It happened in the middle of a workout: the thud, the crunch, the sound of my slipped shoe-everything hitting the ground except my head. Nobody came to my rescue; and really, why should they, I’ve been drowning since before they got there.
In a nearby corner where no one could reach, the corner by the broken machines and the things labeled “Do not touch”, a cell phone was ringing. I wanted to touch it, look for it, dig for it, because it was mine, and I had a feeling my mother wanted to pester me about my 3:30 appointment at the eating disorder clinic. Today was my first outpatient weigh-in and like a psychic, I knew I was disappearing. My sweatpants became hip huggers, my bras sagged and my shirts were so sweaty they might as well have been bleeding. Still, my mother said she’d be waiting for me, with a cake to celebrate my first month of recovery. It would have roses and flowers, everything the grocery store guy could possibly give away. I can still remember her in the kitchen, waving the big knife at me, the same one that’s been my best friend for the past eight years, whenever I failed a math test or got teased at the bus stop.
I wanted to tell her, it doesn’t work this way, you don’t just eat chocolate and get better, but I’d be talking to the same woman who spoonfed me Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, who let me watch princesses get rescued until I fell asleep. When I was two, you see, nothing — almost nothing — could tire me. I cried and cried, violent, unprotected sobs, the kind of sobs I hear in the hallway every time a girl gets dumped. My parents drove me, cradled me, did whatever Doctor Spock or Phil — whoever came first — told them to do. Hell, my father even sang to me, in his raspy, cancer-ruined voice, sang Don Henley or Aerosmith or The Beatles, because those were the only songs he could mouth the words to. The rest were garbled, not understandable: wgen yu wsh upn ah str…
Nobody else in my family sang; they were writers and journalists, mathematicians and historians — people who taught in college, far away from eating disorders or exercise or men who got a rouse out of playing grab ass with a bunch of sixteen year olds. I’ve tried emailing one of my cousins, a guy who lives in Boston, by the name of Howard Zinn. My mother tells me he’s pretty famous; she has his autograph and everything.
Sometimes, at 3 AM, I can hear her repeat the lines from his books, something about how life is a moving train, and nobody can be neutral. At night in the unit,
I’ve tried to picture it that way: the nurse’s trays, the blood pressure monitors, the always spinning room.
It never works. Every time I stand up, someone knocks me back down, back to the place where nothing is touchable, where husbands beat their wives in between adjusting their oxygen tanks.
If I could write my cousin a letter, my big, famous cousin, who has a nice house and takes pictures with Ben Affleck, I’d tell him to build me a fort — no — a tower, away from treatment centers and illness and husbands who hit. I’d tell him that’s where I want to live. Right there.
— originally published in Negative Suck
— featured in Rage