Monday, June 24, 2013

sometimes i write stories #5: faith (I haven't fully edited this yet :) Beware of typos!)

   "To show humility," Adam tells me when I ask him why he believes in God. "My faith is my acceptance that I'm only human and that there's a greater, eminent being watching over us." I nod. "I really couldn't even imagine being atheist. My religion's so important to me. I mean, I've been brought up Catholic my whole life."
    "Well, I've been atheist my whole life," I respond. My mom used to be Christian, but after my dad left her and reality smacked her down ‘so hard not even God could pick her up,” (that's how she'd phrase it), “she stopped going to church."
    "Ah," Adam replies. "But," he pauses. "No offense to your mother, Simon, because if my life took such a downward turn, I'd probably lose faith too... but I'd always try to to find it again." I looked into his brown eyes.  "Because that's when you need God the most those times when it seems like you're furthest away from salvation."

    A few weeks pass where we don’t encounter the topic of faith. Then, Adam invites me to go on a church retreat with him. He describes it as a kind-of camping trip away from all everyday distractions so we could channel all of our focus into getting closer to God. I agree to come out of curiosity and the desire to spend more time with my friend.
   On the bus up into the mountains, Adam makes an effort to introduce me to everyone. I’m more of an introvert, though, so this basically goes as follows: “Hey,” Adam would say. “This is my friend, Simon.” They’d say hey or hi or hello. I’d awkwardly smile and wave like the penguins from the movie Madagascar when they’d try to escape. At one point during the bus ride, everyone bursts into a Jesus-song. Adam has his guitar (he plays in the church’s band), and strums with passion, at the same time singing louder than the person who wrote the worship tune probably intended it to be sung. I just watch him go. The sunlight bleeding through the scratched-up school bus window caresses his face. He has this glow about him. I swear this is what angels in heaven look like.
    By the time we reach the camp grounds, it’s dark outside.  First, we head to the dining hall for dinner. Then, I follow Adam and the other teenagers plus adult supervisors to the camp’s main activity center. It’s decorated to look like a chapel, religious posters stuck on the wall and a cross at the front. The room is carpeted over the wide stairs that go from end to end of the room making up the entire floor, five huge wide, shallow, steps, until the front where it’s raised like a stage. I never leave Adam’s side during the activities or prayer. He never lets me, always guiding me along with him. We go to the cabins, and we bunk together. We talk about music until we fall asleep.
   It’s Saturday. Our cabin leader, Michael, wakes us up at the crack of dawn. Adam’s a  heavy sleeper, so I have to climb up to his bunk and shake him a few times before he drifts into consciousness. I don’t want to though because he looks so peaceful when he sleeps. His untidy blonde hair falls over his forehead.
    At the breakfast table, Adam says, “So, I’ll make you that worship CD. I know you’ll love Matt Maher. And the lead singer of Hillsong United has the voice of an angelplus, they use a lot of electric guitar and drums so it has that alternative-rock sound you like.”
   This one guy at our table adds, “Yeah, both of those artists are great. But you can’t forget Chris Tomlin.”
   Adam laughs. “Of course, not, Jake. Thanks.”
  “Tomlin’s his fav,” Joseph, Jake’s brother and the youth band’s drummer explains, taking a seat beside Jake. “I personally think Tomlin’s kinda cheesy though.”
  “Cheesy?” Jake scoffs. “You did not just say that. He’s like, my role model! Hey- don’t make that face!” Jake proceeds to toss his napkin at Joseph. “Anyway, Simon, right?” Jake looks my way, and I nod. “What other stuff are you into? ‘Cause Adam did say you’re new to the whole worship genre.”
  “I’m really into alt-rock,” I admit.
  “He loves the sound of guitars,” Adam adds. “And he plays, too electric mainly, and last night, were talking about how knows like, all of the songs off of Fall Out Boy’s newest album.”
  “No kidding! I’m a fan of F.O.B, too,” Jake says. I smile while eating my blueberry muffin.
  “Same,” Joseph interjects. “I’m going to their Save Rock and Roll concert this September.”
  “Aw, no fair,” I say as I chew some eggs.
  “Would you want to play some songs with us during worship today?” Jake asks. “I know Michael brought his spare electric, and we could always use an extra guitar.” I nod excitedly.  
  After breakfast, the adults divide us into different groups; Adam and I get separated. I tell him I’ll miss him. He laughs and says not to worry. “I’ll see ya soon!” he tells me as he smiles.
   None of the guys I met during breakfast are in my group either, so I’m kinda bummed. There are six of us teenagers and one adult leader. Our leader’s a girl who’s a freshman in college, Phoebe. She’s just a year older than me, but she exerts an aura of maturity. Her loosely curled brown hair is pulled up in a high ponytail, and she’s wearing a pretty floral sundress.
  “I like your dress,” I tell her.
  “Thanks,” she grins.
  “Where’d ya get it?”
  “Forever21,” she laughs. “I don’t think I’ve ever met you before. What’s your name?”
  “Simon,” I say. She introduces me to the rest of the group who all know each other already through the church’s youth group program: Allison, Morgan, Arian, Kendall, and Zachary.
  “The theme of the retreat,” Phoebe tells us, “is Faith.” She tells us how our faith makes us who we are as Catholic-Christians. We believe in the Holy Trinity, in Saints, in the goodness of God. Then, we go around and tell stories about instances when we felt our faith in God challenged or strengthened.
 “I feel my faith in God being strengthened right now,” I admit. “I’m technically an atheist, but, I don’t know. Just being here with so many people with such strong faith just makes me think that a God really does exist.” Phoebe starts to cry. She walks across our seated circle and hugs me. The day goes on with the same sentimental feel.
   During periods of free time, I stay with Adam. We’re in the recreation room. “I challenge you to a ping pong duel,” Adam announces, handing me a paddle.
  “Oh, no,” I try to refuse it. “I’m seriously the worst ping pong player in the whole world.”
  “Aw, come on, Simon,” he waves the paddle towards me. “I’m pretty bad too.” I laugh and take the paddle.
  “Fine. You’re going down.” Adam’s not bad at all. He’s kicking my ass right now. “Whatever happened to, ‘I’m pretty bad, too?’” I ask, missing the plastic ball for at least the twentieth time. He just laughs. Then, he comes over to teach me how to properly hold the ping pong paddle.
  “Here,” he tells me, hiding my hand beneath his. “You hold it like this.” I look up at his face. His short blonde bangs are disheveled. I’m jealous of his hair’s sunny highlights that my dark brown hair could never have naturally. His eyes are brown as ever.

   It’s a Saturday night. If I were at home, I’d be staying up watching Psych, practicing guitar, or playing League of Legends. I never thought I’d be jamming out with a bunch of fellow musicians who call themselves “The Jesus Freaks” instead, but I’m having the time of my life. Adam’s on his acoustic guitar and Michael and I have a riff-off on his electrics. Joseph’s on drums, Jakes’s on piano, and Adam and Phoebe are our lead vocalists. Joseph can do a ton of tricks with his drum sticks. He’s twirling them around. At one point, one stick flies onto the piano. Jake yells and chases Joseph around with the drum stick. “I’m gonna kill you!”      
   Adam whispers to me, “Who do you think’s gonna trip first?” The brothers race around an obstacle of music sheets, chords, cases, and various music equipment. “Okay guys,” Phoebe announces. “Let’s start from the top of ‘Hosanna’ by Hillsong United”
   “Yes! I love this song,” Adam yells.  Jake and Joseph head back to their places but not before Joseph trips over Adam’s guitar case. Michael offers me his guitar solo.
   “Really?” I say.
   “Yeah dude,” he replies, slapping my shoulder. “You’re awesome, like, even as good as me.” I smile at the compliment.
  “You’ll do great,” Adam encourages me.
  “Everyone ready?” Phoebe says into the microphone.
   The song starts off with a bit of drums and Adam’s goes in with his guitar. Phoebe starts to sing the first verse. It’s epic, the feeling of playing with an awesome band. I’ve only ever played my guitar alone in my room. When the refrain comes around a second time, everyone’s jamming out with passion. I feel the floor reverberate to the beat of the drums and strum of our guitars, and when Phoebe and Adam harmonize, I swear I have an eargasm. The rhythm flows throughout my entire body. It’s time for my guitar solo. Everyone’s really getting into it, their eyes closed, feeling the music they’re making, everyone but me and Adam who share a glance. I’ve never been so happy playing in my entire life. The song fades out, and I feel like crying because it’s over.
   The rest of the youth group comes in soon after, and I’m glad knowing we’ll get to play the song again for them. Now, it’s time for Confession. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to participate because I haven’t been baptized, so I’m technically not Catholic. Father Marin says it’s okay though. I decided to chose a priest from another city to confess to, knowing that after my confession, I’d feel awkward if I saw him around all time. I walk into the room and sit down on a chair facing a man dressed in all black except the reverend’s square of white on his collar. His name is Father Marcus, and his eyes are kind. Even after I spill out my secret, they remain kind. This is what I imagine the eyes of God look like.
   I walk back into the main activity room where everyone who’s completed the sacrament waits. The lights are off, but candles are lined up along the walls. Calming piano music drifts throughout the room. I smile at Jake who’s playing it. I sit by myself, close my eyes, and let the spirit fill me. I feel someone sit beside me. “How did it go?” Adam says, tears puddled at the corners of his eyes.
   “It was great,” I whisper, tracing the path of the tear going down Adam’s face before I brush it off. It’s late, so after everyone’s done with the sacrament of Reconciliation, we head back to our cabins. Adam puts his hand around my shoulder.
   “Thanks for coming on this trip with me,” he tells me. Adam’s face is so close to mine. I suppress my urge to kiss him and look up at the night sky. It’s full of stars.
   “See up there? At that one object that doesn’t sparkle like all the others?”
  “You mean that little dim star over there?” Adam asks.
  “It’s not a star,” I explain. “That’s Saturn. And that other star, also near the crescent moon. Together, it all kinda looks like-”
  “A smiley face,” Adam finishes.
  “Yeah,” I laugh. “It’s...” I trail off. He’ll think I’m cheesy.
  “It’s what?” he looks at me.
  “It’s like the face I make every time I see you.”

  I lay down on my bunk reflecting on the whole day. I fall asleep thinking. Suddenly, I wake up to the sound of the world crashing. I jump out of bed, and as the lightning flashes outside, lighting up the room, I  see that Adam’s awake too. Michael tries to flip on the light. “Dammit,” he curses. “Power’s out!” He searches in the darkness for a flashlight. I feel Adam climb out of his bunk. He sits next to me in mine and holds my hand. He checks his watch; it’s 2 a.m. Michael opens the door to reveal a sight that’s probably the same one that guy Noah saw before the flood happened, and he had to build his giant arc. “This is a freak storm,” he yells over the pounding rain to all of us. Jonathan, the freshman kid in our room starts screaming. I look up to vaguely see the water rushing through the roof and onto his bunk at the far corner of the room. “Jesus Christ!” Michael shouts as everyone begins to panic. The five other boys scramble out of their bunks. We all try to pull on our shoes and jackets on. “Everyone, head to the main activities room,” he yells as the cabin’s floor begins to flood with water. I run outside with Adam. I’m freaking out, but suddenly, Adam bursts into laughter as the rain flattens his hair and his clothes to his body. He stops running.
   “Adam!” I try dragging him along, but he drags me instead, leading me to the muddy grass alongside the concrete path. He wraps his arm around my stomach as we plop down on the edge of grass. We slide down the muddy hill, tumbling and screaming the whole way down. We fall at the side wall of the rec room which is just a building down from the main activities room.
   “Cool short cut, right?” he yells over the noise. Lightning flashes, and I scream, hugging him for comfort. He laughs, and I feel his heartbeat as I rest my head against his chest. We stay in the rain long enough for it to wash the mud off of our bodies. Then, he takes my hand and leads me underneath the rec room’s overhang. He tries the door knob of the front door. It opens. “Let’s play ping pong!”
   “But we’re supposed to go to the main activities room! Michael’s gonna freak,” I retort.
   “Don’t worry about it. Just say it’s all my fault,” he smiles, pulling me through the doorway. He tries the light, and it doesn’t work. It’s pitch dark inside, eigengrau, the shade of black seen by the human eye in complete darkness, and we’re both dripping wet. “Aww.”
   “Adam, I think we should go,” I say. He lets go of my hand. I lose him. “Adam?” I feel around for him. Nothing. “Adam! This isn’t funny.”
   “Over here!” I follow his voice. I feel a towel in my hands. “I knew I saw some towels over here this afternoon. There’s a swimming pool just outside there.”
   “There’s a flashlight, too,” he turns it on. We dry off before sitting down together on the rec room couch. In a few minutes, flashlight bulb blows its fuse. “Crap,” Adam says, hitting the contraption.
   “It’s okay,” I say.
   “But I thought you were afraid of the dark,” he tells me.
   “When did I say that?” I reply, even though it’s totally true. He just laughs and wraps his arms around me. I rest my head on his shoulder. “Adam,” I tell him. “I love you.” It’s quiet for a long, long time.Then, I feel Adam kiss my hair.
    “I...” I wait. “I think I love you, too.” That was good enough for me. I kissed him, and then he indubitably kissed me back. We just sat there for I don’t know how long making out. I didn’t even hear the door open over the sound of the pouring rain. We only realized someone else was there when the lights turned on.
    “OhmyGod.” Someone’s staring at us. “Adam? Simon?” My hands were still entangled in Adam’s blonde hair and his in my matted brown curls. My glasses lay on the table. I felt Adam release me, and I put on my glasses. I see Phoebe, wide-eyed and confused, her floral dress clinging to her body. “We were looking everywhere for you two...” she says. “Adam,” she chokes out. “You’re... gay?” She says that like it’s a bad thing. I realize that, for a Catholic kid from Kentucky, it is.
   Adam looks at me apologetically. I squeeze his hand before he can deny it himself. “No,” I say. “I I’m gay. I justAdam’s not. I just took advantage of his friendship. I’m sorry.”
   Phoebe walks over to me and instead of slapping my face like I expect her to, she just gives me a hug. “It’s okay,” she tells me. For an instant, I feel relief. Even though these people were Catholic didn’t mean that they weren’t accepting. I mean, I thought “I’ll help you.” I look up at her, confused. “I’ll take away your demons. I’ll pray for you. Whatever it takes until you get better.” I start to cry.

    On the bus ride home, Adam tells me how sorry he is. He tells me that he loves me, he know he loves me, but he can’t be with me “in that way” because he believes he should love girls more in a romantic way. And he thanks me for taking the heat for him. I didn’t know it before, but I wasn’t the first boy Adam had kissed. Sophomore year, there was a boy he’d dated until his parents found out and sent him to Christian gay-to-straight conversion camp. A year. He lived in a camp where he was told he was wrong and fucked up and demonic for an entire year. “They told me,” he whispers, “that if I loved boys, I hated God.” I’m glad it’s dark outside now so no one judges me when I hold Adam’s hand and quickly kiss his cheek. “It’s not true,” he says. Adam’s right. He has the strongest faith out of anyone I’ve ever met, and he’s the one being persecuted. I feel pissed of at God that Adam has to suffer. I feel pissed off at God for giving me Adam while at the same time taking him away.

    (Two months later.)

It's dark outside. Lighter than eigengrau, because of the starlight and moonlight and the shine and sparkle dancing upon the crystal cross created by the collective efforts of these two light sources. The crystal cross is like a guard, a ten-foot tall guardian with its arms outstretched three feet wide in either direction as to protect the church sleeping behind it. But it’s also a welcoming figure; it’s outstretched arms look ready to embrace all who come near it. I creep beneath its wings and across the soft grass upon which it holds its post. No light pours from the crack beneath the church's front doors. I wonder if she's here yet. I hope she’s not here yet. I knock on the long wooden door three times. Then, a bit of light is cast from the bottom of the door just before it opens. Phoebe takes my hand and pulls me through. The door shuts behind us, the thud echoing throughout the entirety of the great empty room. Her flashlight is the only source of light. When she shuts it off, the world is eigengrau.
   We're at the main altar at the front of the church. We both kneel before it. Phoebe starts praying aloud because she believes her prayers are stronger when audible outside of her mind. She holds my hand. She says words no one else in our congregation would accept except God. That's why we come every night after Father Luke and Father Marin and Sister Caroline have gone. For a community who teaches people to be accepting, I'd be eschewed by everyone if they knew my... "sin." Phoebe believes these sessions are mandatory especially after I refused to go to the gay-to-straight conversion camp and even more so after “the Baptism incident.”

    After the retreat, I began attending the youth group because, even though they’re all homophobic as hell, I’ve never felt like I’ve belong to a group as much I belong with them. Well, until I got kicked out. I believe in everything they stand for (minus their stance on marriage) their values of faith, love, forgiveness. Lately, I’ve been praying for my mom, and things have been gradually getting so much better for our broken family, and when I’m feeling stressed, I pray, and it helps me. I don’t know what it is, but I feel better. Plus, “The Jesus Freaks” is like my second family. Well, was, because they kicked me out, too.
    You see, a couple weeks ago was the day of “the Baptism incident.” I knew I wanted to be part of the Catholic church officially. I wanted to receive the body and blood of Christ during communion. I wanted it so badly, but I didn’t want to hide myself from the people I trusted anymore. I emerged from my house wearing a white summer dress. My hair had grown out quite a bit, so I wore it out of my face with a floral headband. Before I could enter the church, Phoebe grabbed my hand and pulled me back. “Simon,” she gasped. “I thought you were getting better. You can’t go in there looking like that.”
    “Like what?” I say.
    “You look like a girl,” she tells me, exasperated.
    “I am a girl.”
    “No,” she pleads. “No, you’re a boy, Simon.”
    “Yes!” she shrieks. I reach open to the wooden door handle to let myself in. “You CAN’T go in there! You have know idea what they’ll think.”
    “It doesn’t matter what they think. They’re not the judge of me. God is.”
    I walk into the church.
    The congregation turns to face me. Gasps. Screams. Words of hate. The priest refuses to baptize me. Adam merely looks my way helplessly. I turn around and walk to the door. “Simon, wait!” Adam calls after me. He takes me in his arms. He kisses me in front of everyone. I haven’t seen him since.

    "Forgive," Phoebe prays. "Forgive," she yells. The tears drip my face, tears I can't see but feel. "And rescue Simon from the cult of faggotry,” I think about the letter Adam sent me a few weeks ago, “from homosexual desires and lusts,” telling me he loves me, “from soiling the sacred sacrament of marriage,” and saying that in college, away from his parents, “so that he may find true love with a woman and live a life free from sin and eternal damnation,” we can be together. So these sessions with Phoebe are worth it. Even so, I hate her words. Every time she speaks this way, I cringe. She doesn't see me, but I'm squeezing my hands and my nails dig into my skin. She doesn't see what’s inside of me eithera girl. Unlike Phoebe, I wasn't blessed with breasts and a vagina. That doesn't change who I am, how I feel. I’m only doing this for Adam. Phoebe tells me that if she believes I’ve changed, and we can convince Adam’s parents, they’ll lift their restraining order. I still can’t attend Adam’s church anymore though because of this. No more “Jesus Freaks”either. But I did find a new church, this little liberal Catholic community an hour away in the city where Father Marcus, the one with the kind eyes, preaches. I helped revamp the church band there, “The Disciples,” and, I can barely believe it myself, but they stand for gay rights. I mean, they even help fundraise for the Gay Rights ACLU initiative sometimes. I believe in God, the father almighty, maker of heaven and Earth, of all that is seen and unseen. I'm seen as a man. I'm unseen as a princess waiting for my knight in shining armor to rescue me from this hell. No, not completely unseen. It's like eigengrau. In perfect darkness, the human eye cannot see anything darker than this dark, dark, grey, but I know God can. I have faith that He can see me like no one else can. He can see me here in the darkness. He made me this way. He accepts me, I know he does. I pray because this is when I need God the most, this time when I feel furthest away from salvation. "Amen."

Friday, June 21, 2013

sometimes i write stories #4: i don't want to eat

     "Tiffany, eat the pizza."
     "Tiffany, eat the pizza."
     "No, I'm not hungry."
     "Tiffany, eat the-"

     Dreams about being force-fed. These are the kinds of nightmares I have. Sadly, that scene you just saw. Not a nightmare. No. That was real. That's the reason why, so close to my release date, I got sentenced to another six months in hell. I was so close. 

     One of the problems with anorexia is being hungry all the time. No, duh, you're probably thinking. But do you know how hard it is to keep your emotions level when you're this hungry? Unless you've been like me (and if you have, I know you feel my pain), probably not. With that said, it's, I guess, easier to see why I blew up like that in the dining hall last Thursday. I couldn't keep myself composed not running on 200 calories between dawn and dinner. I have to learn how to, though, or I'll never get out of here skinny. 

    People wonder why I'm so obsessed with starving myself. But, truth-be-told, I'm not obsessed with starving myself. I'm obsessed with being skinny. I realize that's not a very good goal to obsess over, becoming skinny. I guess I just have a shitty goal. I feel like I'm this way because I used to be a "FFK," you know, a "former fat kid." OH, Tiffany. But you WEREN'T a fat kid. Shut up. Tell that to the kid who called me "fat-ass" during summer school when I was eleven. Tell that to all the cute Limited Too clothes all my friends could fit into but not me and all my Girls' Plus brand clothes I started hoarding by the time I was nine. Tell that to all those wanna-be hockey players and future high-school-track-kids who always picked me last for kickball and dodge ball and everything and anything you could play during p.e. Not a fat kid, my fat ass. 

    I'm sitting at the wooden dining table. "Family dinner." I look around the table at one very odd-looking family. What's for dinner? Calories! Who wants to eat them? Nobody! Shelby just got in trouble for shaking her legs. It helps burn calories, in case you were confused. 10 calories an hour. Britney just tried to throw up her steak. She couldn't even wait until she were in the restroom, not that anyone would let her use the restroom alone with her record. Kathy's trying to get away with not eating her peas. "Too squishy," she says. And yesterday the fish was "too salty" and the day before that the rice was "too bland." I just eat. Well, I eat and count. I can't help it. The numbers go hand-in-hand with each portion set in front of me. Steak, 300 calories. Peas, 80 calories. Mashed potatoes, 400 calories. And I count each chew. One-two-three- Valerie got in trouble for doing the napkin trick. You know, the napkin trick. Seventeen-eighteen-nineteen Okay, if you don't, it's when you chew up your food as much as you can, then... seventy-nine-eighty... as you're pretending to wipe your mouth with a napkin, you spit it up the liquidy substance and crumple the calories away. Eighty-five I stop. I can't remember the last time I chewed more times during a meal than the number of pounds I weighed. 

   I remember the first day I came to Lisa's Treatment Center. My parents dropped me off. When they went to sign my forms, I brought in my suitcase. There was another girl checking in at the same time. My composure was a fine paradox to the way she was kicking and screaming. I don't remember anything she was saying. All I remember are her hipbones. Her jeans were slipping as she jumped and clawed after her mother. A disciplinary figure restrained her from escaping away from the Center through the front door. The frenzied girl's pink lacy panties covered nothing except these protruding hipbones that were attached to walking yard sticks. I was glad I wasn't that skinny. Thinking back to it though, I probably was. I just couldn't see it.

    First thing they did after I put my bags in my room was send me in to meet the therapist. She was pretty. Light brown hair that curled a bit at the ends. Thin, but not like me. Not like us, I guess. 

   "What are your triggers?" she asked. Her name tag said Ms. Hanson, but she preferred Jennifer. 

   "My triggers..."
   "Yes, your triggers. The behaviors that led you to your dis-"
   "I know what a trigger is. I'm just thinking." ... "Okay. My triggers..."

   In middle school, I had this friend who was obsessed with her body. Evelyn. Super pretty, and I mean, her face could've been in a Cover Girl ad
 high cheek bones, perfect skin, the most beautiful Chinese girl I've ever seen to this day and that was years ago. She was around 5'6 and thin. XS clothes. 00 jeans. Initially, I just thought that was how her genes were, you know? And she weighed 100 pounds. I was 5'4, and I weighed 140. One day, she started talking to me about her "HW, CW, and UGW." I didn't know what the hell she was talking about. Maybe you don't either. If you don't, let me explain. They stand for "Highest Weight, Current Weight, and Ultimate Goal Weight." Her numbers were 107, 100, and 85. "85?" I asked her. 
   "Yes," she smiled with this dream-like expression in her gorgeous almond eyes. "Now," she took her fragile hands in mine. "Tell me yours, Tiffany. I can help you. We can do this together." 
   "140," I began. Her smile faltered. She probably couldn't imagine being that heavy ever. A tiny fairy like her. "135," I lied. She smiled. "Progress." I smiled back. It hurt me to lie to her, but I promised next time I told her my CW, I'd be honest. "130." 
   "130?" she questioned. "What about... 120?" I stared at her cute skinny jeans, a bit of her perfect stomach exposed beneath her cropped shirt. Evelyn still held onto my hands. 

   That same day, I went home and calculated my current BMI (Body Mass Index; according to,  "Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from a person's weight and height. BMI provides a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems.") My BMI was 24.0.  I was in the 90th percentile, meaning I was 1) "overweight" and 2) weighed more than 90% of girls my age, 13, and height, 5'4. I hated myself. I typed in 120 for my weight. 20.6. 70%. But what really mattered was that this BMI fit within the "healthy weight" range. I could do it. Then, I calculated Evelyn's BMI. At her CW, she was already healthy. 16.1. 12th percentile. But... her GW. 13.7. "Underweight." Below the 1st percentile. 0%. No girl age 13 and 5'6 would be skinnier than her. Well, I guess I found my trigger. 

    I set my bag down and unpacked my clothes. I didn't really know why I was here. I didn't think my problem was that bad. I knew I had something of an eating disorder, I guess. But, I mean, how could I be anorexic if I still thought I was fat? I was fat. There's the problem. Anorexics always think they're too fat even when they're so much further from being fat and so much closer to dying. 

    I was at Evelyn's house one day, just she and I, and we sat on her bed. She had her laptop on her legs. "This," she clicked on a link. "Is like, my bible." 

    Patricia was my new roommate, that girl with the protruding hipbones, yard stick legs, and pink panties. She came in with mascara trailing down her face. 

    "Hi," I said. 
    "Hi," she replied. "Do you mind if I sing?" She had a lovely voice. At her high school, she used to be in choir. I thought she sang to lighten up the mood. I thought that until the day she wasn't allowed to sing anymore because singing burns more calories than talking. We weren't supposed to exercise at the facility, but after she couldn't sing, Patricia tried everything. She'd do sit ups in bed before she went to sleep. She'd pace around the room. She'd jump in place sometimes, just jumping, over and over and over again. Then, to make sure she'd make her TW (Target Weight) during the weekly weigh in, she'd drink bottles of water beforehand. One night, a random inspection was done in our rooms. They found crushed up water bottles hidden beneath Patricia's bed. Patricia was moved to a stricter facility after a month where they could monitor her 24/7. 

    Evelyn clicked on the link. It was a "pro ana" website. "What's pro ana?" I asked.
    "Pro anorexia," she responded. I scanned the blog posts by girls just like Evelyn, just like what I would become. Nina's signature was: You can NEVER be too rich, too brown, or too skinny. Lucy wrote: The greasy fry, it cannot lie, its truth is written on your thigh. Hannah re-blogged: I'm not losing weight... I'm getting rid of it. I have no intention of finding it again. Sarah said: My HW was 120. I hate myself. Time for a 5-day fast. Ana Warrior says: I'm SO GROSS. After reading for hours, Evelyn pried her eyes away from the screen. She giggled and sighed. "Well, time for a little snack." She was joking, right?
    We walked over to the cupboard in the kitchen. She handed me a cup and took one for herself. Then, she proceeded to fill both cups with ice cubes. "Cold water boosts your metabolism." My stomach growled. I thought back to what I'd eaten that day a bagel for breakfast, some goldfish and oreos during brunch, and a sub for lunch. It was 4:30, right around the usual time I eat some chips or a cup of ice cream. Then, Evelyn began walking back to her room. "Wait, what..."
    "I thought we were getting snacks," I replied. 
    "Tiff," she took my hand in hers. "Remember, we're doing this together." 

   I'd spent a year at Lisa's prior to the, what I've come around to calling it, "The Pizza Incident." They try to feed us a whopping 2,300 calories a day, the food Nazis. That's more than most of us, ugh. Who am I kidding? That's more than all of us combined would want to eat in a week. It's disgusting. 

    The day after my first encounter with pro ana forums, Evelyn started us on the "2468 diet." "Okay," she was explaining. "First day, you eat 200 calories. The next you eat only 400. Then, 600. Finally, 800. And then you start all over again. Repeat it enough until-" 
    "Doesn't that seem kind of low?" Evelyn peered at me quizzically. It's just that we'd had p.e. together the period before. We were doing this health unit where Mr. Hill would point at food pyramids and teach us how to read nutrition labels. 
     "Growing kids like ya'll," he boomed. "Need a good 1,800 calories a day, at least." I know I'd heard him say that. Hadn't Evelyn? 
      "You mean, 1,200 calories a day, right?" I confirmed.
      "Oh, God no," Evelyn gasped. This was the week she'd finally gotten to one of her milestones: 95 lbs. She could finally wash her hair again. (That was her bribe, her incentive to get down to 95 since ana alone didn't seem to be enough that week.) 

     There's a new girl at Lisa's today. This is two months after I was the new girl. Her name's Cassandra; she's only nine. When the food Nazis leave, we whisper questions to her.  "What're your CW and UGW," Britney asks. Britney's now the second youngest. Twelve. Cathy's 14. Valerie and Shelby are 15. I'm the oldest, 16. 
     Cassandra leans towards us. "Well," she's timid but glad to find other girls who understand her. "I'm right now 52 pounds, but I'd much rather be..." Dead. At that weight, Cassandra would most definitely be dead. We all just looked and her with reassuring smiles. That's how fucked up we all are. 

    I could not stick with the 2468 diet. Me, this 140 lb. girl so used to scarfing down at least 2,000 a day. I wanted food, craved food, hated food, loved food. I obsessed over food. 

    We were in ninth grade when Evelyn got asked out on her first official date. His name was Peter. Evelyn asked if I could come with, maybe double date with Peter's buddy Andrew. It was planned, so during winter break, we all went ice skating together at this Christmas festival they hold for a few weeks downtown. Lights sparkling on every tree, so many trees, it was as if we were in a forest, and this was Los Angeles, so all this pine was a shock compared to the palm trees we were accustomed to. It was chilly outside, but Evelyn had insisted on wearing this skirt and crop-top ensemble with a pair of thin tights layered beneath. Both boys opted for hoodies over thermals paired with denim. I had on a thermal, puffed vest, and two layers of thick leggings. We skated for about ten minutes. Andrew played hockey so, a natural on skates, he held my hand as he pulled me around the rink with him. Peter played football and was not strong in the skating department, so he spent more time trying to stay poised and upright than paying attention to Evelyn. Andrew and I were racing each other when we noticed Peter had fallen. Andrew laughed, and went to help Peter as he struggled to get up. I looked over at Evelyn. Her cheeks were sullen. Her bottom lip was turning blue. There's another bad thing about anorexia. You lose enough fat, enough adipose tissue that's supposed to insulate your body, your internal organs, your vitals— and suddenly you have this high sensitivity to cold temperatures. Who would've guessed? Don't forget: Malnutrition; Fatigue; A learned obsession with calories, fat, and sugar intakes; Paranoia; Depression; Dangerous eating rituals; dull, brittle hair and nails; Dizziness; Lanugo: the thin, peach-fuzz hair that grows on the skin when the body cannot keep itself warm enough. 

    I was trying to sleep in the room I had to myself. I heard whimpering next door. I pulled on a bathrobe and walked to Britney and Cassandra's room. "Shh," Britney ran her bony hand over Cassandra's face. 
    "They made me eat a cookie," Cassandra whispered through sobs. "I feel so fat." 

    Hunger pains. Since being with Evelyn, I always had hunger pains. "To get rid of hunger pains," Evelyn announced. "DON'T EAT." 

    Cassandra would always cry at meals. 

    After skating, the guys and us went to sit at the indoor food court. Andrew went off to get some snacks. "Here ya go," he exclaimed minutes later, grinning as he set down our banquet. "Curly fries and burgers with a side of milkshakes!" I bet in Evelyn's head, his words sounded more like, "Bloated gut and thighs touching with a side of love handles." I thanked Andrew with a kiss and shoved a curly fry in his mouth. He  mimicked my actions, laughing as he kissed my lips and fed me fries. I ate my burger, my stomach relieved after two weeks of 2468 madness. I downed my milkshake in a second. Andrew held me in his arms and told me he liked a girl with a healthy appetite. Meanwhile, on the other side of the table, Evelyn was poking at her burger, but not touching it or anything else for that matter. Her milkshake glass full. She and Peter's tray of fries half gone, all by Peter's metabolism. I looked up at Evelyn's face. She glared my way as if I'd stabbed her in the back. 

    Cassandra watched us eat, but she wouldn't eat. She cut her mound of chicken in half. Then fourths. The eighths. Dividing the numbers. Dividing and lessening and cutting until the pieces were so small they were little almost-nothings. 

    "Tiffany," Evelyn said after a week of eschewing me. "You never apologized, but... but I forgive you." I stared at her. I stopped chewing into my sub. Since our fallout at the double-date night, I'd gained fifteen pounds. I was back to my 140 lbs. of fat-girl-glory. So, when she took my hand, I didn't let go. I hated myself. Only a person who hated them-self so much could do what I ended up doing to myself. 

    At breakfast the next morning, Cassandra and Britney weren't at the table. Valerie, Cathy, Shelby, and I looked at each other, confused. There weren't any food Nazis monitoring us as usual, either, so we all agreed to shove our waffles in our bras and only eat the eggs. Valerie couldn't get herself to drink the milk either, so she sprinted to the sink and made it back in unison with the kitchen door swinging open. Lisa, the lady who founded this place guided a sobbing Britney into the room. Lisa looked at us with grief in her eyes. "Cassandra's-" Dead. 

   The one year and six months are over. I'm 120 lbs. "She's healthy," Jennifer tells my parents. I hear her between the wall of her office and the waiting chair outside. "A perfect 120 lbs," A too fat 120 lbs. "But I'm worried she might relapse if she keeps interacting with her friend, Evelyn."
   "Evelyn?" my father asks.
   "Yes, I've come to believe that she's your daughter's trigger." Silence. "Um," Jennifer flustered. "She's the, the reason for her destructive behaviors. Her disorder may have been caused by Evelyn's influences-"
   "Evelyn," my mother mumbles to herself.
   "Yes. I fear that she's the one who's influenced Tiffany's anorexia." 
   "Ms. Hanson-"
   "Jennifer," my mother says. "I don't think, it can't be possible-"
   "Could you describe this girl?" my father asked.
   "Oh," Jennifer's brows probably knitted into that crease, an expression she always wore when she was confused. "Um.. pretty. Asian. 'High check bones, like a Cover Girl,' is how Tiffany described her. And very, very, thin." A long pause. I could imagine my parents exchanging worried looks. "Tiffany talked about Evelyn as if she were a large part of her life... I would've though you'd have met her before. They've been friends since, middle school, I believe your daughter told me-"
   "Much longer than that," my father said.
   "Oh, well-"
   My mother began to cry. "I thought we'd gotten rid of her years ago." 
   "I.. I don't understand-"
   "Evelyn," my father explained, "Used to be Tiffany's... imaginary friend." 

   "ABC Diet," Evelyn explained. "Week one..." I listened. "500, 500, 300, 400..." Numbers. Numbers. Give me more numbers. I eat numbers. I am a number. "Then you fast." No more numbers. I am nothing. "Extremely effective," she says. 
    "Great," I say.
    "Don't eat," she says.
    "I won't," I say. 
    "If your non-ana friends wonder why you don't eat, always have an excuse ready."
    "Yes, and I'll take my mutivitamins."
    "Good girl. They don't think you're healthy, but you know you are."
    "I'm healthy," I say.
    "You're healthy." 
    "I'm skinny," I say.
    "Not yet," says ana. 
    "Not yet."
    "Not skinny enough."
    "Never skinny enough." 


   Every night, when I'm lying in bed and waiting to fall asleep, I lift up my shirt so I can feel my stomach. I hear it rumble. Flat. Perfect. Beautiful. That's the only time I ever feel skinny. 





Thursday, June 20, 2013

sometimes i like to write stories #3: my first fan-fic (Hunger Games: Marvel, The Boy from District 1)

M a r v e l
The Boy from District 1
(This is just something I wrote sophomore year during my obsessed-with-Hunger-Games phase ^_^)
I place my right leg in first, but as I put in my left, my foot steps down on the fabric of my trousers much too quickly. I lose my balance, yelling as I face-plant onto the plush floor. I feel the warmth of the sunlight where my legs are exposed, the light streaming through the glass ceiling above. I emit a long, droning sigh. Someone laughs from behind me. My eyes grow wide as my face flushes red as a tomato.
Sequin skips from the doorway to my side. She gently brushes a thick brown curl from my eyes, then takes my hand and helps me stand. “You should’ve knocked,” I scowl, pulling up my trousers. “I wasn’t decent.”
Sequin laughs, a laugh like wind chimes in the breeze. “Your mother let me in,” she replies. My cheeks continue to blush as she stares at my face.
“Hand me a belt from over there,” I mutter. Sequin giggles. She lightly kisses my flushing cheek, then turns and walks over to the wooden wardrobe. As she opens it, a few rolled-up socks topple out onto the floor. Belts of every shade and fabric lay in a heap at the bottom of the wardrobe. Our district, District 1, makes luxury goods, so excess items are commonplace. Sequin has more dresses than there are colors.
“How can you expect to win the Hunger Games with your clumsiness?” Sequin teases. She hands me my favorite belt.
“Who says I’ll be chosen?” I retort.
“Who says you won’t?” I look up at her face; her eyes fill with worry and sadness.
My pulse begins to race. “Well,” I nervously say. “If I’m chosen, I’ve- We’ve been training for this our whole lives. That should give us an advantage.” She smiles weakly, pretending to be reassured, yet I can still see the sorrow shadowed beneath her happy expression. As if my words could calm her down. Nothing people say can hold back our fear. I am nervous- we both are- but we cannot show it. It is all a matter of pride: for our district, our families, ourselves. Career Tributes always win, or at least they haul in the most bets. Sequin and I know our odds are better compared to those from the poorer districts of Panem. However, the fact that only one tribute can survive while the rest are sure to die still keeps us up at night. Sequin leaves my side, walking to the wardrobe once more. She retrieves a sky blue shirt and a silky tie. Their colors are bright and cheerful, a paradox to the emotions I feel inside. I change into them quickly.
My room is spacious, illuminated only by sunlight. All our power must be conserved for the broadcast of the reaping. Both of our families, plus the thousand others in our district, installed mega-gloss screens to view the Games in pixel projection. Now, we will have a clearer view than ever before, as if the tributes are being killed right in front of our faces. Sequin straightens my tie, and I fix the clip in her hair. We stride towards the ample gold-rimmed mirror mounted on the wall. Then, we stare at each other’s reflections.
We stood in this very spot before we left for our first reaping. We gazed at ourselves wondering if we would ever come back here, if we would ever be together again. That was six years ago. We were twelve.
“We look so,” the young Sequin paused. My eyes left her reflection to truly see her face. Her nose crinkled up, which meant she was deep in thought. She searched for the perfect word. “Fancy!” she exclaimed. I laughed at her choice. We were both done-up for the reaping. Flowers and sparkles danced upon Sequin as a tailored shirt and pants had been placed on me.
“Well, I think,” I began. Sequin turned to face me, her brown eyes watching, awaiting my word. “We look super fancy!” She laughed, so I laughed. Then Sequin laughed even more. And we laughed and laughed to conceal our fear. We laughed until we choked, struggling to choke down the pain. We laughed because we thought laughter could keep death away. I was still trying to laugh when Sequin’s brown eyes filled with tears. Then I took her in my arms, and I held her close as we cried.
" It’ll be okay,” I whispered to Sequin. “I’ll protect you.” In kindergarten, I could protect her from anything, and since then, we have always been by each other’s side. Yet, the Hunger Games are different. At twelve, I did not know how I could protect her from the games. Even now, I still do not know. Only boys can volunteer for boys at the reaping. And only girls can volunteer for girls.
“I love you, Marvel,” she whispered back to me. Then, I kissed her for the first time. I wiped my eyes with my sleeve, and gently released her from my embrace. Then, I fled to my desk, retrieving a handkerchief and a tiny object. When I returned, I quickly wiped her tears away.
“I was going to give this,” my voice trembled feebly against my sobs. My hand was shaking as I gave the small silver ring to Sequin, “t-to you for your birthd-d-ay.” She held the ring up close to her face. Through her tear stained eyes, she could still read the engraving on the small silver heart: M and S. “Friends forever,” I said softly.
Neither of us was chosen that day, or in the five reapings to follow. And this reaping, now that we are eighteen, is the last one we must enter. I look at Sequin. Her hair falls in soft brown curls down the back of her lavender dress. Her gown is lined in sequins, which makes me smile, but I see something else which make me smile even more. “You’re wearing it,” I beam.
           Sequin looks down at her hand. The dainty silver ring sits on her slim finger. “I never take it off,” she admits, blushing. The light streaming through the glass above begins to dim and lessen.
“I love you, Sequin.” The words fall out of my mouth before I can think. Sequin wraps her arms around my neck and mine find their place around her waist. We kiss, and I hold her, and I never want to let her go. Her hands run through my curls, I feel the softness of her skin, and I strain to keep the soft scent of her perfume in my memory forever. By now, the room fills with shadows. The sun is off elsewhere; white clouds float up above us. We release each other. I look into her bright brown eyes, and we smile. The melodic bleeps from the clock mean the hour is upon us. Soon, the reaping will begin. “Let’s go,” Sequin says, taking my hand in hers. I feel the silver ring on her finger. “Let’s go together.”
“The girl tribute of District 1 is Glimmer Satellite!” The crowd cheers madly. The face of a blonde haired girl is projected on the glossy mega-screen on stage, her confidence evident in her smile and composure. But, I barely glance at the fresh tribute. My face spins to the section of eighteen-year-old girls several feet away. All eyes watch to see as the girl tribute, Glimmer, marches to the podium- all but mine and one other pair. My heart stops as my eyes lock with Sequin’s. She smiles back at me, and I feel relief. Sequin will forever be safe. Yet, I see her happy expression flash to one of despair before I realize what I hear.
“And our boy tribute is Marvel Star!”
“Sequin,” I take both her hands in mine. She struggles to hold back her tears, but one manages to escape. The lone tear falls from her eye onto the glittering tile floor. I stand up from the velvet chair and kiss the shimmering trail her tear left on her cheek. She kisses my lips, and I long for more. Suddenly, the grandeur doors fly open. “One more minute, please,” I say to the body guard. His clothes are dark. The words “District One” are inscribed on his golden badge, yet it is the Capitol Seal emblazoned imposingly on his shirt which stands out. He struts towards us, reaching for Sequin’s wrist. “One more minute!” I scream. The guard yanks Sequin back, but I pry his hand away and pull Sequin closer to me in a strong embrace. He glares, yet Sequin kisses me once more. Then, a second guard arrives. I feel a pang of heartbreak as they pull Sequin away from me, bu, I also feel something else, something cool being placed in my palm. “Come back for me,” she whispers. “I believe in you.” The doors slam shut behind her, and I am alone.
“You may choose one token from your District to bring into the arena,” the cold voice of our mentor says. “When I was a tribute, I brought this.”Cashmere holds up a ring to our faces. It is golden with a bulbous gemstone set upon it. I look at the ring, the berry-sized jewel sparkles with infinite colors. Suddenly, the bejeweled diamond splits open, revealing a miniscule metal dart. “The spike,” Cashmere explains maliciously, “is coated with poison. Stab a tribute, kill a tribute.” The word kill sends a shiver running up my spine. Glimmer and the other mentors laugh at the sadistic brilliance of the secret weapon. I take no part in their happy exchange. Impervious, I stare at the darkness outside the train window. Glimmer eyes the ring greedily. She glances at me, then, lurches across the table, snatching the poison ring from Cashmere’s hand. Cashmere smiles at Glimmer approvingly. Then all eyes turn upon me.
“And for you,” Gloss says, holding up a locket. “It emits-“
“No thanks,” I interrupt. The dumbfounded onlookers stare at the little silver ring I hold up in my hand. “I have my token.”
The spotlights shoot bright colors everywhere. Wonderful, vivid, and glittering are the colors. Cameras flash. Music throbs through the heart of the Capitol. Vivid hair styles, spinning skirts, and tattoos that shimmer decorate the screaming crowds in the stands. The world is a sea of silver, sparkles, and neon. It should dazzle me, as should the wonder of everything else in the Capitol; yet, I feel nothing but pain. I see my face on the glass mega-screen. It looks impassive and somewhat angry, so I force my anger away. As the camera zooms back to my face, I wear a bland expression of content. Good. I refuse to let Sequin see my pain. Jewels and sparkles cover my silver body, as do sequins. I try not to cry as I remember her. The colors begin to nauseate me, and the noise is so loud it pounds through my flesh. I feel so weak, but I cannot cry now.
Looking over at Glimmer, I see her embrace her stunning bejeweled costume. Her long blonde hair flies behind her. It has been enhanced with glitter, as has her face. She smiles widely, waving and blowing kisses to the awestruck Capitol audience. I try to wave my hand, yet my emotions stab me from the inside. Teetering on the moving chariot, I feel as if I am going to fall. However, I plant my feet steady on the platform. “How can you expect to win the Hunger Games with your clumsiness?” I glance at the small ring on my finger. I must stay strong for Sequin.
I hear the sound of the cannon. Stab, a young girl finds a knife in her throat. Crack, I shatter a boy’s skull. The smell of blood overwhelms me, and I realize the smell comes from my own hands. Golden and glaring, the sunlight reflecting off the Cornucopia blinds my eyes. The six of us guard it, the Career Tributes from Districts 1, 2, and 4. I look away from the Cornucopia to the arena around us. It encompasses miles and miles of landscape, everything natural, except at its center. Here, we stand. The golden Cornucopia looms as tall as a pine tree, surrounded by a broad circle of hard-packed earth. This is where the most tributes are killed. This is where the games begin. Glimmer smirks at me as I grimace at the scene. She mercilessly stabs a fleeing young girl. Bodies of tributes are strewn on the ground. The dirt is stained with streaks of dark red. Suddenly, an arrow slashes my arm. I wince at the pain and retrieve the arrow off dirt, and I use it to kill the girl who tried to kill me. The six Careers stare at each other, weapons in hand. We stare out at the dead bodies. Silence.
“I hear something!” the girl from District 4 shouts. More silence. A rustle to my right sends the six of us running. I see our prey, and I suddenly feel empathy. He is the boy from District 12. It’s a mad chase, wild and unfair, six strong Careers against one unarmed boy. All of us head for the woods. The blonde boy, I recall, has an unusual name like some sort of bread. Though I forget his name, I still remember his story. He loves a girl too, and she is here with him, in the arena. I hear him scream. I did not realize I had stopped running. Trees surround me. I follow the horrific sound.
When I catch up to the other Careers, I see the District 2 girl, Clove, clutching the blonde boy in her scarred arms. She holds a sharp silver blade to the blonde boy’s heart. “Why should we keep you?” she asks fiercely. Her long brown hair is matted with sweat and dirt. Her freckles are hidden beneath smears of red and brown. The boy keeps a calm disposition, yet his breaths are hoarse and panicked. The spot where Clove holds her knife begins dripping with the boy’s blood. Drops of red trickle down his shirt, staining the lush green grass.
“I-I” he winces in pain. “I will help you find the District 12 tribute girl. I know her abilities, her strengths, everything,” he clenches his teeth together, “and you will never kill her without my help.” A tear falls from the boy’s face, yet the pressure of Clove’s knife against his flesh fails to ease.
           “Clove,” I say. Her face whips in my direction. “You’re hurting the kid.” She shoots me a menacing glare, and the trickle of blood from the boy’s chest grows to a steady flow.
           “Curly kid’s right,” the brooding District 2 tribute replies, “Take the fucking knife off him. It’s no help to us if he’s dead.” Her glare aims directly at Cato’s eyes. I feel the blood on my hands harden as I watch the stain on the blonde boy’s shirt grow larger. Finally, Clove scowls and flings the knife onto the forest floor. She drops the District 12 boy onto the ground with a thud. A small puddle of blood has formed beside the boy’s limp body.
           “He says he can help us. Let’s keep him,” I tell the Careers. They agree to this. Then, I help the blonde boy up. He and I take up the rear of the pack. With the other Careers’ backs to us, the blonde boy quickly glances at me with a smile of gratitude. I manage a smile back.
           At night fall, we set up camp around the Cornucopia. A tower of food and supplies are piled high to its side. Then, we agree to take shifts to keep watch in case any brave tribute tries to stab us in our sleep. The blonde boy volunteers for the first shift, so I do too. The moon is out, but clouds cover the stars. We sit side by side on the dirt floor, a few yards away from the Cornucopia. I glare at the sky for a while, wishing I were home, anywhere but here. The icy wind scrapes my cheeks, but my jacket, thin flannel blanket, and sleeping bag manage to keep me warm. I think about the less fortunate tributes, the ones without supplies. The blonde boy from District 12 is staring up at the sky too. The night is nearly silent, except for the chirping of birds in the distance. Suddenly, the Capitol anthem booms through the arena. I look back at the Careers, all of whom remain asleep, oblivious to the music. The faces of the dead are projected in the sky. I try not to recognize the ones I killed, but I still do. I feel sick. Thirteen are dead, but none from the Career Pack or District 12. It is silent once more.
           “What’s your name?” I ask. The boy looks at me, obviously startled.
           “My name’s Peeta,” he says. “Peeta Mellark.” I reach my hand out to him. He shakes it and smiles feebly. “What’s your name?”
           “I’m Marvel Star,” I reply.
           “Whoa. Killer name,” Peeta replies enthusiastically. Then his eyes grow wide with worry.
“Yeah,” I mutter, “Killer.”
There is an awkward pause. Then, Peeta says, “Thanks for saving me today. That crazy knife girl... nearly sliced me in half.”
           “No problem. I’ve been wanting to ask you something.” Peeta turns to face me as I struggle to find the right words. “Are you really in love with the girl from 12?”
           He gazes out into the woods. Finally, he replies, “Hopelessly in love.”
           “You should’ve stayed with her!” I yell with rage. Peeta stares back at me, his eyes not filled with shock, but hurt. I hide my face in my hands. “If you were really in love with her, you would’ve stayed with her. Your days together...” I cannot hold back my pain any longer. “They won’t last.” I try to stifle a cry, but tears pour from my shut eyelids. My chest heaves, I sob, and I do not care if the Careers hear me cry. Suddenly, I stop. I wipe away the tears: I must stay strong for Sequin. Angrily, I try to suppress my sniffling, the cold air being the opposite of helpful. I slow down my breaths, my face hidden by my arms. I refuse to let the world see my pathetic face. Minutes pass by before I look up at the dark forest around me.
           “You love someone, too,” Peeta says quietly.
           “Yes,” I choke out. “That’s why I saved you. Only so you could escape. Only so you could find the girl from your district and be with her one last time.”
           “Thank you,” Peeta whispered.
I hear an explosion in the distance. Our food supply, it’s gone. There is no use being allies with the remaining Careers anymore. Frantically, I run into the woods with my black backpack.  Bright light seeps through the gaps between the pine needles. I run through the afternoon, sweat prickling down my neck. My brown curls flatten against my skull. My entire shirt is drenched, and I begin to thirst. My chest is heaving, and my lungs hurt like hell, but I keep running until I trip. I open my backpack, find rope, and begin making a net.
My heartbeat is the only thing I hear. The sun is too bright, beating me from in between the leaves of the canopy above. My pulse throbs through my head. I feel faint. Suddenly, I see a shadow. I wait perched behind a tall shrub. A thick wooden spear with a stone arrow head is clutched in my sweating, trembling hands. I wonder if Sequin is watching me. The figure steps about the grass, her footsteps light and silent. She constantly looks around her, and I hear a bird sing in the distance. The little girl smiles, and my heart sinks as she takes her next step.
The net lifts the tiny girl into the air along with the plethora of leaves used to camouflage it. Dead leaves flutter down to the place where she once stood. She screams, and I panic. I thrash around the bush which once concealed me, and race toward the captured tribute dangling from my trap. She says the same name over and over again in a high-pitched cry, “Katniss! Katniss!” Tears stream down the poor girl’s eyes as she flails in the net, and my heart is racing, my hands trembling. I look into the little girl’s brown eyes- bright brown eyes, just like Sequin’s. “Shhh,” I plea, wishing to stop her cries. Her face is distorted, filled with fear. Every scream tears me apart. I do not want to kill her, but killing her will bring me one step closer to home. A shrill shriek flies from her mouth, piercing the clear blue sky. Then, I stab the tribute with my spear. The shaft sinks right through her stomach. Blood stains her shirt, flowing out from the foul wound. She whimpers. Silence. I look at the little girl’s dying body, my eyes wide with shock.
           The girl from District 12 appears from the glade of pines across the clearing. The girl from district 12: she is safe, and Peeta is alive. I start to smile as I try to pry the spear out of the dead tribute’s body. Yet, as strong as I tug, it refuses to give, staying latched in her tiny bones. Dread fills my mind, and my pulse begins to quicken. Sweat forms on my brows. My hands tremble as I panic, and the smell of blood fills my nostrils. I want to leave the spear, but it is my only weapon.
An arrow drives deep into the center of my neck. I fall to my knees. Blood pours from my wound, the long wooden shaft protruding from where it struck. I yank the weapon out; then, I stare at the red arrow in my dirty, shaking hands. I collapse backward. My head falls into a puddle of my own blood. As I gaze up at spheres of green and yellow, I place one hand on the other and feel the small heart of my silver ring. I love you, Sequin, I think to myself, wishing I had the strength to say it out loud.
*   *   *

“I killed a boy whose name I don’t even know. Somewhere his family is weeping for him. His friends call for my blood. Maybe he had a girlfriend who really believed he would come back...” –Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games