On my third pass through the kitchen in the morning, I see a recently delivered box sitting on the floor. I consider the possibility that it might be for me. The package is addressed to my wife, but there’s still a slim chance I am the final intended recipient. I lift the box: it’s heavy. For the moment, I can take the investigation no further – my wife is not at home.
At some point in the afternoon, I look out the window of my office shed towards the house and see my wife standing in the kitchen. I cross the garden. My wife does not look up when I enter – she is staring intently at her feet. The box is on the table between us, empty.
“What was in that package?” I say, opening the fridge and removing half a supermarket cheesecake.
“Bathroom scales,” my wife says, looking down. “I ordered them last week.”
“How many?” I say.
“One,” she says.
“One bathroom scale,” I say, taking a plate from the cupboard and a knife from the drawer.
“No,” she says. “Some bathroom scales.”
“Is it, like, two big trays hanging from a seesaw, and you sit on one while someone piles rocks on the other?”
“No,” she says. “It’s black and it connects to my Fitbit.”
“Then it’s a scale,” I say, slicing the half cheesecake into two uneven portions, and putting the larger one on the plate.
“Scales,” she says, stepping off her scale. “Do you want to have a go?”
“I don’t weigh myself,” I say. “I know what I weigh.”
“Fine,” she says. But as soon as she turns her back, I stand on the black box. I watch as the digital display settles on a final number. Then I put the plate I am holding on the table, and look at the number again.
“What?” I say. “This is ridiculous.”
“I know,” my wife says. “That’s just lockdown.”
“No, I mean this is wildly inaccurate,” I say. “It’s out by more than a stone.” I hear how this sounds, even as it comes out of my mouth.
“I’m afraid it isn’t,” she says.
“Have you calibrated it?” I say.
“You don’t have to calibrate it,” she says. “Them.”
“Well, something’s wrong,” I say. “You should send it back.” I leave the room, in search of a quiet place to think about things.
Sitting on the edge of my bed in the gathering darkness, I realise that the last time my fixed notion of what I weighed was affirmed by actual measurement was at a doctor’s appointment five years ago. An extra stone in that time frame was not just plausible, but likely. More likely still, I think, is that the extra stone is the product of just one year: this past year, the year of lying down and eating. Then I think: I completely forgot about that cheesecake.
Later on, I experiment with the scales in private, discovering many ways to turn the disparity between my true weight and my actual recorded weight into a more manageable number.
“The pounds are flying off,” I say to my wife as I emerge from the bathroom in a towel two days later.
“How?” she says, lying in bed and not looking up from her phone. “I haven’t noticed any changes to your lifestyle.”
“First, I removed my wallet and my keys, which made a considerable difference,” I say.
“I see,” she says.
“I also prefer mornings,” I say. “I find I’m lighter in the morning than at any other time.”
“What do you mean?” she says. “How often do you weigh yourself?”
“At least a dozen times a day,” I say. “Because it fluctuates.”
“You’ve become obsessed,” she says. “Dangerously obsessed.” I look at her.
“It was you who brought scales into our home,” I say.
“Exactly,” she says. “Losing weight was my idea. Now you’re just copying me.”
“Do you want to know my target weight?” I say.
“No, I don’t,” she says. I tell her anyway.
“Really?” she says. “And what do you weigh now?”
“Do you mean right now?” I say. “Hang on, I’ll just check.”