It’s my first day at a weight loss program on the upper west side and I’m the youngest one there by at least thirty years. I’m thirteen. Each person has to stand by the scale at the front of the room and list what they eat in a day and then the woman with the clipboard points out everything they’re doing wrong.
I proudly announce that bananas are my afternoon snack (the guy before me said pretzels) but she says you can only eat the amount of a banana that measures from the tip of your pinky to the base of your palm, any more than that and your body can’t metabolize it so it turns into fat.
I go home and tell my parents that bananas are the reason I’m fat. They don’t buy bananas again for a long time. I avoid bananas at school, then I avoid the cafeteria altogether so it’s working.
The girl with the collarbones tells me I look amazing. I haven’t eaten lunch or dinner in four days. She sits next to me in class. She asks what my secret is and I tell her I don’t eat anything after 4pm. Aren’t you like, starving by night time? No. When I’m hungry I take a sleeping pill or an Adderall. Worst case scenario I eat carrots and then throw them up. I tell her it’s funny when my vomit is orange and she tells me to keep up the good work.
A boy is sleeping over for the first time. I’m nineteen. I spend money I don’t have on lingerie and I avoid food for as long as I can, awaiting his arrival. I shove two toothbrushes down my throat trying to throw up in the shower. If I do it in the toilet my roommate might hear me again.
It finally happens and I hear something pop in my head but it’s just my stupid body and it probably doesn’t matter. I finally did it. I’m skinny enough for someone to date me and he’s sleeping next to me when my ear starts bleeding onto my pillow. I ruptured my eardrum. I spend eight hours running through song lyrics in my head, pressing my palm into my ear as hard as I can to alleviate the pain. I can’t get out of bed or he’ll wake up and I don’t want to bother him. It’s my fault. My stupid, worthless body ruins everything.
At the emergency room they say it’s really bad, they ask why I waited so long to come in. I tell the nurse I recently lost forty pounds and now I’m dating someone and he makes me feel like a princess. She doesn’t care.
I get my drugs from different pharmacies so no one asks why I’m taking nineteen pills a day. I have antidepressants, sleeping pills, laxatives, mood stabilizers, appetite controllers, thyroid hormones, diabetes medication, and dozens of colorful supplements that I invent reasons to take. I don’t know what they’re for.
Most days I can’t see colors or feel my fingertips or control what I say but I can fit what’s left of me into a size six and at Thanksgiving everyone is excited that I finally lost the weight like the weight was some other part of me that’s always burdened them and now I’m better.
Taking a handful of pills every hour is kind of like eating and I look forward to the water that comes with it because it makes me feel full. I haven’t urinated in forty eight hours but I’m having consistent sex for the first time ever so it’s probably correlated and the pain goes away every time he tells me I’m pretty because no one’s ever said it before.
They tell me later that there were blue circles around my eyes when I was carried into the emergency room. My kidneys started to shut down or something. Septic shock. They give me morphine.
My face is swollen and my stomach is purple but I agree to meet up with the boy when I’m discharged because he hardly ever initiates plans anymore. It’s Halloween.
We’re sitting on a bench in Union Square when he says he just wants to be friends. I sit beside him and cry until he walks away because I can’t move my legs. I take a cab home and open the door for trick-or-treaters all night. Most of the girls are dressed as princesses.