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15 October 2015

Talking to Marlene, I thought: “How fat do you have to be before a plane refuses to take off with you on it?”

It was indeed a terrible situation to lose your dream job because of excess baggage.

By Suzanne Moore

The pool was really dirty but since I’d just arrived, I thought I should sit by it.

It was a cheap motel. Everything was brown. The air-conditioning dripped into a puddle that I tried to stem with towels. Sirens blazed all night.

“Hey, honey, do you want me to fix you a drink?”

I looked up. She was blonde, older than me, in a matching swimsuit and sarong – the height of sophistication. Plus she was drinking a blue drink and smoking. Full house in the coolness stakes.

“I need to shift a little weight,” she said. “That’s why I’m in Florida.”

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Maybe she did need to? She wasn’t thin. But not hugely fat or anything.

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“So I can fly again.”

“Fly?”

“They grounded me. And I won’t be grounded.”

Marlene had been an air hostess for American Airlines. It was everything she had ever wanted.

“I told them it’s glandular but the bastards tried to put me behind a desk.”

“Bastards,” I agreed. The blue drink gave me a rush.

“Was your weight really upsetting the whole plane?” I asked, not knowing what to say. I just wondered how fat you would have to be to stop a plane taking off.

Marlene could have been annoyed with me but instead she continued to regale me with stories of the places she had been. All of them were in America but I knew not to point that out. “I’ve given them my all and they do this? I’ve been everywhere for them.”

It was indeed a terrible situation to lose your dream job because of excess baggage.

“You staying here? It’s a dump,” she said.

“Yes.”

“OK, then maybe I’ll sleep in your room. At the moment I’m living in a car and that’s making it hard to diet.”

“Um . . .”

“What number is your room, Suzie Q?”

And that was it. Marlene moved into my room. With lots of vanity cases. I went to work every night as a waitress at a diner and brought back whatever food I could steal.

She lay in bed all day eating crisps and watching TV. I don’t think she even had a car.

“The weight is coming off,” she would say, though her clothes were very tight.

“Marlene, I have to pay for this room. You could help.” “Sure, honey,” she said. “I’m just waiting for the payment from American Airlines.”

I wondered after a few weeks how I’d got myself in this situation, living with a grounded air hostess. I thought I must really have it out with her. But I never got round to it, as I’d discovered Quaaludes.

One morning I came back and she had gone. There was a note. “American came through. They need me back in the air. Bye Suzie Q.” She’d also stolen most of my clothes.

Not that she could fit into any of them.

This article appears in the 14 Oct 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Corbyn supremacy