S2: Episode 22 - Pearl

Episode Information

[Intro Music]

Narrator:  Welcome to Hunger and Resilience, narrative histories about the complexity and experiences of hunger. A traveling exhibition and weekly podcast edited and hosted by Michael Nye, supported by the San Antonio Food Bank, Eric Cooper, executive director. We are grateful for the honesty and eloquence of every voice. Episode 22, Pearl.

Pearl:  When I was 25, I was gonna hitchhike back to Arizona to try to work and a not so nice guy picked me up and tried to have his way with me. And I got out and I started walking, and here comes this little short person with a shotgun. And I’m like, okay, this one’s gonna rape me, this one’s gonna kill me. She was exactly five foot. She looks like a man, and she told him to get his chili chomp and pepper belly ass and leave me the hell alone, or she was gonna make him. He drove off like his behind was on fire. And then she offered me a job because she didn’t want me hitchhiking. Her son came home and basically within an hour, hour and a half, he told me I had to marry him. The day before we got married, Joe, my husband said he had a surprise for me.

He had been collecting coins for a year, putting him in the gas tank. Whenever you have spare change, you drop it in a gas tank. We took the tank off and shook out all this money on the ground, smelled horrible. For our wedding. Uh, we had $2,600 just in coins. So we bought me my first pair of blue jeans, a suede shirt, and that’s how I got married. I had a western wedding. My husband Joe collected tires, lawnmowers, tools, dipstick. He had 26 rifles. He’s got the most gorgeous eyes. It just like, they just sparkled. It was just like they just surrounded you a shade of blue. You can’t describe, he was a young person in an old body. Physically I look, I still look humongous. The first part of last year, uh, when Joe was at his worst, I was390. I have no problem admitting that 390 pounds. And I swore that I was not gonna die Like my mom. She was 61, she was 450 pounds. I don’t see that. I’ve lost 80 something pounds. I can look in the mirror and I still see this great big hippopotamus from the neck up. I see an old woman, an aged old woman, and from the neck down, I just see a big old hippopotamus body.

Treat fat people like you wanna be treated. Look at them as an equal, not as, as a lower class, because I, I’m not considered in, in human class at all. I got kicked out of a store in Alpine. One of the workers came up and told me that they didn’t need my kind of people in there. Why didn’t I go someplace where people didn’t have to look at me? I was told, you’re fat, you’re ugly I’m slow, and I stink. I can walk into almost, almost any restaurant. And, uh, from the minute I walk in, they just asked me to leave. They said it was, it was bad for their customers. Customers didn’t appreciate pigs coming into their restaurant. It’s like, I don’t care anymore. I, I stopped caring when Joe died. I stopped caring. Financially I’m poor. I didn’t feel like I was when I was with Joe because he, he did his best.

And it seemed like it was better than it what it really was. I’ve crawled in the dumpsters and, and got food. I’ve stole food from the grocery store because I was, I was that hungry. And, uh, being hungry is not a fun thing. It’s, it’s, it’s painful. It’s humiliating. It’s not a happy way to be. I don’t understand. When you don’t have food and you don’t have anything to eat, how you can still gain weight. Being overweight is just something that happens. It’s you and, and you can be hungry. You can be really, really hungry.

There’s been nights when, uh, I’ve cried because my stomach hurt. I had the shakes. I was weak. I couldn’t stand up. I’ve gone as much as, uh, almost a week and not had anything but a couple of slices of bread and ketchup. It doesn’t do a lot for the stomach, but you know, it gets you by. I’m 58 now. I don’t wanna live to be 60. To me, I can only see things getting worse. If you’re dead, you can’t bug anybody. They can’t put you down. You can’t be hungry. You know, it’s just a way to get away from everybody hurting you. There’s more people that will knock you down than there is that will help you. Or at least you can’t find you don’t know where to look for the help.

[Outro Music]

Host:I had the privilege of meeting Pearl in Marathon, Texas. She was living on the edge, desperate. Pearl said, since I’m overweight, no one could believe I was experiencing hunger. Why should anyone listen to stories about the experience of hunger? They are not asking for pity, maybe understanding to be listened to. They are saying, this is my experience. They are part of our shared family. There is so much wisdom in Pearl’s. Voice. Thank you, Pearl, for sharing your story and your presence. May something in her story stay with you. I’m Michael Nye. You can go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcastfor photographs and transcripts. Thank you so much for listening.