Dormant Cultures

Brian has never thought of himself as obese, in fact, Brian never really thinks of himself at all—at least not in a think deep, get down to the nitty-gritty kind of way. Brian believes his life is better spent thinking of others. This way he can avoid thinking about how he hasn’t seen his ankles in more than a decade, how spreading his fingers no longer lets any light stream through and the only furniture in his house that ever gets any use is his recliner and an old metal TV dinner stand from the ‘70s.

No, Brian is not obese; he is just more worried about helping others than himself. Brian is a psychotherapist—well, almost. He received his degree in psychology from an online university. When he was told he had to do a practicum and internship at a licensed therapy office, Brian decided he didn’t need the hands-on experience before breaking out on his own. He decided to forgo the masters and doctoral degrees and get right to the heart of it—his own practice. 

Brian’s private “therapy” practice is non-traditional—not Mexican food for Thanksgiving dinner non-traditional, but non-traditional in that Brian’s clients don’t ever see him, they just hear his voice while paying $1.99 a minute. 1-900-I-Do-Care is an ideal business for Brian. He gets to sit in his favorite chair with a headset, to keep his hands free for eating, and do what he loves—solve people’s problems. He gets a variety of different calls, and not all of them are calling for therapy. Some of this is due to the fact he does not spend the money on advertisement. Most of his business is word-of-mouth or accidental, although how someone can mistake the word “Care” for “Cock” as they dial is beyond him.

Doing therapy from your own home has many advantages. Brian’s favorite perk is the ability to get something to eat whenever you want it, and Brian seems to want it a lot.

Brian’s stomach rumbles, and he struggles to move his bulk from his chair. There is an art to it, and he has learned over the years how his body responds to different movements—most of them negative. With his left hand planted firmly on the worn upholstery of the arm, he uses his right hand as a wedge—shoving it under his right thigh. As with anything that has rooted itself in place with heat and moisture, Brian has to essentially “break the seal” before his body can move upward. He wiggles his hips from side to side until his butt is touching the edge of the chair. 

With both hands on the arms of the chair, Brian leans as far forward as his layers of flesh will allow and takes a deep breath. This is always the hardest part. He must gain momentum without pulling back. Against all laws of physics and nature, Brian lunges forward violently. His whole body rockets from the chair where it teeters precariously close to falling forward before righting itself, as in slow motion, to a standing position. Brian is so out of breath and exhausted from this exercise of freedom he is tempted to just set his bulk back in the chair, but the growl from his stomach reminds him of his mission and he slowly shuffles toward his kitchen.

Brian has to turn sideways to get through the doorway, which only improves his movement slightly, as he is almost as thick front to back as he is wide. He imagines a great popping noise, like that of a cork pulled from a wine bottle, as he moves through the wooden frame into the open space of the kitchen.

 Brian loves his kitchen. If his chair would fit through the door, and he had room for the rest of his home’s furnishings, he would live there. The walls are painted a creamy yellow, the color of a good Hollandaise sauce, and the cabinets have glass fronts so all their contents are available to Brian’s eyes at all times. This serves a dual purpose—it allows Brian to make food choices without the effort of opening and closing cupboards, and it also reminds him when he is low on any particular item. If only he had a glass-front refrigerator, his life would be even simpler.

Brian doesn't shop.  Not for clothes, and definitely not for food. Some people think grocery delivery is a new concept, another online convenience like dating, but people have had food delivered from their favorite grocers for decades. As far as Brian is concerned, it’s retro. Brian makes a list and forwards it by email to Safeway, and food is delivered to his door an hour or two later by a uniformed teenager with bad acne. He endures the incredulous, and sometimes disgusted, looks his weight elicits and waves them into the house from his chair. For a generous tip, he can convince the majority of delivery people to put his groceries away, thus saving him the up and down ritual that saps so much of his stored energy.

Brian makes a mental inventory as he scans the cupboards and refrigerator shelves. He pulls out a can of soda and sees a six-pack of yogurt. He wrinkles his nose, looks at the date and throws it in the direction of the trashcan. The plastic pack bounces off the rim and pink and white goo sprays across the floor and up the back door, leaving a translucent pattern on the window that Brian thinks resembles South America. 

Brian had never actually ordered the yogurt. Brian never ate anything that advertised the fact it had live anything in it.  Live cultures may be beneficial to digestive health, but they were still alive. One whole bag of his grocery order that particular week didn't look like his. Brian knew the neighbor lady down the street got delivery too, and wondered if it was one of hers. He assumed the fruit snacks were for her kids and the vodka was for her, but everyone knows what happens when you assume. Brian ate the fruit snacks, put the vodka in the freezer and promptly pushed the yogurt to the back of the fridge and forgot about it. That was three months ago.

Brian surveyed the mess, took in the smell and turned his back. It would take more effort than he was willing to expend to clean it up. Better to just let it sit until the proteins broke down into a milky liquid, began to mold and finally congealed and dried. Then it wouldn’t be a problem at all, just another bit of “wall decoration”. Brian’s phone rang and he pressed the side of his headset to answer. 

"Dr. Beamen on the line, and I Do Care."

"Dr. Beamen? It's Ralph. The cravings have started again."

"Ralph, take a deep breath and let's try to examine your triggers."

Brian turned around to make his way to his computer where he had several bookmarks for psychology sites equivalent to WebMD. Just as his stomach caught up with this motion, Brian’s right foot came in contact with some of his food art and he began to fall. He aimed his right hand in what he assumed was the direction of the counter, trying to catch himself. All it did was break his arm as the weight of him crushed his wrist and then the ulna and radius. The sound, like crushing walnuts, reached his ears just before his head caught the corner of the tiled countertop. Brian’s vision faded as the warm blood mixed with yogurt and seeped into the grout in the tile floor.

Ralph did not hear the commotion on the other end of the line. The crunch and grind of pottery against his teeth masked the suffering.