modelesque black girls on her wall made her want to die anyways. When she'd close her eyes to sleep, she'd imagine herself to be as skinny and flawless as Halle Berry. Halle was her favorite.
She remembered as a child when her father would pick her up and hoist her over his shoulders. His laughing angelic face was one she'd never forget, and everytime he'd parade through the hallways with LeQuan on his shoulders, she'd feel invincible and free. "My little bluebird," he'd sing to her. "There's a bluebird on my shoulder!"
He'd always sing songs from "Song of the South" to her, and her heart would swell with love for him and his beautiful voice.
One day, when she was 6, she'd woken up and searched the house for him. But he was long gone by then. Trying to decipher the few words she understood from her mother's scream-fests with her grandmother, LeQuan knew that her father found out about her mother's love affair with drugs.
LeQuan wondered where he was now, or how different things would be if he was still here. She would be happier. Maybe even smarter. She'd be thinner, for sure.
But she wasn't. And that is the reality of an obese child growing up in a world that is depleted of love and care, and abundant with hate.