A Letter From the Fat Person on Your Flight
When another passenger humiliates a fat person, what do you do?
To the traveler in seat 7C,
I met your eyes for the first time in the Long Beach airport. Quarters were tight and flights were delayed. Passengers were irritated by closeness, strangers’ skin too near their own. Their faces twisted, then calcified with aggravation.
Our flight was oversold, and I was reassigned at the last minute to a middle seat. When the ticket agent handed me my new boarding pass, I looked at her pleadingly, feeling the full width of my size 28 body. I know, she said. I’m sorry.
I retreated from the desk, defeated. I remember looking for warm faces, desperate to find softness in the frustrated passengers that would flank me. Who could I trust to tolerate the breadth of me? Whose face bore the marks of mercy?
That’s where I found yours, bright and warm, nestled in a persimmon scarf. I think you met my gaze. I think you smiled.
I planned carefully, working diligently to avoid taking any more space or time than I needed. I couldn’t afford to give my fellow passengers more reasons to take aim at my body. I lined up early, checked my suitcase at the gate, took my seat quickly. I watched the passengers file down the row, again searching their faces for something forgiving. I saw your warm face again, and hoped you’d sit next to me. You took your seat, one row up.
Then my seat mate arrived. When he sat down, he didn’t meet my eyes. He adjusted the arm rest, assertively claiming it as his own. He needn’t have—I had learned that any free space belonged to the thin. My arms were crossed tight across my chest, thighs squeezed together, ankles crossed beneath my seat. My body was knotted, doing everything it could not to touch him, not to impose its soft skin. I folded in on myself, muscles aching with contraction.
Suddenly, he stood up, fighting against a stream of passengers in the narrow aisle to speak with a flight attendant, then returned to his seat, looking thwarted. Moments later, he got up again. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but there was an urgency in his face. I wondered what their summit had been about. He returned to his seat again, mouth…