Monthly Archives: March 2014

I am twelve years old. I sit, perched high in the old magnolia tree that shoots, serpentine and massive, from the depths of my childhood garden and out into deep blue Summer sky. I am reading a book – probably something from Stephen King’s sprawling back-catalogue, a recent and heady obsession that my parents whole-heartedly disapprove of – and humming absently to myself, engrossed in a world of shape-shifting clowns and exterminator cars; of hotels that drive men to madness and death.

A ricochet of sound splinters high and fast through old wood and past my earlobe, and – almost dropping my book into the abyss of flowers and dirt below – I thrash around like a lunatic on high alert, looking, paranoid, for an overzealous mosquito or wasp. As I do so, I barely register the rain of tiny crimson dots falling haphazardly across the naked milk of my exposed legs. I’ve been hit.

A voice, alien in its accent and somehow both nowhere and all around me: “Hello.”

I search for the owner. Below, obscured by a canopy of evergreen leaves and the rotting wood of our old picket fence, stands a boy about half my height with curly hair, a wry smile and a handful of small stones.

“My name’s Tariq,” he says. “What’s yours?”

Tariq and I become fast friends, bonding quickly over our mutual dislike of girls (a regular catch-cry of ours becomes “BAGS NOT BABY BORN!” or “BAGS NOT MY MODEL!”, as though the worst thing a boy could be is some sort of plastic plaything for girls to fawn over), of homework (“My mum doesn’t make me do it. She can’t,” Tariq boasts, and I groan, sick with envy), of the neighbourhood in which we live. Most weekends we meet in my old magnolia tree, drinking in the hours before ten am, and stay out as the sun dies, heavy in the sky – usually until his mother comes, beseeching.

“Tariq!”, she calls, following this up with a stream of words spat like bullets in a language I don’t understand; a language that sounds thick and hot and excitingly other. I notice that Tariq always replies in English, which seems to anger his mother even more: she stands, a stony, regal figure draped in fabrics the colours of blood and buttercups, eyes wild, full of heat and passion, darting between her son, myself, and back to her son again. Finally she stalks away, back to the house, ostensibly to get Tariq’s father, who’ll yell louder, punish harder.

Tariq talks big, but the moment his mother turns her back he shimmies, feline and lithe, down the tree, and follows her inside – never bothering to say goodbye, except for a cursory glance and nod over his shoulder, always performed a few steps out from the lure of his back door. I wonder, sometimes, what would happen if I didn’t keep my spot, waiting obediently at the top of the tree to return his curt nod. I don’t try my luck.

One Saturday night he invites me over for dinner. I’ve never been inside his house before, but am delighted to find it smells like foreign and mystical herbs, smokey incense and the mouthwatering allure of meat. The walls and carpets are all the same rich red and yellow as his mother’s scarves, all given a ghostly, otherworldly quality by a lighting scheme centred round low-hanging lamps and sweet-smelling candles. His mother magicks up a meal of succulent chicken and honeyed yellow rice quite unlike the bland grains of mush my own mother provides.

“Saffron,” his mother smiles, handing me a plate and running a perfectly manicured hand through my hair – a very fashionable bowl-cut. A beat, and her eyes soften somehow, hazel pools drinking, pulling me in. “My mother taught me how.”

That night I sleep on tenterhooks, tangled in the thick and downy rug that covers the raw floorboards of Tariq’s bedroom, and dream restless images of alluring, foreign cooking, of ghastly trees etched in dark black veins, of tiny pebbles with wings and needlepoint stingers jutting out of every surface, crawling, swarming ‘cross my naked chest and up my neck, into my eyes, my nostrils, my mouth.

I wake with a start, a stream of sweat sliding hard and fast down my chest. Tariq stands above me, fully dressed, a piece of toast in hand.

“Get dressed,” he says. “I know what we’re gonna do this morning.”

The sun is hot, beating cruel upon our necks and we stand, stone still, in front of an imposing wooden door.

“It’s your turn,” Tariq whispers. “I did the last one.” My hand, shaking slightly, peculiar in its look, floats up despite my misgivings, and begins to clench into fist. “Remember,” he says. “We only run when they open the door – not before.”

My hand slams forceful into the painted wood – once, twice – and in an orgy of fury the door blasts open to reveal a towering bear of a man clad only in white boxer briefs.

“IDIOT!”, he screams – though I don’t hear him. There’s a ringing in my ears, the ringing of true terror, of an overbearing survival instinct – my brain on autopilot, spasming, whispering: run, run, run run runrunRUN. Tariq and I turn but it’s too late – a gargantuan hand, rough like hewn bricks, jets out and slides round each of our necks, pulling us up off the ground.

Silence, now, and both Tariq and I are limp, afraid somehow that if we move this man will snap our necks.

A pause, and he turns us around, slowly, his face red, veins mapping the rage and confusion on his ursine features.

“Now. Where do you live?”

A beat.

I burst into tears.

My mother’s justice is swift and to the point: no television for a month, and no more Tariq. He’s a bad influence, she says, and I deserve better.

“Deserve better?,” I ask. “What does that mean?”.

My mother tells me she’s seen him key someone’s car, she’s seen the way he looks at me, at other people – and now this. My mother says I used to be a good boy. A complacent boy. Like lightning, a brutal, shit-eating idea washes toxic across my mind.

“I know what this is,” I say. “You just don’t like the idea of me having friends from other countries.” I turn and advance on her, now, cheshire grin split wide and smug as I declare at the top of my lungs: “You’re a racist, that’s what you are! A racist!”.

My mother slaps me and leaves the room, the distaste, the hurt of my words written in her eyes. I turn to follow her – perhaps to apologise, perhaps to rile her further – as a face appears in the window. It’s Tariq; eyes bulging, ashen-faced and frightened.

He is crying.

I march down the street, head screaming sick and loud with thoughts of retribution. Behind me trots a small blonde girl – a girl named Jessica, with whom I once made sugared milk – with hair and skin the colour of braised butter, buzzing, excited to be included.

“We’re gonna get him?”, she smiles, her voice contorted, a faux-snarl full of bravado that doesn’t particularly suit her. “We’re gonna do it?”.

I think of my mother. Of the hurt in her eyes and the same softness mirrored in the eyes of Tariq’s mother.

“Yeah,” I reply, my voice not my own. “We are.”

We stand out the front of the offending house that had only a day earlier been the playing space for – in my pre-teen mind – a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. I search the property for signs of life – eyes darting from window to window, sweaty hands jammed deep into my jean pockets, fingering the violent edges of tiny grey stones.

Come on, I think. Somebody has to be home.


Bald head shining in the foreign, fluorescent lights of his kitchen, I spot the bearded colossus who had earlier taken me hostage. I’d never been one for sport – or good aim, indeed co-ordination of any kind – which is why I am as surprised as my young blonde friend that my hand, acting almost of its own accord, selects the perfect stone and throws it with a deadly and frightening accuracy.


The sound permeates through the late suburban afternoon, and for a few seconds it seems to be the only sound in the universe: no cars, birds, lawnmowers or sprinklers. No cicadas. No me.

Slowly, laboriously, Colossus turns his head. His beady eyes lock onto mine and I take a step forward, trying desperately to force my heart out of my throat and back down into my body. Had I bothered to do my Religious Education homework, I might have thought of David and Goliath – instead, I simply think that I am doing the right thing.

For Tariq, I think, hand reaching for more ammunition. Before I can, however, a cacophony of stones launches into the sky above; brash and savage, careening through the air – some hitting the house, others the garden, the car, ourselves – and Jessica is whooping in some sort of demented dance, screeching, limbs whipping and cracking through the air as she launches handful after handful of earth-matter, pebbles gone, ripping up chunks of dirt and grass with raw fingers.

“HEY!”, Colossus screams, head jammed out the window, that ferocious baritone enough to pull her out of her revelry. “I’ve spoken to one o’your parents already, and I can do it again – to bothofyerz. There’s women and children sleeping, so piss off.”

Bested again.

Round three.

Jessica stands in my kitchen, buttering thick slices of Vienna bread, lavishing them with Vegemite and smashing them together as I rifle through our upstairs attic. A-hah. I return, all smiles, with two deck chairs. I have the perfect plan.

Once more we march some hundred metres down the road, me with chairs in hand, Jessica with sandwiches, trashy magazines pilfered from her parents’ toilet collection and a 2 litre bottle of coke – no glasses.

Humming a jaunty tune, we turn the corner and begin to set up our chairs on the nature-strip out front of the offending house. The sun has begun to hang low in the sky, and though neither of us are particularly hungry, we unwrap our sandwiches and make a show of eating them, eyes fixed on the prize. After all, stone-throwing is deviant behaviour. But sandwich-eating? That’s practically our right. As Australians.

We eat slowly, savouring each saltine bite with fanatic, vocal worship – “Mmm! MMM! Isn’t this DELICIOUS?!”. The house – enemy front – remains silent, dead: windows darkened and reflecting our own Vegemite-smeared faces in the half-light of the early evening. Their car is gone – perhaps they’re out? But no. Once more, I spy movement in the epileptic sputter of the kitchen’s lightbulb.

It’s him, I think. Let’s see what he has to say now.

In the window, perfectly framed, stands a young, brown-haired woman, eyes bleary from sleep, hair knotted tight in an explosion of frizz, a chubby baby slung over her shoulder. She’s reaching for something, something out view – but as she does she notices the two kids on her lawn and starts, her face but for a second running the gamut of fear and confusion.

“Would – you – like – some – Coca – Cola?”, Jessica bellows, attempting for suavity but sounding more like the carer of a disabled child. At this, the woman laughs – silently behind the glass, her ivory smile seeming to fill up the kitchen – and waves at us, turning away to grab at something else.

I swallow, slowly, the sandwich suddenly turned to ash in my throat, and stand, nauseous hands grabbing out at the deck-chair behind me. The woman pops her head back in to flash us another smile, but it’s her flash of dread that stays with me: face creased up in uncertainty, shock, lines circling hard and fast round the waste of sleep still stuck in her eyes. The same dread I’d seen in my mother’s eyes; in Tariq’s, and the knowledge that I’d caused all three.

As I pack – Jessica’s confusion, younger than mine, ringing on dead ears – I empty my pockets, just to make sure.

A single pebble, grey and innocuous, free-falls out and hits the ground.

That’s that, then.


I have debated with myself for a while now, attempting to decide whether or not to explore this particular topic. One one hand, I’m pretty sick of it myself – however, the point of this blog (at the moment, for myself) is as a self-reflexive writing exercise: to look at things that have happened in my life, good or bad (or hilarious… mostly hilarious), turn them around, see how they’ve affected me. And, well. This is a big one. Pun intended. So, here goes: My name is Christopher Bryant, and I am an ex-fat person.

First, to get the boring shit out of the way: I was Fat. People often say, eyebrows raised: “you? Fat?! Never! Couldn’t imagine it”, or “everyone had to deal with a bit of puppy fat here and there”. But I assure you, folks, I was fat with a capital F, at my heaviest… I don’t remember, exactly, but hovering around the 120kg mark.

The funniest thing about my weight woes, was that, at my heaviest, I was totally unconcerned with the fact of my physicality. I was aware of the mass of my body, truly – rolls of insistent flesh rubbing against each other; a round face with no small resemblance to Rosie O’Donnell – and felt occasional flashes of guilt – for example when a friend’s mother, surreptitious but well-meaning, took my mother aside to ask if she’d tried to get me swimming (“It’s easier when they’re… well”) – but on the whole, I was rather nonplussed by the whole affair.

My parents, however, were particularly perplexed – their cherubic blonde child had, seemingly overnight, blossomed into a hungry hippo (who did drama, nonetheless), and whilst they didn’t love me any less, I think – coming from a family of engineers, mathematicians, union workers, skinny people – they were quite unsure as to what to do with me. This, I suppose, is the danger of adoption: traitor genes.

I’m not interested in engaging with body politics; this is not a political story, so I will say this and only this: nobody has the right to make you feel ashamed for what size you are, big or skinny. Even if you’re a pedophile. Because if you’re a pedophile, let’s be honest – you’ve got bigger problems.

At age 12 – not my heaviest, but on my way – a personal hero of mine was Miss Trunchbull, from Matilda – particularly the Pam Ferris version from the film of the same name. I remember with perfect clarity the first time I saw her in that film – the educational equivalent of the shark from “Jaws”, slicing through children like a sharpened blade; intimidating, terrifying, physical, and, best of all – fat!

I would practice my Trunchbull glare in the mirror before school, and mirror her gait – wide, commanding, and (if we’re honest) a practical way to avoid chafe – as I walked down the school hallway. I would rehearse Trunchbull quotes – once more in the mirror, in my room, alone – and dream of the day when I’d have the gall to use one. How people would stare. How impressed they’d be with my wit. How they definitely, obviously couldn’t have seen the Matilda movie.

It is lunchtime, and I can’t seem to find any of my friends. I’ve sat in the library for half an hour, sneaking bites of a sandwich from my blazer pocket while flipping through some insipid children’s novella about precocious young people solving mysteries, but I’m bored, now, the book has taken a turn for the worse and I crave some human contact.

I trudge through the hall, half here, half elsewhere, thinking of getting something from my locker, when a group of older girls I do not know very well emerge from a classroom, giggling.

They stop.

I stop.

They stare – eyes pushed down to slits below blonde quiffs and pink-puff scrunchies, perfectly appointed eyebrows, skin as clear as water.

I stare. And say: “What’re you laughing at?”.

One of the girls, self-appointed fat kid mediator, leans forward, and she smells of potpourri and old Dr. Pepper.

“You wouldn’t get it,” she advises, hand close to my shoulder, almost touching, not quite. “Trust me.” She smiles.

This is my moment. I understand. The spirit of Pam Ferris manifests on my shoulder, biceps bulging, hair pulled back and hobgoblin features rearing, ready to go, to chuck someone into the Chokey.

I speak, a direct quote: “Why not? I like a joke as well as the next fat person!”.

A beat. The girls seem perplexed. Then:

“Yeah”, the lead girl says, smiling genuinely now, and puzzled: “But… we’re not fat.”

My top 3 greatest moments of food shame, from age 10 to age 17, Number 1:

At age 10, my next door neighbour and I, bored, decide to mess around in the apothecary of the kitchen, inventing new taste sensations; the kind of things that’ll let us hit the big time.

After a few failed experiments – mostly involving adding food dye to existing products – we invent “shilk”. Shilk is, as the name might indicate, sugar mixed in with regular milk.

It is delicious.

I am 18, walking along the narrow brick path that leads from my school’s front gate past vast lawns intto the cluster of buildings where my homeroom resides.

As I trundle along, a voice, brimming with machismo, screams across the oval:


I turn, and flip the bird. It always perplexes me when people wield the fact of my weight as an insult, like I’ve somehow managed to coast through my life without realising the actuality of my body. Yes, I am fat. That’s correct. What else you got?


I am running on a treadmill.

My eyes hurt. My body screams. Each breath I take seems to fill my lungs up with sand and glass, shredding my insides black and raw and I feel I might vomit up my insides – my whole insides, stomach, intestines, veins, skeleton, the whole shebang. I’ll just start puking and turn myself inside out like a used condom ’till all that’s left is a pile of bones and a traitor brain who couldn’t control its eating habits. At least then I’d be skinny.

I pause the machine and move to the side, the clock counting down the seconds I have left on this desperate break. 29, 28, 27, 26…

In the reflection of the gym’s window I can see my speckled-egg, dirty blushed face, hair oil-slicked into my eyes. 15, 14, 13, 12…

Behind my own visage I see a man in a tight singlet and short shorts. He holds in each hand weights with a distinct “20KG” in bold letters printed on each side. He pulls them up, each one independent of the other, and the dominion of his biceps bulges, drenched, rising with every fall. 7, 6, 5…

I force myself back onto the treadmill. Below me is a large red button, hostile in its insistence: “GO!”.

I press the button and begin to run.

Age 19.

I’ve hit my goal weight, and am quietly perplexed that my mind hasn’t yet been blown. I still feel the same. I think that I look the same, only the scales say something different. Maybe they’re wrong. Maybe it’s a cosmic joke, and someone’s been fucking with me, Truman Show style.

A friend of my mother’s, sipping coffee, horse-mouth gnashing halfway through a mince tart, notices me and squeals, spraying a fine mist of crumb and spittle across the room through lipstick stained teeth.

“You! Look. At. You. You. Good. Thing.”

Look at me?

“You look so much better now! So good!”

My top 3 greatest moments of food shame, from age 10 to age 17, Number 2:

At age 14, I discover that my parents keep Kettle Chips in a small cupboard in the kitchen. They are, at the time, my favourite food in all the world – probably because, as a family, we have them so rarely.

One night, after everyone has fallen asleep, I sneak away a packet and stuff it into the crevasse between my bed and the wall. When I’m bored, I reach into the hole and – trying not to rustle too much, lest I wake anyone up – claim a handful of crisps.

The third time I do this, it is the middle of the day. I am reading a novel and munching happily, a pleasant nest of crumbs and crisps spread haphazard across my doona. Without warning, my aunt – staying over from interstate – wanders in, on the telephone.

She pauses, mid-conversation, eyes wide, and I can hear my mother chattering away on the end of the line. I say nothing, a buttercup chip suspended in the dead space between Stephen King’s It and my open mouth, silently praying for some sort of miracle.

The aunt speaks:

“Oh, no, I’m – I’m here, still. I just walked into Christopher’s room and he’s eating a pack of Kettle Chips. I… I don’t know whether he didn’t want to share them with me, or…”

To be fair, I really didn’t want to share them.

I am 16.

A friend’s boyfriend, who has been sizing me up for a good fifteen minutes, clears his throat and speaks, apropos of nothing:

“Yeah, I mean, I don’t think your tits’d be that big, really. An A-cup, at most.”

My top 3 greatest moments of food shame, from age 10 to age 17, Number 3:

I am 17, and it is New Year’s Day. All throughout the night before I have drunk with abandon – UDLs, the occasional beer, and the better part of a bottle of “Rasputin” brand vodka, purchased from a shady milk bar in outer Sunshine. I have done so in preparation for the challenge of the century: consuming a pounder meal. For those not in the know, one can, if one desires, ask for a “Pounder” from your local McDonald’s. It is made especially. It takes approximately 20 minutes to be assembled. It looks and smells like Cthulu’s taint.

The actual consumption of said Pounder took just under an hour, with several stops to rehydrate (on a chocolate shake – go hard or go home, in a coffin, apparently) and wait out the meat-sweats. I did it, though. I’m not proud, but by god did I eat that thing.

I suppose, really, when you start your year by consuming a pound of McDonald’s meat, you’ve only got one place to go: up.

I am 23.

I stand in front of the mirror. I am shirtless. I run my hand up and down my chest, over my stomach, my sides, grabbing at myself as I go. I do this every day, and every day I see that same old moonface staring back at me, sunken eyes, piggy nose, a face that nobody could or should love. I go to the gym four or five times a week – no longer at the expense of spending time with friends or family, as I did at 22, but also because I am convinced I will never shift the imagined weight – and drink diet shakes for breakfast, sometimes for lunch as well. Carbohydrates are the enemy. Fat is the enemy. I am the enemy. My shirt size is small, my pant size is smaller than it’s been in quite some time, but the mirror says otherwise, and who am I going to believe?


I am standing in a young man’s bedroom. I am stripped down to my underpants. He is naked. The curtain, which had been open, is now closed by my request, and I feign confidence in the safety of the dark. He pads towards me, clear azure eyes dancing below chocolate locks, the faintest hint of stubble flirting ’round his mouth – his mouth, I am focussed on his mouth – and he stops, still, calm.

He looks me up and down, slowly, luxuriously, eyes drinking in the contours of my body. In a daze, I slide off my underpants, and, emboldened, run a hand down his hard ivory chest, tracing the lines, the muscles, the skin, the flesh. He feels so different to the lines of my own body and I can’t stand it; my hands are shaking with a junkie’s twitch.

He smiles, then:


A beat.

My heart is pounding loud, too loud, I am given away, and my brain clicks into hyperspeed, screaming, apologising, pulling me out, away, back home to where it is safe, where the curtains are open and nobody can look at me and I am in jeans and a t-shirt and a jacket watching television or doing Uni work or exercise or exercise or exercise or –

He kisses me, and our bodies move together.

I realise that I don’t have to apologise, or leave, unless I want to, and then – for the first time, if only for a second –  I realise that I am no longer fat.

My first moment free of body shame hit me like lightening, and for that following half hour I felt more open than I’d ever felt.

The next moment came a few weeks later. A friend made a joke, sarcastically, about how fat I was, and my immediate response was not blind terror. I simply smiled, and laughed.

From then on, moments flew towards me on the daily, free falling like tiny drops of rain, each one whispering, smiling, assuring me with every lover, friendship, flirtation, enemy made: “you are okay”, and, importantly: “you were always okay.”

I am 24, and working in a cafe.

As I work, I overhear a gaggle of women chatting, laughing. One of them pipes up:

“Oh, yes – that cake looks delicious. But let’s just get one, to share. That sounds great, doesn’t it, girls?”

They agree, their dull enthusiasm belying their desire for plan b – the plan where everyone gets their own individual slice of cake, and nobody complains about their thighs.

As I wash the dishes, I contemplate whether or not to tell them that plan b is always the better option.

My greatest moment of food shame, age 25 and 20 weeks to 25 and 21 weeks:

Not having enough money to buy prawns and saffron to make paella properly, the way it should be made.

Well, then.

This week has been ridiculous, time-wise, and I haven’t had the opportunity to write something specifically for this blog. Instead, I’m posting the rough-as-guts first draft of something. This is a performance poem/monologue written for a project we’re completing for the ABC that has sprung from the Afghanistan war and the ways in which modern technology (Skype, email etc) mean there’s no paper trail between families/civilians and soldiers in the war. We don’t really know exactly what form the project will take place in – part of the joy of finding out – so at the moment we’re developing a series of responses to material we’ve been handed, our own research and brainstorming.

Preamble over.

Bright light
Pale white heat bouncing down off harsh linoleum and back up dead into my eyes
Carving lines
Harsh topography deep through my skin
I can see
In the bland reflection of the supermarket fridge
That I look like shit
White heat framing my face
A traitor line of fat pressed cosy underneath my chin
Sick black circles nested deep round my eye-sockets
And I can see
At the door
Holding your bags
That face expectant
Taut and framed
Like you’d never left –
How absurd.

I am standing, stone still and stupid
As a farmhouse cow
In one of those hugging machines
That Temple Grandin made
– to calm them down,
ready for death –
And I am at war
With myself
Over brands of yoghurt
When I realise that I have stopped loving you.

It’s not your fault
I think
As I pretend, in vain
To investigate the dietary benefits of Jalna –
“Taste the pot set difference!”
– we just grew apart
As people tend to do
Only literally, here
Instead of emotionally
And the distance –
Nine thousand, five hundred and ninety-seven point five-eight kilometres, approximately
–  has pulled me away from you.

And it hasn’t been easy
And it’s selfish to say
You’re in a desert
I think
Somewhere arid
I mean, I think it’s arid
Is the Middle East arid?
It’s landlocked
Without sea or river or –
So I presume it is, I mean –
Beside the point
It’s landlocked
Like me

Clenched knees, clawed hands
Holding my onto my yoghurt
My bifidus regularis life preserver
And my sick, stupid face
And some Skype meeting with you
In an hour
Only I don’t think I can bare it:

And your buddies
In pixelated glory
Beers clutched in hand
Your friend
Mike? Mitch? Munted.
Pretending to fuck your helmet
Sweat pouring down his unkempt face
Cock out
A blessed blur
As you pull the laptop away
And you
Playing at shame
“Come on”
“Come on guys”
“That’s my lady”.

And what a cliché
That strikes me as
How I was never your lady
Your girlfriend, sure
A good fuck, most definitely
A bitch on the rag, well –
But not anyone’s “lady”.

And it wasn’t the sex –
Tired, uncomfortable
MacBook balanced on my sweaty calves
Reaching down to readjust the camera
To a better angle
To hide my slight paunch
The one I’ve always had
The one you never seemed to mind
The one that’s suddenly accentuated
In 1280 by 1024
Pretending to enjoy
Your genital violence
Pressed hard against your hand
As you search for release
So as not to wake your “buddies” –

Nor the communication
In fact, it was easier
In a sense
Smiling sadly at my friends –
“He’s gone, and I don’t know when he’ll be back” –
But something else entirely.

The funny thing is
And you’ll laugh
I think you’ll laugh
I really think you’ll laugh:

When you left
And I kissed you
And I smiled
And I said
(Jokingly, I swear)
“Don’t change”
“Don’t you go and change on me, now”
And you smiled back
And you kissed me
And you said
“I won’t”
“I promise you, I won’t”?

Well, the joke here
Is that instead
I went
And changed
On you.