It began with a break that wrenched my heart, a red-bloom sack, back into my hollowed chest-- a coffin that had been recycled after a few good deaths. I regrew two months in an old cast on a regimen of self-love and strawberry toast, reminiscing tales of Venus and Rhiannon, who I believed once ran ghostly white through my veins and then exited as newborn of my guise. O body! I regret the dust that had settled in your stomach; the bones that couldn’t even mold the blood was too dry; the worth that looked leonine but was serpent in the placid waters and bartered with me to cross where a noose was tied to my name; the skin that twisted at the sight of blighted bloated bones the hands of scandal held tight. Gone, gone, gone were the days before calamities rang in my ears and tamed me submissive to a garden that refused to flourish but, rather, grew into itself to protect the roots.
Don’t ask me how I feel about food because you’ll find yourself lost in stories that glorify pathological eating patterns. Yes, I am a loud-mouthed *******. Yes, I will tell you about the time all I ate on a Wednesday was a single mustard packet and you better believe I held the near-empty plastic sleeve under my desk ripped it open and brought the splayed-out wrapper to my lips.
How about the Saturday night my roommate left for her boyfriend’s house. I waited for the sound of her car pulling out of the driveway then spent the next two hours eating bowl after bowl of frosted cereal and throwing them up one after another until I couldn’t feel my jaw.
Breath in the madhouse freezes in air like ice. The drip drip drip of life turns inward like a hooked nose. It is time for the melting, it is time to have your own breath caught and put away neatly like mugs in a cabinet, away from the lips, away from the throat with its noble muscles. It is time to be saved from your own spent mouth that bleeds ***** and lies, lies, lies.
I stare down my straw. It’s floating in a cold beige soup that I must drink like some perverse mother’s milk. Two table wardens pretend not to stare. But they do stare in quick flashes and sideways glares-- they’re supposed to be my mothers teaching me how to get fat again. The clock ticks forward its hands make puncture wounds in my eyes that mimic mouths. I shift in my chair and my thighs slide in my own anxious mess. One warden opens her mouth to speak but a cough comes out instead. I do not take a sip and the clock yawns. I do not take a sip and the clock gives up its patient dance and the warden who coughed pours the contents of my glass down the drain. I ask if she could pour me out too-- *****-by *****. She rolls her eyes at the spread of my thighs that beg to be fed-- I do not drink.
Two anxious women sit across the table from each other interrupted by two dishes of food, two glasses of water, and six utensils resting on paper napkins. One thinks to herself, “Is this sickness?” the other, “I am the sickest.” The sick picks up her fork and licks the tines, preparing it for a bite that will never arrive in her mouth. The sickest folds her arms across her chest and pushes her dish away with her eyes and they sit in silence with loud eyes and trembling hands willing their fear to disappear.
I am living with eleven dead women-- rather, I am dead with eleven others just like me. Even the fat ones are all snapped bone and skin so thin you can see right through to the blue veins. Our skin, our veins, our bone come from one mother, monstrous and controlling. We sit like puppets on strings but at night we lie with death like animals.
Doctor Dearest, when I ask you to drip sweetness into my veins do not tell me that life looks better with stuck-open eyes and *******. I want to feel my arms light up with the anticipation of release.
Do not prescribe me rest, I’ve had enough of that to make an infant cry out in envy. And anyway, my bed is stone and my blanket is fire spun into thread. Sleep does not tempt me unless it is guaranteed.
Do not tell me to eat or unfold your little pyramid, a stack of sins that weigh on me with the full force of an iron curse. Food does not welcome me into its yellow-walled home-- it senses desire and punishes me.
Do not pull a magic pill out of your hundred dollar hat and fold my fingers along its dusty edges because I will crush it under my weight and piece it back together with spittle-thread, the glue of a starver’s refusal.
Do not promise me that time heals pain when I’m not even an inch up this mountain. My feet cannot balance on footholds carved in mud, and my hands were stolen from a chest in my own ghost’s attic. They haven’t been used in this lifetime.
Doctor, Sir, do not tell me that I am sweet enough to tempt even the fullest stomachs and the tallest men. I know the taste of dirt because it sours my tongue and scrapes my throat. And I am tired, so tired of digesting Earth when I wasn’t meant to be fed.