There was a time when I prided myself on style. I coordinated. I complimented. I followed seasonal rules and trends. I was fashion freakin' forward. Above all else, I had shoes. I had dedicated pairs for every occasion. Sneakers for each sport; loafers running the gamut of shades. My fiancé poked fun at me for owning more shoes than she did. My shoe collection was one of several interests I gradually outgrew, along with the shoes themselves, not to mention my clothes, my job, my fiancé, my house, and my life, in that order.
Which brings me to now: doing my best not to crush the ankle-high woman weaving between my legs as I make the short trip down the road to Scalise Winery to attend my ex-fiancé's wedding.
"Mya, please don’t walk so close to my feet."
"Why, so you don't smoosh me?"
"So I can see you. Or maybe you can walk behind me?"
"Just don't sit on me."
On my list of anxieties, fear of crushing a person is ranked above running into power lines, but below being seen in these sinfully ugly shoes. Apparel companies pay me to serve as their giant, mobile mannequin, hence the lovely, laceless, pastel purple cross-trainers. It’s the same with all the articles in my sparse wardrobe. I needed some income when I outgrew the on-site appliance repair business thirty-five feet ago. These 'shoes'—currently paired with muted brown slacks and a wrinkled gray linen polo—are the only pair I own. The one thing worse than the thought of being a living billboard for these putrid monstrosities is the thought that there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of people wearing the same disgusting shoes as me.
"This venue is gorgeous!" My delightful plus-one shouts up from the assemblage of wedding guests as we arrive. "Your ex has good taste." Mya and the rest of the crowd pass through the main entrance. I step over the ankle-high gate and land on the lawn eliciting a scream from a caterer. The event staff must be from out-of-town. The sight of a four-story man is something locals have long accepted, choosing to regard me either as a walking tourist trap or a mass-hallucination.
Once inside, Mya bypasses the open bar and heads for me. Her black and gray Hot Topic cocktail dress hangs unflatteringly on her stocky frame above dark-red fishnets and graffitied Converse All-Stars. While I could be embarrassed by my spectacle of a date, 1) I'm forty-four feet tall and 2) I have hope that her hideous ensemble distracts from mine.
Mya swats me on the leg. "You’re fast with those twenty-foot legs."
"I took a shortcut. Wanted to miss the crowd."
"Afraid you’ll step on people?”
"Always. Can we not talk about it, please?"
"Okay. Why are you at your ex's wedding?"
I had no intention of attending the wedding of Melissa Evans and Bill Hudson, the doctor who recommended I see a specialist after I grew ten inches in a week. Though I knew perfectly well the cause and nature of my condition, I took his advice and spent the next several months growing under medical observation. In that time, he slept with my fiancé, at least a dozen times. Bill is the third guy Melissa cheated on me with (in fairness, I cheated first), and the one I liked the most. Still, I was surprised to have been invited to the wedding until I found out the location was the winery adjacent to my property. In the short time Melissa and I lived together, we had a good relationship with the owners of the venue and had even discussed it as a potential wedding site. I imagine Mel got enough of a discount to make it worth putting up with her amazing colossal ex.
"…live nearby,” I said to Mya. Anyway, this is a small town. Weddings are generally public events. It’d be more conspicuous if I didn't attend."
"I doubt it. You're pretty hard to miss."
I facepalm loud enough it echoes across the lawn. "Mya..."
"So, how long have you been big?"
"How. Long. Have. You. Been. Big?"
I'd heard her the first time. "Not very long."
"Did you grow recently or were you a giant baby too?"
It was all over the news. "I grew. Recently."
"Honest mistake or intentional overkill?"
One, then the other. "A mistake."
"You wanted to be big, huh?"
I thought Mel would like it. "I thought I did."
Mya snickers. She only ever snickers. She has no other laugh. "So, how is it?"
"How is what?"
"I'd rather not talk about it."
"Why? Is it uncomfortable? Did it hurt? Was it weird?"
Yes. "Mya, this is a small venue and, if you didn't notice, my voice carries."
"Um, excuse me." Standing at what he's judged to be a safe distance, the catering supervisor speaks to me but does not make eye contact. "Sir, I was told to let you know the ceremony will be beginning soon, and—"
"Is he being too loud?" Mya asks.
"No, but there are a lot of leftover hors d'oeuvres. You're free to eat as much as you like. It will save us the trouble of packing them up. We can also save you leftovers from dinner as well."
Having long shed any shred of shame, I accept his offer. I devour four trays of Caprese, three platters of wraps, the rest of the fruit, and a few gallons of punch. It is an unexpectedly thoughtful gesture from—I assume—Melissa, who I'd neither spoken to nor communicated with since we broke off our engagement.
Though I am tempted by the offer of large quantities of leftovers, I have no intention of staying past the ceremony.
"We got incoming!"
Snapping back to the moment, I notice a svelte woman in an elegant silver gown and a sequined derby hat approaching us at the outskirts. Crouching, I offer our visitor a smirk. "Come to see the World's Biggest Man exhibit?"
"Don't flatter yourself. I'm having a cigarette." Louanne lights up and gives me a casual once-over as she takes a drag. She exhales slowly, savoring the nicotine buzz, then squints up at me, the sun bright in her eyes. "Gerald, would you please—"
I shuffle to the side until I cast her in full shadow. "Better?"
"Yes. Thank you, dear. My, you're looking big and healthy!"
"The food helped. I'm surprised catering didn’t pack it up for themselves. Was that an olive branch from Mel?"
"No, that was from me. The bride has other concerns on the morning of her wedding than her ex. Besides, I paid for most of this. Shouldn't I get a say about where it all goes?"
I've long respected Louanne's forthrightness, a trait I wish she'd passed onto her daughter. She makes no attempt to hide her disgust at my shoes but is kind enough not to say anything. "It's nice to see you out and about."
"I've been out plenty."
"Just not around people. Are you done growing?"
"I don't know. It seems that way. For now, at least."
"I hope not," Mya chimes in, extending her hand to Louanne. "Hi, I'm Mya, Gerald's wedding date."
"Oh! Nice to meet you! I'm Louanne Evans."
"That's an awesome dress. Love the hat!"
"You have quite the ensemble yourself, dear. So, tell me, how did you two find each other?"
"I heard about him on the internet and sent him a bunch of messages. I thought he could use a friend and I was dying to meet a giant."
"You prefer your men large?"
"Not strictly guys. I prefer the term pansexual macrophile."
"This must be a dream come true for you."
Mya nods enthusiastically. "It is the one thing I wanted more than anything else."
Louanne chuckles, delighted by Mya's candor. "Such self-awareness is rare at your age. I admire it."
"Aw, thanks! Well, pardon me. I gotta pee before things get started." Louanne and I watch as Mya sprints toward the restrooms, barreling through several conversations along the way. Louanne takes a final pull of her cigarette.
"A spirited young lady."
"She is something."
"First date, I assume."
"Is it that obvious?"
"I heard your facepalm from the bar." Louanne laughs softly and extinguishes her cigarette. "Gerald, I think Mya is just what you need right now. I'm happy for Melissa, and I'm glad you two realized you weren't right for each other. But I still worry about you."
"You think she’s what I need? A girl that likes me just for—"
"—the exact reason you hate yourself. Maybe not ideal common ground from which to begin a relationship, but I've seen worse." Louanne glances at her watch. "Oh! The ceremony is starting soon. Gerald, I'm glad you’re here." Louanne strides away, offering a gentle wave to Mya who is out of breath after jogging back from the bathroom.
"Didn't want to miss the ceremony," Mya says, panting. "Should we head over there too?"
"I can see fine from here."
"Well, I can't." Mya pouts before her face suddenly brightens. "What if you pick me up and set me on your shoulder? I promise I'll sit still and be quiet!"
My stubborn, first impulse is to tell her I am uncomfortable with the request. But that’s not really true. I've had enough awkward and uncomfortable experiences since I started growing to last me several lifetimes (for starters, a LOT of people have seen me naked). Given my penchant for isolation over the last thirty feet of growth, it simply had yet to come up.
"Hurry up, already!"
With a wry smile, I scoop my hands behind Mya, who enthusiastically drops into my palm. She grips my fingers with zeal as I lift her off the ground. Before I'd started growing, the 5'10" Mya would have stood two inches taller than me and outweighed me by at least twenty pounds. In my hands, she weighs as much as the pet gerbil I had as a kid. I carefully lift her up to my shoulder. She steps out of my hands, brushes off her dress and sits, waiting quietly as the processional begins. For the first time since our introduction that morning, I am impressed by her self-restraint.
"Are you good?" I whisper.
"'Good?' This is the best day of my life. Thanks, Gerald."
...just what you need right now.
"Thank you, Mya."
Perhaps this first date will go better than expected.
"By the way, Gerald, I absolutely love your shoes. Where can I get a pair?"