The Night I Inadvertently Traumatized a Neighbor with My Nakedness

We all have different ways of realizing that we need to lose weight. Sometimes it’s a broken chair, a health problem, a cutting joke or a certain angle in a mirror. I’ve experienced all of those several times a week for years, and made absolutely no changes.

Whenever such prospective turning points arrived, I always examined them from a distance as though watching a movie. “Yes,” I’d say to myself, “this would be a good point to change my ways. That’s what this character would do.” Every time, however, I found a way to rationalize the change, and would only make adjustments to my eating and exercise habits for about a week, long enough for me to forget about the whole thing altogether.

Sometimes, we subconsciously seek the proverbial rock bottom, and I may have found mine a little while ago.

When I initially moved to Seattle, I stayed with a friend while looking for a place, and found myself alone for a week while he and his wife were out of town. Like anyone in a big house by themselves, I took advantage of the many luxuries it affords, including watching television at all hours of the night, walking around in my boxers (boxer-briefs, to be exact), and cooking elaborate meals to give me energy for such draining activities.

One night, though it could have been any, I found myself half-naked while making macaroni and cheese at one in the morning. When it was ready, I sprinted downstairs and watched yet another episode of The Larry Sanders Show. All in all, it was a good, lazy evening.

A few days after my friend returned, he delicately informed me that his neighbor — a single woman in her fifties — told him that she had seen me cooking pasta half-naked that night, and described it as if she’d watched her parents die in front of her. He wasn’t supposed to tell me.

Though I was thoroughly embarrassed, I thought nothing of it at the time.

In the weeks that followed, however, the neighbor thought about it a great deal, and proceeded to make drastic, previously unplanned changes to her property, all of which appeared to be a direct result of catching a glimpse of my half-naked body.

She installed a six-foot high fence between the houses, flanked by six or seven tall bushes that were planted in case the fence fell down. She placed window shades over every window on that side of the house, and never opened them. She hung plants in strategic view-blocking positions. The workers kept coming, and the sight lines between the houses kept shrinking.

I watched it all with consternation. When most people catch an unwanted glimpse of your overweight body, they giggle, cover their eyes, or worse, give you advice. So it was definitely an odd feeling to watch infrastructure erected because of my body, to see plywood nailed and holes drilled and screws turned.

Nothing was done to any other side of the house. This poor woman felt so traumatized by my tubbiness that she did everything in her power to seal off any chance of seeing me half-naked again. I can’t imagine what she would have done had she seen me completely naked.

Like any man would do, I slowly began to convince myself that this overreaction was simply a result of her secretly wanting to sleep with me. It wasn’t repulsion, it was attraction! She was merely denying it by literally building walls between us. This delusion lasted for a few days.

Whenever I walked past her house, I connected each addition to a part of my body. “That fence is because of my belly,” I thought. “That window shade is because of my ass.” It wasn’t as big as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, but, like it, her renovated house was a reminder that something horrible happened. It was a monument to help future generations never again make the mistake of seeing my half-naked body.

Since my rock bottom had become a monument, I started working out immediately and fantasized about one day standing athwart her fence in my new, ripped body, demanding that she tear down the wall. It takes a strong person to use their rock bottom as motivation to lose weight.

Alas, after exercising for only about a week, I breathlessly realized that it takes an even stronger person to not give into their rock bottom, and stay there awhile. Who’s to say what rock bottom is anyway, what with advancements in drilling technology?

One time, months later, she saw me walking in the neighborhood and came over to talk to me, but then, seeing me clearly, remarked, “Oh, I thought you were your friend.”

“That’s okay,” I wanted to say. “You probably didn’t recognize me with my clothes on.”

There’s never been any acknowledgment of what happened between us, and there never will be, not until I actually lose some weight.

Besides, I think the fence looks good on me. It’s slimming.


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