He is in the shower. I stand beside the bath, turning idly before the mirror. I lift my tee shirt above my stomach, peer critically ahead, and turn again to examine myself in profile.
‘What are you doing?’
I turn around, dropping my shirt as I do. F is watching me with interest.
I have not really been aware of my actions until now; it’s an unconscious habit.
‘Oh. Um, I’m looking at my stomach.’
‘Let me see.’
I frown at him, trying to work out what he means.
‘Do it again. I’ll tell you if you’re fat or not.’
I do it again, this time facing away from the mirror, towards him. I’m a lot more self-conscious now.
I do. I’m suddenly, stupidly aware that whatever he says next will be the truth, unfiltered by grown-up caution. I hold my breath a little as I wait for it.
‘Nope’ he says. ‘You’re not fat.’
‘Really? Oh good.’ I am relieved. A few months ago, I shooed him out of a dressing room for telling me I looked fat while I was trying on jeans.
(Literally, I told him to get lost. He walked out of the shop and onto the street in response. When I came looking for him, a salesgirl pointed out the door, saying ‘he told me that he was going to get lost’. With my new Asperger’s knowledge, I cringe every time I remember it.)
‘You might look fat in a dress though,’ he adds.
‘Why is that?’
‘Most people look fat in dresses.’
‘I wore a dress on Sunday. Did I look fat then?’
He considers it.
‘No. You didn’t. So, I guess you can wear dresses.’
He pauses, twirling under the shower faucet.
‘I don’t think you need your diet anymore, Mum. I think you should stop it now.’
‘Yes. You’re PERFECT.’
I lean into the shower and hug him, not caring about getting wet.
‘Thank you’ I say.
At the supermarket that evening, I buy a box of Turkish Delight ice creams. And I eat one on the way home.