During his first tour with his new band, Steve had been living high. It didn't matter that he spent most of his time in a crowded, rickety Winnebago with about ten other grown men, or that he hardly had the opportunity to see the hotel room he was crashed in, or that he hadn't been in the same city for more than 48 hours in a three-month period. To him, high living meant not having to ration your food money, not having to depend on your mother to keep you fed, not having to think twice about the price of that little scrap you just put in your mouth. Every time they made a pit stop, he was eating, whether he was hungry or not. He hadn't yet adjusted to the idea that he might not starve to death in his current line of work. By the end of the tour, he'd gained 5 pounds.
No one noticed the extra weight, except his mother, who was quite pleased. She relaxed, telling him she no longer felt the need to keep him at home with her when he was not on the road. She helped him look for his own place, overjoyed that her son was successful and apparently happy.
His happiness was just that - an appearance. He was anything but pleased about the extra weight. It gave him a solid look, like a... man. He longed for the sleek, fluid shape he'd had before he'd joined the band. The feminine, feline, slender look. The one that made all the closet drag queens in his audience jealous. Instead, he looked like a regular guy. He no longer felt special. On top of that, his own mother was effectively putting him out, and quite happy about it. She took one look at his solidified waist and began calling real estate brokers, obviously convinced that he was getting more than enough to eat. After all, why spend her husband's hard earned money to feed this overgrown baby when he could obviously do it himself? Despite the throngs of fans cheering him on every night for weeks, the young man felt unwanted and unloved.
Once Steve was settled in his new place, a mere week after having come home, the band was called to the studio to lay down tracks for a new record. This would be the band's fourth, but it would be the first with a real singer, the previous albums having been mostly instrumental (and therefore, commercial bombs). Everyone was nervous - the band was relying on Steve's voice to get the record some airplay. They'd somehow failed to mention before his first day in the studio that the record company was going to let them go if this last record didn't sell. His nerves were already fried, having spent the night before worrying whether or not he could live up to his standards of perfection. Now he had to worry about everyone else's standards as well.
He couldn't have known that his standards were light-centuries beyond anything the band was asking.
By the time the record was recorded and the band was free to return to the road, the singer had packed on another five pounds in a month's time, leaving him feeling bloated and ungainly at 135 pounds. His clothes fit pretty much the same they always had, as he insisted upon starting each day with a two hour run, but it didn't matter to him. It didn't matter at all that his body was more muscular than it had been in high school, or that women (and more than a few men) on the street were falling over themselves to get their hands on his lean form. Any man could workout and look like a quarterback. He was supposed to be daintily petite, light and feathery. Low numbers were key. In his eyes, small was king.
When they went back on the road, the singer had a regimen all mapped out for himself. He would eat three square meals a day, with one snack. He would get up an hour early for some aerobics in his room, use the two or three hours he had throughout the day for some calisthenics, and turn the stage into a giant exercise mat. He insisted on sticking to his routine religiously, determined to shed that annoying ten pounds. Whenever his bandmates tried to engage him in social activity, he politely but firmly declined, unwilling to risk losing progress. After a month, the only time he saw the rest of the band was in rehearsal, at a performance, or during one of his gradually dwindling meals. He was lonely, but he knew that once he achieved his goal, he could - would - paint the town red with them. He just had to slim down first.
Midway through the second month, he asked one of the gofers that smiled a little too much at him to find him a state-of-the-art digital bathroom scale. He told the kid money was no object, but secrecy was of the utmost importance. More often than not Steve had to share a room with one of his bandmates, and he was afraid of being caught adjusting the inaccurate bathroom scales he sometimes found in their rooms. Besides, he wanted to be able to weigh himself at any given moment, and most times, the most private moments he could find were nowhere near a bathroom scale.
Armed with his new scale, Steve locked himself in his dressing room forty-five minutes before a performance and weighed himself. The scale beeped softly and he looked down at the reading.
Steve frowned. He didn't understand how in the fuck he'd managed to gain two more pounds in the past six weeks. Suddenly the light vegan dinner he'd eaten more than twenty minutes ago was a heavy fermenting carcass decomposing in his gut. He swallowed, trying to calm himself, slow the rapid breaths that were threatening to take his control. He closed his eyes and fought down a sudden wave of vertigo.
When he felt steady enough to open his eyes again, he saw his portable, enclosed wardrobe. He was supposed to be changing into his stage clothing. He glanced down at his fully clothed form and looked at the scale. With renewed hope, he ripped his streetclothes off and jumped on the scale. He stared straight ahead and waited for the machine to signal him.
He stared at the scale for a full minute. Shaking his head in disbelief, he inched away from the lying machine and stood near the wardrobe.
over one and a half pounds
The panic that threatened to rise before took him full-throttle. Smooth, syrupy saliva oozed heavily from his parted lips, pouring over his chin and running down his bare chest. His chest swelled in deep, heaving gasps that were much, much too quick for their intensity. The oppressive mass of rapidly rotting beans and roots in the pit of his belly seemed to spread and bloom with each inhalation, invading his chest cavity with every exhalation.
over one and a half pounds over one and a half pounds
Unable to stop the super hyperventilation, his tormented stomach bulged with rapidly gulped air that rumbled ominously in his gut, rolling like thunder. His back began to arch, pelvis and shoulders jerking helplessly, body racked with the magnitude of his heaves. But he was completely unaware of the physical manifestations of his panic attack. His mind was caught in a tapeloop, focused on one detail.
over one and a half pounds over one and a half pounds over one and a half pounds over one and a half pounds over one and a half pounds over one and ahalfpoundsoveroneandahalfpoundsoveroneandahal-
There was a tormented, nauseous cry as a brutally painful, excruciatingly violent convulsion crushed his abdomen and a warm, congealed, rancid mush suddenly burst from his mouth. The thick glob bounced off the wardrobe and splattered on his face and chest, so forceful was the unexpected expulsion. He barely had time to suck a shocked, shallow breath before his belly imploded again, spewing curdled potatoes up his raw throat so fast most of it came though his nose. His gut relieved itself of its burden savagely, tearing hoarse screams of shock and pain and nausea with the effort, each convulsion more intense than the last, every explosion twice as fast as the one before. His whole body quaked with exhaustion, and still he retched, bile and spit dripping sickeningly down his chest. He choked, belched, and gagged, unable to stop his gut from thrusting angrily into his weary frame. When he had nothing left, not even the burn of bile and acid, his throbbing abdomen still pumped, driving the trapped air from his distressed digestive system, arching his back involuntarily, a grotesque caricature of nausea.
Finally, when he thought he might die of a crushed stomach, his belly suddenly relaxed and his bladder released its contents. He didn't care. The excruciating, uncontrollable slamming in his gut had abated, leaving him feeling almost high. He dropped to his knees and looked at the awful mess in his dressing room, trembling violently. When he felt a little more steady, he checked the clock - twenty minutes to showtime. He was grateful that he'd had the foresight to come so early, and that the band prized him enough to give him a private room. He was also grateful no one else had come early - they might have heard the awful noise he was making and witnessed his shame. As it was, he could rinse off quietly and dispose of most of the mess on his own. If he needed help, he'd tell a mild version of the truth - he got a little sick - and that would be the end of it. Slowly, Steve got to his feet and went to the full-length mirror in a corner of the room.
His face and the hair surrounding it were covered with a sour smelling carrot-and-potato-colored slime. His hair was soaked through with sweat and his chin, chest and belly were slick with a putrid combination of spit, sweat and half-digested food. The wet streaks down his legs told his bladder's story. Had anyone seen him in that state they'd have probably hosed him down and called an ambulance. But Steve was unconcerned with the bodily fluids dripping from his still shaking form. He was looking at his belly, noticing for the first time a firm, healthy, well-defined six-pack.
Had he been thinking properly, he'd have been pleased at the sight. But if he'd been thinking properly he would not have disposed of his supper in such an alarming manner. Instead, still staring his abdomen, he retched again, not so severely, but unbidden and uncontrollable all the same. He was both fascinated and repulsed to see the nauseating group of overgrown muscles clench and spasm in response to his body's misguided attempt to empty his already dried out stomach. He finally managed to belch a small rivulet of bile before his offended sensibilities settled down. Finally, he turned from the mirror in disgust, concentrating on the monumental task of cleaning up and preparing for a show as if nothing happened. He had less than fifteen minutes.
He was only one minute late. It was his finest performance to date.