By Laura Lee
You were always a skinny kid. With long hair and longer legs, you ceaselessly ran through eternal summer afternoons. Life, as well as your beauty, was taken for granted; something that would last forever.
And then like a dark summer storm, puberty came, and your body was no longer your own. You watched as your blonde hair turned dark, the silken strands now coarse and forever tangled. You watched as your body spread, as stretch marks crawled their way across your thighs like earth worms after an early morning rain. You screamed in silent protest as your body continued to expand, limbs once lithe now heavy and exhausted.
The other girls were still pretty, still thin, their breasts small and strawberry pink, not the heavy, vein laden utters that you tried to hide under over-sized sweatshirts. You could feel them looking at you, their whispers just loud enough for you to hear.
That night you try to throw up, but the faint yet ever present smell of piss and shit clinging to the toilet makes your guts lock and there is nothing but dry heaves.
So you stop.
You stop eating, you stop living, you step outside of your body and watch it slowly disappear.
16 becomes 12 becomes 8 becomes 4 becomes 2 and then finally, finally you are nothing. A zero.
You finger the pink leather skirt, the 0 on the tag like a badge of honor and you marvel as the zipper slides up your hip in one effortless movement. You forgot how heavy your head feels, like an apple on a stick. You forget the way your heart beats now, a funny jogging rhythm that makes you catch your breath. You forget how tired you are, how long it takes you to get down the stairs in the morning. You ignore the grayish tint of your skin, and how the roses in your cheeks have vanished. You ignore the fact that no matter how hard you try, your makeup seems to float on top of your skin like a thin layer of scum on a forgotten pond. You ignore how people have started to look at you (and then look away), the hooded look of inquisition and disgust in their eyes.
You marvel at your new body, spend hours in front of the mirror staring as your bones begin to appear under your pale skin. Each day you can see their movement, like tectonic plates shifting under snow. You finger the points of your collarbones, strange and sharp, arching towards the sky like wings.
In the shower you watch as the water pools in the shallow canyon of your hip bones, small white soap bubbles still atop it like bits of frost on a late November lake. Perhaps from hunger, perhaps from exhaustion, or perhaps from the myriad of pills that make your purse shake like an incessant baby rattle, you wonder about the nature of self. You wonder who you are if you disappear, and you feel your already tenuous grasp start to slip.
The days are once again endless, but that child of summer is long forgotten. Days now tick on in heavy, sluggish hours. The bed is quicksand and you struggle to get out. The morning is uppers, the evening is downers and the rest of the day is punctuated with laxatives that no longer work. You drink black coffee with an extra shot of espresso and smoke menthol cigarettes to kill the cravings.
Late that summer, you and your friends go to the beach. You hear your name being called and you turn your head, momentarily turning away from the sandcastle at your feet. She holds up her phone and your hear the click of her camera. Later, when you see the picture, you ask her to send it you. Lying in bed, you marvel at the figure on the tiny screen. The curve of your back reveals each vertebrae in almost unfathomable detail. Instinctively you hunch over in your bed and run your fingers down your back, each rib an island onto itself. And you smile in the darkness.
At some point you realize that you are no longer you, or maybe that there never was a you in the first place. You feel as disconnected from this body as you do from that little girl in your grandmother’s photo albums. But it’s okay. Because you finally understand the power you have. You finally understand that you are the alpha and the omega, that you hold dominion over your own body and no one else.
And when you pass out on the subway platform waiting for the E, you just smile at the faces that swim before you. It’s too late now, you’ve come too far. You can hear voices, someone asking if you are okay, but you just smile. ‘Watch me,’ you think hazily, ‘watch me as I slowly disappear.’
Laura Lee (she/her) is a first year Women’s History MA candidate. Her thesis work will be an exploration of the representation of child-free women throughout history and popular culture. She loves pugs, travel, theater, sub-zero temperatures and any activity that involves jumping off a cliff.