Though he refuses to call it a diet. He doesn’t even own a scale, he says. It’s a lifestyle, he says. It’s about the way he feels, he says, opening a Tupperware of hard-boiled eggs and a plastic bag of raw spinach. He drops the eggs in the bag whole. Thud. Thud. Thud. It’s sad. It’s Sunday and we had yesterday off. I got to go home. My kids and I played so many rounds of Mario Kart. We ate two bags of popcorn, their little hands reaching in over and over til their fingers met salt sand on the bottom. Then, a giant bag of M&Ms. Who can say no to them with so few days off? Our indulgence. Family, greased controllers, all that sugar. I have taught them this desire. Laps and laps around Toad Harbor, Sunshine Airport, Rainbow Road. All that salt.
My body double pulls a little salad dressing container from his back pocket and pours some into the bag. Closes the bag. Shakes the bag. The leaves and eggs make a slimy thwacking sound. Gimme that, I say, laying my peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the foil resting in my lap and reaching for the glass bottle. Kaveman Kitchn, the label says. Ingredients: Apple cider vinegar. Spices. Avocado oil. You know you can make that at home, I say. Salad dressing? He says. Yeah, that, but also avocado oil, I say. You take about a dozen avocadoes and you-
Carson interrupts me. Get a life, he says.
It is sad watching another man eating salad, if you can call it salad, this way, out of a plastic bag, with big, unsliced eggs he spears like round, dressing-slicked fish. Carson is perhaps not a beautiful man to most. Like me he is lumpy in some of the strangest places. If he were perfect, he would not be my body double. But sometimes I cannot look away from him. His face is nothing like mine. It’s round, open. I cannot stop my eyes tracing the curves of him.
He eats with grim purpose. We’re quiet. I know all about emptiness. I know all about the false wonder of starting over. My doctor told me when I started the medicine that this was not a new beginning. Testosterone is not a new life. It is a turn away from one thing and towards something else, she said, handing me her clipboard to sign. I refused to believe her, but here I am feeling the same way. This diet that is not a diet is about that. Wanting to be someone new. I want to tell Carson that hard boiled eggs are not a new life. How many mirrors have I stood in front of wanting to do everything over again? How many cookies have become gravel in my mouth, in my throat, in my stomach. All those months gym memberships ate my money and did I even show up? Sometimes the body is a disgusting thing, and yet it persists. My tongue must work at full force to propel my peanut butter sandwich down. My mouth is still dry from all that popcorn, all that salt.
This morning was hard. The director seemed mad at one of us or the other and was taking it out on both of us. And now we are mad at each other. He is mad because I want to tell him how to make avocado oil at home, how it’s really not too hard if you only have a food processor and some cheesecloth, and I am mad because my body double cannot, by the nature of his job title, afford to replace my body with a new, better body. We must remain tied together this way. Do I embarrass him? Carson is not from around here. I imagine yesterday he sat in his little sublet apartment eating raw vegetables, sweet potatoes, maybe a steak. Maybe. But in the end I imagine he is only as lonely as I am.
Goddammit, I say. I should not cut my peanut butter sandwiches in half before I wrap them. How many times have I told myself that and yet there is now jelly plopped onto my leg. Makeup has pens, Carson says, between forkfuls of wet spinach. He finishes his salad, takes two clementines out of his pocket. The perfect orange orbs look so small in his large, hairy hands. Want one? he asks, holding them both out so I can pick one.