There was a time in my life when I prided myself on my 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 specific occasions, sneakers for every sport and loafers running the gamut of shades. My ex used to poke fun at me for owning more shoes than she did. It was one of several quirks I eventually 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: trying 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, the site of my ex-fiancé's wedding.
"Mya, could you please not 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?"
"Sure thing, just don't sit on me."
Fear of crushing a person is currently ranked above running into power lines on my list of anxieties, but it’s below being seen wearing these sinfully ugly shoes. These lovely, laceless, pastel purple cross-trainers, like the other articles in my limited wardrobe, are provided by apparel companies who pay me to serve as their giant mobile mannequin. After all, I needed some income after 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 only thing worse than being a living billboard for these putrid monstrosities is the thought that there are hundreds, if not thousands of people with awful taste wearing the same shoes as me.
"This wedding site is gorgeous!" My delightful plus-one shouts up to me from the assemblage of wedding guests. "Your ex has great taste!" She makes her way through the main entrance with the rest of the arriving crowd, and I step over the ankle-high gate directly onto the lawn eliciting a scream from a caterer. I assume the event staff is from out-of-town, since the sight of a four-story man is something most locals have learned to ignore, choosing to regard me either as a walking tourist trap or a mass-hallucination.
Once inside, Mya bypasses the open bar, heading directly for me. Her black and gray Hot Topic cocktail dress hangs unflatteringly on her stocky frame down to 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'm grateful her hideous ensemble distracts from mine.
Mya swats me on the leg. "You move pretty fast with those twenty-foot legs of yours!"
"I took a shortcut, that's all. I wanted to avoid the crowd."
"Why? You afraid of stepping on people?"
"Always, so can we not talk about that, please?"
"Okay. Why are you going to your ex's wedding?"
"I..." I had no intention of attending the wedding of Melissa Evans, my ex-fiancé, and Dr. Bill Hudson; the doctor who recommended I see a specialist after I grew ten inches in a week. Despite my knowledge of the cause and nature of my condition, I took his advice and spent the next several months growing under medical observation while he slept with my fiancé 'at least a dozen times.' Bill would be the third guy Melissa cheated on me with (in fairness, I cheated first) and the one I liked the most. All that in mind, I was surprised to have been invited to the wedding until I heard 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 and had even discussed it as a potential wedding site. I imagine Mel got enough of a discount to make it worth having to put up with her amazing colossal ex. "—live nearby. Also, this is a small town, so weddings are generally public events. I'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. "Intentional 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, what was it like?"
"What was what like?"
Mutating. "I'd rather not talk about it."
"Why? Is it uncomfortable? Did it hurt? Was it weird?"
Yes. "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 that 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 want. It will save us the trouble of packing them up. We can also save you leftovers from dinner as well."
Having long since shed any shred of my shame, I accept his offer and devour four trays of Caprese, three platters of wraps, the rest of the fruit, and a few gallons of salad. It is an unexpectedly kind gesture from—I assume—Melissa who I'd neither spoken to nor communicated with since we broke off our engagement.
Despite the attractive offer of large quantities of leftovers, I have no intention of staying past the ceremony.
"We got incoming!"
Snapping back into the moment, I look down to see a svelte woman in an elegant silver gown and a sequined derby hat approaching us. Crouching down, 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 takes her time lighting up, giving me a casual once-over as she takes a long drag. She exhales slowly, savoring the nicotine buzz, then squints up at me, the sun bright in her eyes. "Gerald, could 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 did not pack it up for themselves. Was that an olive branch from Mel?"
"No, that was from me. As you can imagine, the bride has other things on her mind the morning of her wedding than her ex, regardless of his size. Besides, I paid for most of this anyway. Shouldn't I get a say in where it goes?"
I've always respected Louanne's forthrightness—a trait I wish she'd passed on to 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 like it. For now, at least."
"I hope not," Mya chimes in, extending her hand to Louanne. "Hi, I'm Mya, Gerald's wedding date."
"Oh! It's nice to meet you! I'm Louanne Evans."
"That's an awesome dress. Love the hat!"
"And 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 macrophille."
"So, this must be a dream come true for you."
Mya nods enthusiastically. "It is the one thing I can say I wanted more than anything else."
Louanne chuckles, delighted by Mya's candor. "Such self-awareness is rare at your age. I admire you."
"Aw, thanks! Now, if you'll excuse me, I gotta pee before this thing gets 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.
"Quite a spirited young lady."
"First date, I assume."
"Is it that obvious?"
"I heard your facepalm from the bar." Louanne laughs softly and extinguishes her cigarette. "Gerald, I imagine you'd prefer I tell you this while she's not here, but 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. I still worry about you."
"You think that's what I need? A girl that likes me only for—"
"—the exact reason you hate yourself. Hardly an ideal common ground from which to begin a relationship, but I've certainly seen worse." Louanne glances at her watch. "Oh! I must be getting back. The ceremony is starting soon. Gerald, I'm glad you decided to attend." Louanne strides away, offering a gentle wave to Mya who is hurrying 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 down 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, despite it not being true. I've had enough awkward and uncomfortable experiences since I started growing to last several lifetimes (in short, a LOT of people have seen me naked). I have nothing against the idea of lifting a person. Given my recent penchant for isolation, it simply has yet to come up.
"Hurry up, already!"
With a wry smile, I scoop my hands behind Mya, and she enthusiastically falls back into my palm. She grips down on 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 down, waiting quietly as the processional begins. For the first time since our introduction, I am impressed by her self-restraint.
"Are you good?" I whisper.
"'Good?' This is the best day of my life. Thank you, Gerald."
...just what you need right now. "Thank you, Mya."
All things considered, this first date is going better than expected.
"By the way, Gerald, I absolutely love your shoes. Where can I get a pair?"