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Beauty and the Slob
When Shannon Fox’s American Literature TA announced the names of partners for the latest course assignment, she felt her heart skip a beat. Of everyone in the whole group, she was going to be partnered with Miles Bern — someone she pinned as being the biggest slacker in the entire class. He arrived late to class often. He never had his books. He never participated in discussions. Worst of all, he was always eating! He always had to have a greasy bag of McDonald’s or Taco Bell or, for something light, a party-sized bag of chips. Her skin crawled just thinking about him.
When the class ended, she quickly raced up to the teaching assistant to mount a protest.
“George, I think there’s a mistake with who I’m partnered with,” Shannon said. The thirty-something-year-old doctorate candidate was packing up his things.
Looking up from his bag for a moment, the assistant shook his head before returning to his task. “No mistake, Miss Fox. The assignment pairs are what they are and were selected by lottery.”
Unsatisfied with his response, Shannon tried a different tactic. “I’ve been really good in this class, haven’t I?”
“Yes…” he said, closing his bag and turning his attention to her, curious where she was headed.
“Then shouldn’t I be rewarded for that? Miles and I…” she paused to choose her words, “Our styles aren’t compatible — and you know it.”
The TA clipped his bag and slung it over his shoulder. “Miss Fox, you know I appreciate the care and diligence you put into your work as well as your regular participation in the class discussions. That said, I don’t know what personal feelings you have towards Mr. Bern, but when you go into the real world, you’ll have to work people that aren’t ‘compatible’ with your working style. Consider this practice.” Before he moved to leave, he added, “But if you have serious issues while working together, feel free to contact me.”
With that, he left the room, joining the hustle of the hallway. Shannon remained standing by the desk, slightly dumbfounded. The conversation did not go the way she wanted. Her argument of citing her stringent dedication and stellar grades backfired on her. Letting out a heavy sigh, she resigned to gathering her things. As she packed her course materials and notebook into her messenger bag, a girthy figure cast a shadow onto the desk, eclipsing the light.
Shannon looked up, already suspecting what she may find.
If she had to guess, she’d say that Miles was close to 300 pounds, if not more. He was of average height, but his sheer weight made him look like a stocky figure. He had brown hair that wouldn’t have looked bad if it wasn’t always matted to his head. His patchy facial hair rounded around his mouth, needing serious ‘manscaping’. He wore jeans with what she assumed was a very wide waistline and today wore a forest green tee that probably needed to be one more ‘X’ in size in order to fit appropriately, instead of tightly stretching across his large frame.
It was harsh to say, but Miles Bern was, in a word, a slob.
Shannon watched him as he looked her up and down several times, not even bothering to hide what he was doing, his hazel eyes lingering on her exposed cleavage and legs. To go with the string of great spring weather, Shannon wore a semi-loose, blue, flowery-patterned dress, paired with white, open-toed sandals. She had let her brown hair flow down for the day and it framed her heart-shaped face perfectly. The way Miles looked at her, like a piece of meat, made her feel… strange. Most guys felt insecure around her, but Miles had no shame with his hungry gaze.
“You and me for this?” Miles opened.
Shannon quietly replied, “Umm, yeah, looks like it.”
“I don’t care to do this stupid thing, but when do you wanna get it over with?” The way he said that struck a nerve with her, as though the thought of having to spend time around her was a chore and waste of his time.
“Umm, sooner the better. Tomorrow if you’re free,” she said.
Miles shook his head. “Naw, tomorrow doesn’t work for me. We’ll do today.”
“I…umm, ok?” she said, flustered. “I’ll book a library study room.”
“Naw, I don’t do libraries,” Miles declined again, the fat in his neck jiggling slightly as he shook his head. “We’ll do it at my place. I’ll pick you up at 5 in front of this building.”
“I…er…ok…” Shannon stuttered.
“Cool. See you then,” Miles looked her over a final time, his gaze ending on her breasts, before parting, leaving Shannon once again dumbfounded on what exactly just happened.
As students continued trickling into the room for the next scheduled class, she hurried to finish collecting her things and then she made her way out into the hallway. She rushed to the nearest bathroom, suddenly feeling like she needed to wash her escort şişli hands.
Standing in front of the mirror, she exhaled, “Oh my god…” Her shoulders and her arms shivered. Everything about that interaction made her feel so dirty. His blatant ogling was so unsettling. He was such a creeper. The image of him there in front of her in a stretched out t-shirt staring at her chest flashed back into her mind. She doubled over the sink, nearly throwing up in her mouth. Instead, she washed her hands clean and splashed water on her face.
Trying hard to get a grip, she told herself over and over again that she’d be fine. She was smart; she was resourceful. This wasn’t the first collaborative school project she was taxed with, and it wouldn’t be the last. She could totally manage this.
With a break now in her schedule, Shannon wandered around campus and checked in with some of the student associations she volunteered with. She had been elected to the executive committee in a few of them, too — quite the feat for a freshman. In her mind, if she could get a head start on graduate school applications that were due in several years by amassing some valuable experience, she would take that opportunity. It was a lot of work and Shannon admittedly hated how busy it made her at times. Sometimes she wanted to just… not have to think anymore, to not have to make all these decisions. But the pressure to succeed came from many sources, especially as a girl.
As she went about her afternoon, Shannon laughed at the fact that Miles probably didn’t know any of the clubs she participated in existed, let alone where they were located. The only places he knew on campus were his classrooms and lecture halls and the various food outlets, she thought to herself. She even joked that his comment on how he ‘doesn’t do libraries’ was likely because he didn’t even know where the library was!
She and Miles were the furthest thing from each other, which she feared would make this joint assignment a nightmare. Shannon was organized, clean, systematic, and always had to have a plan. Whereas Miles was, well, a mess. He looked a mess and probably had no organization whatsoever. She was scared to see how his place looked like.
Physically, they were definitely different as well. Shannon was average height for a woman and thin. She didn’t work out excessively, but she thought she had a healthy body type: a flat tummy, decently sized breasts, and shapely thighs from the running she did every now and then. There really was no question about how attractive Shannon was — not only counting her body but also with an incredibly sexy face. However, she was by her own admission very self-conscious and perhaps too focused on what people thought of her, despite her unquestionable looks. She made a point of looking presentable, because that affected people’s perception of her. In college, where her goal was to succeed all the way through, that played out big time in making great impressions.
Miles, on the other hand, probably threw on anything that he figured worked…or whatever clothes — clean or not – he had available. There wasn’t a lot of care with him. He didn’t look like a guy who put deep thought into anything. And more pointed, Shannon speculated, was that Miles did it on purpose. Everything about him was deliberate. He purposely didn’t care how he came off. That was unsettling, stupid, and nonsensical to Shannon. How can someone simply not care about how he looks or about the impression it made on other people? Especially someone like him!
Shannon’s day rounded up with two more classes, which, as usual, she spent taking notes furiously. At the end of the day, she made her way back to Foreman Hall and waited in front of the building. At that moment, she realized Miles never told her the make or color of his car nor did she have any way of contacting him in case he ran late or simply just forgot about her and this project. Part of her worried, but after a few minutes, a deep blue Toyota pulled up in front of her. She saw Miles’s thick body through the passenger window. He rolled it down and told her to “Get in.”
His car was her nightmare. As a self-professed ‘clean freak’, she nearly hyperventilated when she opened the door and got a good look inside. The back seat was littered with trash. He had a plastic bag of empty soda cans behind the driver’s seat…and there was still more rocking on the stained carpet floor! There was debris everywhere. Reluctantly, she climbed in, kicking away some of the trash on the passenger-side raggedy floor mat. She settled in as best she could and placed her bag neatly on her lap as they took off.
As Miles drove, Shannon saw his fat fingers reach into a rather packed white paper bag that sat in his lap. He pulled out a cheeseburger and expertly slid of the greasy wrapping while driving, something she figured he must have had a lot of practice doing because it appeared second nature to him. Miles took a bite as he escort beşiktaş simultaneously made a right turn. Shannon stared at him as she chewed the bite, barely swallowing before going in for another bite. He ate like an animal, worse even, and she looked at him as though staring at one in the zoo.
Sensing her intense stare, Miles turned to her for the first time.
“Want some?” He said, extending the partially eaten burger out toward her face, clearly misinterpreting her staring for interest.
Shannon looked at him and then down at the burger extended right in front of her face. She looked at the half-eaten, greasy meal and the flakes of cheese and meat and dripping ketchup.
“Umm, no thanks,” she said.
Miles shrugged and pulled the burger back. “Suit yourself.” He immediately returned to eating and took another bite. As he did, Shannon oddly pictured the partially-eaten burger again. She imagined herself grabbing hold of his hand, eyes still locked on that already bitten into section and slowly fitting her mouth around where he had just bitten and chomping down on that gross cheeseburger with a moan. Shockingly, the brief thought sent a jolt of excitement rushing through her body. She quickly shook off the idea, holding herself back from actually physically shuddering.
For the rest of the ride, Shannon gazed out the window until they pulled into the driveway of a townhouse. She recognized the neighbourhood. It was mostly occupied by students. They got out of the car and Miles led her to the back of the building to the entrance of a basement apartment.
Miles unlocked the door and they went inside, landing immediately in the main living space. Shannon’s deep brown eyes widened at what she saw. The room itself was quite bare with only a TV, a couple of couches, and a table. But littered on the floor were soiled clothes and already on the table was a box of pizza along with other wrappers and random trash. She wasn’t even sure if the room was built to code. There certainly weren’t any windows.
“We can work over there,” Miles pointed to the couches.
As Shannon questioned the ‘workspace’ in her head, Miles went into the adjoined kitchenette and grabbed a beer out of the fridge. Showing Shannon, he asked if she wanted one.
“No thanks,” she said. “I don’t drink.” She had to hide her disgust but he just shrugged and closed the fridge.
Making his way back to the main room, Miles set the bag of burgers he had brought in from the car on the table. Shannon watched the large man as he got settled on the couch. Before he did, she noted a large groove in the cushion. Miles instantly sank into place, practically collapsing into the spot. Popping open the beer, he gulped down at least half the can by her estimation in one go before wiping his mouth with his forearm and letting out a huge unapologetic blech that echoed off the unpainted walls.
Once again, she did her best to hide her disgust as she stared at the gross man in front of her.
Miles turned to her. “You going to just stand there or we gonna do this?”
Without a word, she took a seat in a different chair opposite him, setting her bag beside her. Unlike Miles, who sat completely slouched with his thick legs slightly spread, Shannon sat with her back straight and legs together. She pulled her textbook out of her bag, holding in her hand a moment while she scanned the messy table for a clear spot. Finally finding one, she placed it down in front of her and took out her notebook, which she kept on her lap.
“So I thought we’d start by reading the chapter and picking out the most relevant passages to the questions.” She said as she uncapped a fluorescent highlighter. Shannon looked up to see Miles still sitting in the same position. “Where’s your book?”
“It’s in the car. Don’t worry about it, though,” he said without irony. Miles rocked himself up with a grunt and batted the pizza box open. He broke off a slice from the partly-eaten pie. “Want some?” He asked, thrusting it toward her, once again holding out greasy food toward her.
“Um, isn’t that cold?” she quizzed.
He looked at the pepperoni slice, clearly confused by her question. “Meh, nothing wrong with that. Tastes better in a way.”
“Your loss,” he said, biting down before sinking back into the couch. “You could stand to eat, though.” Shannon watched his as he chewed the cold slice. He didn’t even bother to close his mouth. He took another bite before fully finishing the first and Shannon could see the grease from the pizza coating his fat lips.
“By the way, did you know your lips do this weird thing where they kind of go slanted?” he said, breaking her stare. “It makes you look like you’re really annoyed or bitchy or something.”
For a moment, Shannon thought about his comments. She didn’t know where she should start. Everything word out of his mouth was… wrong. Instead of arguing, though, she ignored him. “I escort beyoğlu didn’t come to eat. Can we focus now…please?”
Cheeks full of pizza, Miles extended his hands as if to say, “Be my guest.”
“Thank you,” Shannon said, turning her eyes back to her book and began to read.
Losing herself in the text, she worked her yellow marker across the pages. Shannon was in her zone now. She was inspired and on a roll. As ideas came to her, she also noted them in her notebook in perfect penmanship and repeated her findings back to her partner without looking up.
“Oh! Here’s a good bit. It talks about irony and the different kinds of it. We can use it to answer the question about literary devices!” Inspired, she copied the passage as she spoke. “Let’s see…there’s verbal…where words mean the opposite than they’re intended…situational…where things happen different than expected….and dramatic where we the reader know more than the character! Sweet! Eh, Miles…? That’s good, right?”
After not receiving a response right away, Shannon finally looked over to her partner — just in time to see the large man stick the entire back half of a pizza slice into his mouth. His cheeks awkwardly rounded around the corners of the crust as he desperately chomped down on the food.
“Yeah, yeah….irony…go on, I’m listening….I swear!” Miles assured her even as he masticated. His mouth was wide open. Shannon could see the food being processed. Particles flew out and hit the table. God, he was so gross, Shannon thought to herself in sheer disbelief. I could never… For a brief moment, a flash of an image appeared in Shannon’s head. She saw herself getting up, leaning over the table, and slowing running her tongue across the table, licking up one of the larger pieces of pizza particle, her eyes never leaving Miles as he ate.
Shannon slowly shook her head, pushing away the image, and glared at Miles. “Really? I mean, really?”
“Oh, nothing. Don’t worry. I’ll just do everything myself while you stuff your face. Don’t worry about anything.”
Miles gulped down, digesting the last of the pizza. “Thanks! You’re the best!” Miles smiled at her. He had sauce and oil around his mouth.
“UGH!” Shannon groaned.
“What? Why are you getting so upset?” He sounded dead serious, too. As though he couldn’t understand why she’d be so frustrated with him. That infuriated her even more.
“Because this is going exactly like I expected it! I should never have come here.”
Miles sank back in his seat. He shrugged his large shoulders. “Hey, you’re the one that agreed to it…”
“Well, it was a mistake!” Shannon stared at him with his legs spread out. She was practically fuming, tense and annoyed, distraught over his disregard for her and their work and the possibility of her getting a bad grade. Yet, he was so relaxed! Now he was even folding his hands above his head! Shannon’s eyes couldn’t help but roam across his form once again. There were sweat stains under his arms. His T-shirt had rolled up a little from the stretched position, exposing the underside of his big, round stomach. She focused a few seconds on it. The pizza and burgers had done a number on it. It was so engorged…and hairy. So unlike everything else in her life. It represented gluttony, uncaring, everything she wasn’t. Even though she was disgusted with him, her mind had a moment when it wasn’t totally turned off, when it was almost intrigued.
“Why are you so uptight?” he laughed.
Shannon’s eyes flicked back to his face. He had a dreamy smile, like he was high or something. “Because I think it’s unfair that I have to have a fat pig for a partner who isn’t going to do anything!”
“Then go,” he said, once again shrugging his shoulders. “Leave.”
“I will,” she said, sliding her books into her bag, not caring how they went it. She defiantly lifted herself and her things from the chair and then started out of the hell-hole basement.
Just before reached the foyer, she heard his voice behind her. “At least I’m a fat pig that’s happy with himself.”
She turned around abruptly and slowly walked back into the living room. She cocked her head. “Excuse me?”
“I said, ‘At least I’m a ‘fat pig’ that’s happy with himself.'”
Shannon set her bag down. She grinned as she challenged him. “Oh, really? And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means what it means. I’m happy with myself. What are you? You’re too focused on being the good girl and getting everything right and sucking up to TAs that it makes you so insecure that someone just might not like you.”
It was her turn to laugh, a fake dismissive burst. “Oh, yeah…sure. You are so wrong.”
“Great comeback,” he lifted his thumb then added, “That was an example of irony, by the way. You should really write that down in your little notebook. Oh by the way, you’re doing it again.”
“That bitchy crooked smile.”
“I don’t have to listen to this.” Shannon’s leg jerked as she prepared to turn around again and storm out of the apartment. For good this time, she told herself.
Miles laughed. “You keep saying that, but you’re still here. Face it: you know I’m right.”
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