by Francine Witte                              

DEAR Pandemic Pounds,

You’re still here. Even though COVID’s over.

Okay, maybe not over, but close. Close enough to over that I’m wearing jeans again. Or trying to.  

And that, Pandemic Pounds, is where we are.

I played hard to get. I wasn’t a pushover like I was with Harry. I wasn’t a first week of lockdown, let me order a pizza girl, was I? Now, was I?

You were busy with the sourdough crowd, and the pants-less zoom crowd.           

I was busy keeping my figure for Harry.

That’s when you saw me.

I was minding my own. I was waiting for Harry to call me. I was binge-watching Tiger King. 

Not only that, I had heard about the supermarket, the empty shelves, the waiting outside. I wanted none of it. Instead, I spent my time trying on outfits I was gonna wear for Harry—skinny jeans and denim miniskirts, some still with tags on. Oh, I was planning candle-lit evenings, the stuff of rom-coms, and then Harry started texting things like lockdown and we’ll hang out soon. Of course, you know what happened next, of course.

It took me a couple of weeks, but then, like tectonic plates bumping into each other, I realized Harry was never coming back, and at the very same moment, I discovered food delivery. It wasn’t shopping, I reasoned. I could stay home and someone would bring me food, and lots of it. A gentlemen caller, of sorts.

From then on, I was yours, Pandemic Pounds. I gave myself to you like it was a 1940s honeymoon. I folded up my jeans and stored them lovingly away. I’ll be back, I whispered.  Next thing I knew, I was ordering yoga pants from Amazon, muu-muu’s from home shopping. 

I will admit I’ve grown to love the soft pillow you put around my middle. It makes me, I don’t know, lovable? Accessible? And my arms, they have a certain voluptuosity I’ve come to enjoy. These are beefy Anna Magnani arms and make me feel like I’m in an Italian movie. My face is nicely filled out—I even have dimples now. I bet Harry would actually find all this very alluring. I bet he’d love to pinch this extra flesh you caused, Pandemic Pounds.

But c’mon, we both knew this wasn’t forever, and today I went out(!) to the store. The maskless air was oddly breathe-y. I let it sing into my nostrils. The same way you sang the food into my mouth.

So, I’m giving you warning Pandemic Pounds. I stocked up on tuna and celery sticks, even bought a papaya. I’ve gone so far as to take my jeans out of storage, I’ve even arranged a favorite pair so it’s sitting there, waiting for me on the couch.

Okay, Pandemic Pounds, I’ll just say it—I’ve grown to almost love you, But the thing is, I have Harry to consider, and if not this Harry, the next one. Or the Harry after that.

I’m telling you now so it’s not a surprise when I get on the scale and you are a memory fizzed away like masks and hand sanitizer. I’m telling you now so you don’t think I never called you again.

Because really, only a jerk would do that.

Love and chocolate kisses,

F.

oOo

Francine Witte’s poetry and fiction have appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Mid-American Review, and Passages North. Her latest books are Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press,) The Way of the Wind (AdHoc fiction,) and The Theory of Flesh (Kelsay Books.) Her chapbook, The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon (flash fiction) will be published by ELJ September, 2021. She is flash fiction editor for Flash Boulevard and The South Florida Poetry Journal. She lives in NYC.