Wednesday, January 26, 2011

One-Ton Rita

By February 2nd every year Rita weighs two thousand pounds.  You can't tell by looking at her.  Her red down coat looks a little salty and soiled, but no more so than anyone else's, and not so you'd guess she has reached an English ton.  Every morning she can still get her leaden feet into the same size 8 zip-up boots, always still white from yesterday's salty salvation.  She never complains about the salt, because when two thousand pounds slips on the ice, two thousand pounds gets its red coat even dirtier and calls her chiropractor. 

One-Ton Rita can still wrap her soft green plaid scarf around her tree-trunk neck the way she could when she was little Rita three months ago and a Halloween cold snap sneaked up on everyone.  You can only guess how much Rita weighs by the way she walks (if you can catch her walking) and by the look on her face (if she would meet your eye).  Bus drivers see that Rita weighs two thousand pounds before she reaches the door, and the bus kneels before her.  ALL HAIL 2000-POUND RITA!  Your Massive Majesty, please enter your carriage!  and she does, somehow, not because she is interested in going somewhere else, but because she remembers vaguely that somwhere else is expecting her.

Every February second, so reliably that we wonder why we still ask, a woodchuck in a sleepy Pennsylvania village becomes alarmed, not by his own shadow cast by a huge electric floodlamp, but by the flash of cameras suffering a slow news day.  Rita is not from Punxatawney, but subscribes to a weekly paper there.  She has recorded the wather there on 2/2 for as long as she has enjoyed her subscription, and twice was sunshine reported. She clipped out both reports and slid them under the glass of her coffee table.  They have never seen enough sunshine to yellow.

Rita is not the only two thousand pound woman in Ithaca.  One-ton women are common here.  They're the same women you notice at 120 pounds wearing Flax and Birkenstocks, gliding up Aurora Street deciding where to eat al fresco.  Ithaca's gravity is very strong in January, which is a good thing because it keeps people stuck to the ground here.  Rita wants to leave every winter, but weighs too much to stand up and pack.  She's too heavy to buy a plane ticket.  Too huge to get into a southbound car.  This morning she lost 1800 pounds, but before she could pull out her iPhone to book a flight the sun was gone again.