It’s either the chill in the air, or the nerves hanging onto my shoulders, the tension not quite leaving the blades and neck. The half-empty feeling of freezing cold, shaky legs, being bundled in itchy wool. Being too hot in the warmth of indoors, too hot and impatient for anything.
It was this time four years ago when everything started. I started running. I started writing, and then editing my life as I deemed it should be. I could be alone and survive. And I was, for a time. I remember the snowy banks of my street, the icy chill offset only by the work of my lungs pumping and stretching beyond their limits. Of the run itself I remember the inhale and the exhale, but that’s mostly it.
I don’t remember why, and I don’t remember how I did it. I can’t run like that anymore. I refuse to push. I simply can’t.
What I can still recall quite vividly is the exasperation afterwards, and the exhaustion in my bones as I collapsed onto my bed, unable to move, wishing sleep would take me, just take me. And I remember the sweet, young doctor who recorded my weight. A two pound difference was enough to cause concern, and I felt it then, that I was trapped by the numbers. Her concern was the only fuel I needed.
I don’t have complete answers, but I do remember feeling very alone. I felt friendless, friend-free, and the boy, that stupid beautiful boy, who locked eyes with me that one time in ninth grade science class, well, we didn’t speak anymore. My voice failed me, but not for first time. And those aren’t the only reasons why.
I told myself that I liked running. I told myself that it made me feel free. I told myself that I had to. I remember being so proud, almost to the point of sickness, when I ran three miles and kept ahead of my sister and stepmom the entire time. I could feel it in my legs and arms, the adrenaline and the burn of my muscles consuming themselves. I told myself that it felt good.
I really don’t remember what it was like, when I didn’t know how to eat. I’ve been doing it so mechanically and finally, enjoyably, for quite some time now. But I must’ve been afraid of something back then because Renfrew kicked me out of their evening program, stating that I needed a “higher level of care.” This became their mantra for me for the next four years.
Still, I remember that first night, staring at a plate of eggplant parmesan in horror and wanting to cry and leave the room, God, anything to get me out of that room. I was in such a fog. I don’t remember the names or the faces, except for the dietician who told me I wasn’t gaining weight. In fact, I was losing.
When my parents drove me away from Renfrew after less than two weeks of treatment, I wasn’t happy, but I was relieved. My parents were upset, and we were driving to the beach, and I just couldn’t explain to my Dad that I didn’t need a place like that. It wasn’t for me. I would do it on my own. And I tried, for some time at least.
I could feel that the weight had piled on after a vacation in Mexico. I was bloated, with short hair, pale, fat, and ugly. I despised my waistline, and I tried several times sticking my fingers down my throat before actually succeeding. On the day that I did succeed, I walked away triumphant. I wasn’t so much happy as I was, again, relieved. Relieved to have that Chinese food up and out of me, relieved that no one knew. Relieved that I could sleep, and not worry about the exercise, or the weight, or the feelings, or anything, really.
Your thoughts have always laid close to mine. We were both skipping supper.
But you should never be embarrassed by your trouble with living,
Because it is the ones with the sorest throats, Laura, who have done the most singing.
*The photo is of me and a friend at the Renfrew outpatient center circa 2008.