SETTING: A churchCHARACTER: Izzy, age fourteen
Lights come up on a podium. Next to the podium is an open casket. Izzy, uncomfortable in her stuffy clothes, stands behind the podium.
IZZY: I wasn’t going to speak today, but I’m so sick of hearing how ladylike Aunt Carla was. Aunt Carla wasn’t ladylike. She was fierce. She’s the reason I know how to play baseball. She told me once I have the strongest arm of any girl she’s seen pitch. After I threw my last no-hitter, my mom took me to Shake Shack for a cherry cone to celebrate. Aunt Carla used to love that place. Unfortunately, my sister went, too. (Looks for Janine in crowd, then waves) Hi, Janine. It really sucks when your sister calls you a pig for the way you eat. She and mom are obsessed with their weight.
Morning at my house goes like this. Mom and Janine high-five after sprinkling one-fourth a teaspoon of brown sugar on their grapefruits, the only sugar they’re allowed for the day. Then Janine packs lunch: 6 carrots and a tablespoon of crunchy almond butter. Mom swears she only eats apples while we’re at school, but Janine found a Ziploc of Oreos inside the Bible and now she wants to install security cameras.
Mom, you should know Aunt Carla thought it was ridiculous that you had pictures of Heidi Klum plastered across our refrigerator door. She never believed you were searching for God. She said your God is Heidi Klum.
Last night, when Janine took down those pictures, I thought things were going to change. But then Janine said Mom should have a new thinspiration and handed her a picture. Of Mom. On her wedding day. Some of you were there but I’ve never seen her in a dress before and her smile seemed real, the way she looks when she eats one-fourth of a devil’s food cupcake. She’s so tiny you can see her chest bone poking out and Janine pointed to Mom’s bone and said: “Banish weakness.”
Mom started crying and told Janine to burn the photo. But Janine stuck it in Heidi Klum’s old place, right next to my baseball schedule. I said maybe Mom and Janine should break a sweat once in a while. Maybe if their bodies felt stronger they wouldn’t be so weak around food. I thought that was pretty genius, but Janine rolled her eyes and said I should go on a diet, too. She said guys will like me if I lose ten pounds. She still doesn’t believe that I don’t want to get married and have a gazillion kids. (imitating Janine) Izzy, you’re not a lesbian. You’re just scared of letting a boy see you naked.
But I am a lesbian, everybody. I like girls and I like their bodies. Aunt Carol introduced me to Degas. I love the paintings of the women bathing. Aunt Carla said the Degas women were like us. They have curves. They look healthy.
I was there the day Aunt Carla found out she was sick. You should know she didn’t cry. Or freak out. Or anything you’d expect. She made me go outside with her, in the rain, and swim in the river. She raced me to the first rock and she won. She told me she would beat the cancer.
Mom made me look in the casket. For closure, she said. But I don’t feel closed. I feel like I’ve been busted wide open. Aunt Carla doesn’t look like the Degas paintings anymore. Her cheeks are grey and hollowed out and someone smeared red lipstick across her mouth. She looks so scary. I tried to wipe the lipstick off, but Janine pulled me away. She said I was being disrespectful. But Aunt Carla hated makeup. She looked beautiful exactly way she was. She told me I did, too.
The girls at school call me fat and ugly. It’s a fight not to believe them. But If Aunt Carla were here, I know she’d tell me to keep fighting. She’d promise me I can win.