She was shrinking. There was no other way of putting it. She was literally shrinking.
“I must be losing a lot of weight,” she told her friend over a lunch of wine and cheese downtown. “I put on this shirt this morning and it felt a size too big! I’m not complaining, but I’m just wondering what’s different now than last week.”
But that wasn’t it. Her shoes were too big. Since when do you lose that much weight in your feet? Her toes had to reach to meet the top of the shoe. Was this normal?
The doctor, said another friend, go see the doctor. She didn’t like doctors. She didn’t like waiting rooms. She didn’t like the smell of the office. No, I’m going to figure this out, she thought. Her eating habits were the same. She didn’t feel any different. She wasn’t sick or feeling faint, or extra thirsty or… anything. She couldn’t put her finger on it. Her tiny, shrinking finger.
It didn’t stop there. She continued to try on clothes that fit her figure perfectly a few weeks ago, even new clothes and her arms suddenly became too short to fill the blouse. Her skirts were too long to be considered skirts. She looked at herself in the mirror and she reminded herself of being a child in her mother’s clothes.
She suddenly wanted to run to the phone, to cry to someone, anyone, but there was no one there but the dial tone. She had wanted to disappear about three years ago. She remembers it well. Her life was just beginning until the world toppled over on her. Losing her house, her job and her lover, she didn’t think anything could bring her back from such a dark and deep depression. She stayed with a friend, on her couch, crying herself through the day and wishing that her life could just end; wishing she could disappear.
Through good friends and people who genuinely cared about her, she bounced back and made it to where she was right now. She never forgot her lover, though. The one person she dreamed of every night. The face was always the same, it never changed. Her feelings never evolved to anything different or greater. She just never loved again. Her life was fine the way it was, until now.
She sat down on her couch, called her job and asked for a day off. She opened a bottle of wine and over-poured a glass for herself. She leaned forward with her hands on her face, peeking through her fingers. Her head felt smaller. But oddly, nothing else about her was changing at all. She was just shrinking.
She got up and decided to take action. Any logical human being would go to the doctor, so that’s where she was going.
The hospital was practically empty. “I have an emergency,” she told the nurse. “I need to see my doctor straight away.” The nurse took one look at her and thought she was slightly disturbed since her clothes and shoes were by far too big for her delicately small frame. “Ok, have a seat and I’ll let the doctor know you’re here.”
She sat and looked around. She hated waiting but because of that, she also knew she wouldn’t have to wait very long. The doctor knew her, knew her past and knew she hated waiting; the one other time she came in very ill, she made it known very loudly that she would wait no longer than 10 minutes. She had a way of getting her point across when she wanted to. Within the next five minutes the nurse came back out. “He’ll see you now,” she said propping the door open.
“Thank you,” said the woman and in she scurried to the third open door. She sat on the cold, papered exam table. She realized that she was shaking. The doctor walked in. “An emergency, huh? What seems to be the problem?” She didn’t know how to explain, so she stood up.
“Why are your clothes so baggy?” asked the doctor. “That’s what I want to know!” said the woman frantically. “I think I’m shrinking, doctor! I’m shrinking!”
“Now, now, don’t get ahead of yourself here, let’s measure you and take a look,” he said with a calm sincere smile. “We’ll have to take some x-rays of your joints as well.” She nodded. As she stood up and against the measuring tape, she heard the doctor sigh heavily.
“Well,” he said, “you seem to have lost 4 inches off your height. When did you notice this happening?”
He said it, it was true. She was shrinking. She couldn’t talk, but instead began to sob. What in the world was happening to her? Was this a punishment? Had she lived her life in a completely unorthodox way? Was her wish from three years ago coming true?
The thought depressed her and she shivered from the chill of the doctor’s office. The doctor began to perform scans of her body. The whole time she sobbed. The machines went over her joints, trying to decipher what the problem actually was. As she sobbed, she felt smaller and smaller.
There was nothing. There were no marks, no cuts, no bone fragments, nothing. Her skeleton was normal. Flawless. Just smaller. They sat in the doctor’s office a week later.
“I’m sorry,” he sighed. “I have no idea what to diagnose you with; nothing seems to be the matter.” The little woman sat, unable to reach the floor. She had lost three more inches off her height and she was an emotional wreck.
“Well, doctor. What am I supposed to do now? Plan for my funeral? Tell my extended friends that I won’t be around much longer? Am I dying or will I shrink to the size of a pea?” She played the cynical card for she had no idea what other card could be played in a situation like this. Not only did she continue to shrink, but at a faster rate. She began asking a seamstress friend of hers to continually alter clothing for her small body.
They had seemed to get a hang of the shortening rate that her friend had already made her clothes in advance. It had come to the point where she couldn’t drive anymore. She couldn’t reach the pedals. When she walked around in public, no one could see her. She was pushed around and not noticed.
Her friends didn’t know what to tell her. They knew that she was emotionally scarred, knowing that she would eventually shrink to nothing. What would the end be like? He voice was already changing, she couldn’t be heard unless she screamed. Pens and pencils were too big for her small hands, and she walked around in children’s shoes, her feet were so small.
“You’re going to have to carry me around in your handbag,” she scoffed while sitting in her friend’s home. “It’s not like I’m getting younger, either! I’m disappearing!”
“Now, don’t say such foolish things,” said her friend. “I mean, how small are you really going to get? This has to stop at some point, right?”
“I’m not so sure,” said the woman. “I can feel it now. I can feel my body getting smaller. Look at me! I’m going to be the size of a germ! I will be eaten by an ant!”
They looked at each other and the woman began to laugh, then cry, then laugh again. “This is a story for the ages! The incredible shrinking woman! The woman who disappeared! Surely, I will live forever,” she announced to no one. “I will have a tale for those I see in heaven and you’ll have a tale for your grandchildren!”
When she finally got home, she sat on the floor. She didn’t have much to do these days. Although her boss felt bad, they let her go with a large severance for being such a great employee. She didn’t go out much and a drop of wine was already too much for her to bear.
As someone who’s dying, or quite near it, what would she want to do? What did she always want to do? And it came down to the one thing she never wanted to do, but allowed herself this one shot. She picked up the phone and dialed a number she’d never forget. On the other end, the sweet voice answered.
She held her breath. She didn’t know if she should say anything or just hang up.
“It’s me,” she said, slightly panicked. “Hi. It’s me. How are you?”
The phone clicked.