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. 





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