It was another several weeks and at least another dress size before Jacob called Cindy with an invitation to a Sunday picnic in the country. He asked her to take Friday off and meet him after work late Thursday night.
And I don’t have a thing to wear, Cindy thought with a smile. She pulled on her gray blouse and easily gathered about four inches of material into her fist at the waist.
So, on her lunch break, rather than eating at the employee cafeteria, Cindy walked (not rode) to the city mall. It was amazing how many different ads for food she encountered along the way. Every few steps, there was another smiling skinny person stuffing super savory treats down their throat. For the first time, Cindy noticed the total lack of fat people in advertising imagery. Fat didn’t sell. Fat was scary. But thin wasn’t only beautiful, it was inspirational. Especially thin people consuming super-sized portions and still remaining pretty, healthy, and happy.
And now that she saw it, Cindy couldn’t help but notice that there were nudges to eat everywhere she looked. She even smelled food; some vague but undoubtedly tasty food was releasing smell molecules into the public streets. Skipping food—or even just not thinking about it—was very difficult in public spaces, it turned out.
By the time Cindy got to the entrance to the mall, she was no longer in a good mood.
“I’ll just grab something and go,” she told herself.
Walking past the four escalators, Cindy turned left into the ladies’ section of the fat people’s mall. Even here, there were little ads for food:
Best falafel in town, just take the people-mover two blocks west.
World’s Greatest Ice Cream—use the back entrance for the wide ice cream parlor seats.
Candy, popcorn, movie, oh my! Use the doors on the left to access the super-sized comfort lounge.
The world was divided into places for fat people and places for skinny. And with everyone’s weight so carefully controlled, as Jacob had explained, it was easy to see how people had been sorted by weight and thus manipulated into the socially desired regions.
“Why didn’t all this bother me before?” Cindy couldn’t believe how brazen the signs were—and how cruel. No one was even trying to hide it. She remembered how scared she had been of fat people when she was a little girl. That fear had even been encouraged by her parents: “Wouldn’t want to have someone accidentally crush you, dear.”
Cindy brooded as she walked down the row of columns, trying to find the one that matched her girth. This time, she didn’t have to walk as far.
She looked around her. The styles all seemed to scream circus clown. Who buys this stuff?
“Can I help you find something, Miss?”
It was the same voice, the same sales clerk from before.
“I’m looking for something black, like my mood,” Cindy said.
The store clerk seemed to be hiding behind a rack of heart-themed pajamas. “Over there, by the wall, Miss. I believe you might need a size smaller than last time.” So—the woman remembered Cindy and had noticed her weight loss. And that voice… it was so familiar. Cindy just couldn’t place it. She tried to walk casually over to get a better look at the clerk, but the woman shifted away out of sight.
Cindy shrugged and walked toward the back wall as directed, supposedly toward something wearable by humans. There she found a long cotton frock. It was a simple thing: long, coming down almost to the feet, short-sleeved, and made out of a heavy stretch jersey material. Perfect. Cindy took one, and then, after a hesitation, she grabbed another. These dresses would work for a while. She could even use a belt if she ever got thin enough.
As she turned to go, she caught the store clerk staring at her; the woman must not have expected Cindy to be done so soon. Something about the woman’s face—the fear, the familiarity—made Cindy drop the black dresses on the floor. When she picked them back up again, the woman was gone.
I know her, thought Cindy. How do I know her?
Unnerved, Cindy walked back to the cashier station at the center of the mall. On the way, she picked up a big straw hat. Jacob hadn’t been too specific about what he meant by a picnic, but Cindy wanted to be prepared.
It took less than ten minutes to get home to drop off her purchases; Cindy had become a fast and confident walker. There are perks to being a mail woman, she thought.