Paste number 40875: aaronsw

Paste number 40875: aaronsw
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A Moment Before Dying

There is a moment, immediately before life becomes no longer worth
living, when the world appears to slow down and all its myriad details
suddenly become brightly, achingly apparent.

For Aaron, that moment came after exactly one week of pain, seven days
of searing, tormenting agony that poured forth from his belly. Aaron
never liked his belly. Growing up he was always fat, surrounded by a
family of bellowing, rotund Americans, who had a room in their house
with wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling cabinets, all entirely filled with
bags and boxes of various pre-processed semi-organic assemblages,
which they used to stuff their faces at all hours of the day.

Aaron had body image issues. He'd avoid mirrors because he couldn't
bear to look at himself, his large bulbous cheeks obscuring his
darkly-outlined features. He avoided photos, covering his face or
ducking out of the way when the click of the camera came, for the same
reason: he didn't want to be confronted with the physical evidence of
his disgusting nature, thought he could not go on living if he had to
face the truth.

It wasn't until he got away from his family that he discovered his
weight was not an immutable characteristic, like the fingerprints he
often mused about burning off, like the dental records which had
caused him so much adolescent anguish, like the DNA he'd heard so much
about in school. He would take off his shirt and stare at his stomach
in the full-length mirror. It was there, of course, hideous as ever,
but also appreciably smaller. Its size, he realized, could change.

So Aaron starved himself. Cut down from three meals a day to simply
two and then to only one. And even that became superfluous most
days. Aaron simply wasn't hungry.

He watched his stomach dwindle, monitored his progress on the
electronic readout of his at-home scale, charted the numbers on his
computer, admired the plunging trendlines.

He was doing so well. He told all his friends. The secret to losing
weight, he would explain, is simply not eating. You just get used to
it after a while. He looked at the beggars outside his window and
refrained from giving them change so that they too could experience
this miracle. He changed the channel when the radio began speaking
about starvation in Africa. "Starvation isn't so bad," he
scoffed. "You get used to it after a while." He wondered whether the
USDA thrifty food budget could be further reduced.

He stopped going out. His friends always wanted to meet him for meals,
or for drinks, events in which Aaron simply wasn't interested
anymore. Before long, Aaron's friends were no longer interested in
him.

Aaron started eating in cafés, ordering a small pastry, sitting in a
comfortable chair, listening to the music play over the
loudspeakers. Soon he stopped doing even that.

Aaron read on the Internet about death. There was a theory,
increasingly well supported, that eating is what killed you. They
found that rats on extremely restricted diets, rats who ate very few
calories, lived impressively long. They saw the same results with
other animals, up to and including chimpanzees. They suspected, but
could not prove, the same was true of humans. Every little bite of
food was another step towards death.

Aaron started eating again. His appetite grew as slowly as it had
declined but within months he was back to eating three meals a
day. Food suddenly gave him pleasure again. He savored the tastes on
his tongue.

One night he and his friends decided to try a new restaurant. But when
the food came, Aaron couldn't eat it. He thought it smelled funny. He
let it sit there, his plate lying on the table, his food seething,
untouched.

The next night Aaron couldn't sleep. He'd wake up, feeling searing
pains in his stomach, as if the food winding its way through his gut
had spikes and was tearing apart the walls of his intestine.

He suffered like this for days, rolling on the floor in agony, unable
to resist eating but every bite he ate causing him unimaginable
pain. And still, he could not stop.

Five days in, it seemed like the worst had passed. The pains came less
frequently, the pains were less intense. He actually slept that night.

The day Aaron killed himself, he was awoken by pains, worse than
ever. He rolled back-and-forth in bed as the sun came up, the light
streaming through the windows eliminating the chance for any further
sleep. At 9, he was startled by a phone call. The pains subsided, as
if quieting down to better hear what the phone might say.

It was his boss. He had not been to work all week. He had been
fired. Aaron tried to explain himself, but couldn't find the words. He
hung up the phone instead.

The day Aaron killed himself, he wandered his apartment in a daze. The
light streaming through the windows gave everything a golden glow,
which had the odd effect of making the filth he'd become surrounded
with seem cinematic.

Aaron wanted to go outside for one last meal, but he had trouble
making the appropriate connections. Jacket, shoes, pants, wallet. Each
lay in a different spot upon the floor. Aaron knew they went together,
he drew lines connecting them in his mind's eye, but it didn't see to
fix anything, his eyes just kept bouncing from one item to another.

Finally, he summoned the intelligence to put them on. The world seemed
funny afterwards. He noticed the way the key turned in the lock, like
a hand rotating in front of his face, an interplay of light and
shadow, objects in space. He noticed the packages sitting at his
doorstep, begging him to open them, but their labels insisting that
they were addressed to someone else. He noticed the frail old ladies
who refused to obey the walk--don't walk signs and instead walked
slowly, backs hunched, across a major intersection.

He went to a new café across the street, the one place he hadn't been
to yet. Light streamed in through the huge picture windows, making the
whole place seem bright and airy. So much light, in fact, that the
outside seemed a glow, as if the café was suspended in the middle of a
powerful white light. People held lowered, indistinct
conversations. People on his left, people on his right, people behind
him. But one conversation seemed to be coming from the ceiling. It
might have been a trick of the acoustics. He looked up and saw two
speakers staring back at him and listened closely.

The café was not playing music. It was playing a recording of two
people's lowered, indistinct conversation.

The day Aaron killed himself, he had a sudden, powerful craving for a
Key Lime Sugar Cookie. It was odd the power the Key Lime Sugar Cookie
had over him. Aaron did not particularly like limes of any sort. In
fact, the idea of an actual actual, as with all fruits, thoroughly
disgusted him. He hated how when he ordered sparkling water at fancy
restaurants they would place a lime wedge on the top of his glass, how
he had to confront the disgusting object every time he tried to take a
sip, how touching the lime, even to remove it, was so digusting as to
be simply out of the question.

And yet, here it was, this cookie, with the lime flavor baked into the
center and large transparent grains of sugar embedded in the top,
begging for him, begging for one last taste. The cookie was sold
exclusively by a publicly-traded chain of cafés that tried hard to
seem international, giving itself a foreign-sounding title and
printing the names of major world cities on every door, even though it
had not expanded much beyond the eastern half of the United
States. Aaron purchased the cookie.

He noticed the way he couldn't quite form the words to request it,
simply presented the cookie in front of the cashier and twitched his
head, assuming (correctly) that in context the request would be
understood. He noticed the way his hands moved haphazardly to remove
the appropriate amount of money from his wallet. He noticed the way
his change spilled out onto the counter as he tried to find the
quarter with which to complete the transaction. He noticed the way he
wobbled as he walked as he took the now-purchased cookie outside.

The day Aaron killed himself, he savored his one remaining cookie, the
sweetness of the embedded sugar grains, the bizarre flavor of what
must have been lime. He used his tongue to wipe the remaining crumbs
from his teeth, tossed the now-empty bag it had come in into the
trash, and stepped out into the middle of the street.

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