My fat aunt Coral is a riot and a lousy person. She is just so pink and fat. She laughs too much, and wears too much enormous jewelry. She is like a pig on a pearl leash sniffing out gossip then trotting up to your table and vomiting. I like her gossip because it’s so malicious, and it’s nice to know who’s dying. She is shallow and destructive.
My dad and Coral are siblings but don’t talk much. When she comes over he likes to say hi then take a nap or run errands. Then Coral will put her feet up, and talk to my mom for hours. She asks for tea, but mom knows this means cake.
I typically avoid my family but with Aunt Coral I don’t mind hanging around and listening. It’s great listening to people gossip because it’s the one time they mean what they’re saying. It has to be a huge relief to people. Aunt Coral likes to kick off her tight shoes – it probably feels like that. She just gets so comfortable, it’s like she’s lounging on her skeleton. And then she says the most shocking things about everyone I ever heard of, and never stops smiling.
I like Aunt Coral, though it’s hard to guess why. She’s maybe the only person in my family who has a sense of humor. She’s healthy-looking, though she can’t be healthy. Mostly, she talks to me without changing her voice, like I’m an everyday person. She even talks to me when other people have left the room. That’s a small thing, but it means a lot.
One time she told just me that her one daughter wasn’t even her husband’s daughter, but just from some fling with the butcher. I thought why are you telling me this, but I guess it was because she needed to tell someone and that I likely wouldn’t tell anyone. In reality, I could easily go out of my way to tell someone, it’s just that I wouldn’t, it’s not me. I might tell my memorandum book, that’s it. Believe me, I can keep a secret.
The last time I saw Aunt Coral she was maybe fifty pounds heavier than the previous time. She wheezed just coming up the front steps, and right away sat down. She doesn’t leave her house much now but sits in her armchair with the phone in her hand. “I tell people the truth,” she told my mom once, “but I tell my telephone everything.” All day she sits there soaking up gossip and getting fatter and fatter. She needs a cane now just from the knee strain, and soon might need a wheelchair, too. That’s sort of pathetic. But I’ve kind of been looking forward to it, too.
Artwork by Rolli