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“Sunbathers” by Edwin Georgi

I took over two weeks off from work over Christmas and New Year’s, and one morning last week I woke up after a fitful night of sleep, feeling adrift, unscheduled, unmoored. I had lost track of the days; I had no plans except to drink coffee and perhaps go for a run at some point. There was nothing I absolutely had to do that day. And I was anxious, guilt-ridden, almost queasy because of it.

I should be writing, was the message on repeat in my head. Throughout a busy autumn, I’d told myself that over winter break — especially once the madness of Christmas was over — I’d buckle down and write. For real. Now here I was, with nothing to write about, much less any will to. It was more than writer’s block. I just didn’t care. Actually, the fact that I didn’t care was the only thing I really cared about. I was supposed to want this, right? I was supposed to want to write, to take the opportunities I could to do it. I called myself a writer. I knew I was good at it and that it could give me expression and satisfaction in a way little else could. But on that early January moment I had nothing but time, and no inclination to do anything except perhaps watch TV. …

As I write this, I have officially lost ten pounds since April. “Officially,” as if there’s a stamp of approval I was waiting to give myself, staring impatiently at the scale as I reached seven pounds, eight, eight and a half, back to seven, down to nine, for what seemed like eternity. Now it’s ten. A solid, significant number. An accomplishment. Ten is just one more than nine, and yet it feels drastically different.

This is not an essay about discovering through my weight loss “journey” that in fact, I was always perfect and beautiful just as I was, or a realization that my body-mass index is not as important as my intellect or freedom, or something like that. I knew those things already. I also saw a photo of myself at a wedding back in April and was uncomfortable with what was there. Both things are true at once. In that photo, although the composition and light were lovely, I looked blurry; my body an unfocused, vague shape. …

Often when I am stuck at an airport, I make use of a massage chair. You know the ones — you insert your credit card, lean back, and are treated to a certain number of minutes being mechanically thumped and kneaded. Some chairs, like one I used during a layover in Paris, have a sort of roof on top with a video screen that features swimming goldfish and tropical flowers. Tranquil music plays tinnily, broken only by intercom interruptions calling a passenger’s name.

I don’t see other people using the massage chairs that often — though perhaps I’m not paying enough attention — but my sense is that most people, like me, feel a kind of loathing toward the reality of modern life when they see these things. Massage chairs, purely as objects that exist, are fairly ludicrous. They are ugly, hulking robots that vibrate and hum, giving you an approximation of a massage that, because no two bodies are alike, can end up only being somewhat satisfying. I’m a woman of average height (for an American), and I assume most massage chairs are built with the average male build in mind. Therefore, the neck massage portion of the chair’s machinations ends up mostly squeezing my skull. …


Ursula Wheeler

Ursula is a writer and editor living in Chicago. Her work has appeared on Offbeat Bride, the Useless Critic, Film Daily, and a number of lapsed personal blogs.

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