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Love Song for Café Bustelo / Elegy for the Back Row of Film Forum

from My Life's Work by Ben Seretan

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When I was fatter I was easier on myself. My body was a soft and convenient excuse that I walked around inside of, a cloud of flesh that could be held accountable for my failures and my shortcomings. It was an understandable explanation for the cruelty and indifference of the world - naturally I was passed over for opportunities both fun and professional, rarely taken home from parties, seldom taken all too seriously. I hardly resented these things when they would happen - I empathized with the viewpoint and in a more abstract sense I think I frequently denied myself opportunities. I was less bold, actually viscerally afraid to try on clothes or take my shirt off, only comfortable standing in a certain hand-on-hip posture poolside. Eventually I developed a confrontational attitude with regards to showing or using my body - there was always a serpentine “fuck you” muttered when getting in the ocean, when getting into bed with someone. When I was granted dignity or serious attention or love from a partner, I gobbled it up greedily, shoving every morsel of it in my hot little mouth, inhaling the good feeling with such fervor that the feeling would dry up and disappear. If there was any triumph in my life I felt it one hundred times over, as I felt that life was considerably harder for me in my fat body than for others. Is it not truly incredible that, with this body, I chose to sing in front of others? To draw attention? I hated the way I looked. I wore whatever clothes happened to fit me, hanging on to pairs of pants and button down shirts long after they had been worn through with holes because so few garments off the rack hung in a way that was manageable. I grew my beard long, preposterously so for a time, to hide my ever weakening chin. I refused to take care of myself, I refused to step on a scale or visit the doctor, I refused to deny myself the sensual pleasure of eating, I refused to think about my health in any long term sense. And what’s more - I felt that I deserved no better treatment, not from myself not from my partners not from my friends, my family, my workplace. Though my gluttony - both my literal appetite and an emotional one - ran unchecked, I simply wanted less from the world as I felt I did not deserve any more than I was given, not with the weight. I did not hold myself accountable for my own happiness.
Stress eating an entire box of raisinets in a supply closet at the movie theater where I used to work, tipping it over and swallowing as fast as I could, feeling the instant comfort of it, my muscles relaxing, panic subsiding, the drugginess of it, knowing that I had a set of problems in every ounce of flesh but not knowing where to start, stuck.
As of this writing I’ve lost 40 pounds in less than a year (it runs parallel to this project). A regular schedule, a regular income, and a spreadsheet tracking my exercise - no big secret to it for me. And I’m still fat, but imagine carrying that around with you everywhere, the relief of unburdening. I carried that weight up a mountain in Alaska, through the streets of Naples, across three boroughs to get to work after Hurricane Sandy hit the city. It melted off of me. And now I want more, I’m voracious, inextinguishable, making up for lost time, younger than I’ve never been. Fewer excuses, less cloud, less flesh. With much more weight to lose.
Dancing alone very late at night surrounded by strangers, beautiful people, awash in neon green lit fog and absolutely fucking feeling myself, sweating and grunting and putting my ass into it, free in my corporeal self in a way unimagined and unexperienced in all my years on Earth.

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from My Life's Work, released August 30, 2018

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Ben Seretan Troy, New York

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