(Jacqueline)

It's been a little over a month now since I had heart palpitations; final exams start day after tomorrow. Obviously I am way stressed over that- but that's another story. 37

I was released from the hospital after a day and a half- which I thought, of course, was completely unnecessary- or at least I did at first. Once my heart rate had pretty much settled down again, it was easy to forget how terrified I had been, how certain I would die. All I could think of was how badly I wanted to get out, to move again… but of course, they were making me lie flat on my back with a tube up my arm.38

Even so, I didn't think there was anything wrong. The heartbeat thing was a fluke, an anamoly. Next time I'd just drink more water, and I'd be fine. I hadn't had a heart attack, after all. I was perfectly fine. If they'd just let me out of the damn bed, I'd be even better.39

Even after I talked with Idris, even then I did not fully believe I had a problem. After she left, it was easy enough to once again rationalize that I was okay. Of course Idris thought I had a problem with food and exercise, because she did. She was projecting her own problems onto me, only in reverse. I myself was fine. And what she said about me, how I feel about myself- that's not a problem either. That's life, especially for girls. All girls feel that way. It didn't mean I personally had a problem.40

There was no way I was going to stop doing how I'd been doing, especially on the say-so of someone like Idris. And as for the doctors- well, half of them were overweight too. They clearly didn't know what they were talking about. 41

That was what I told myself, at first. But then they sent in Dr. Wate- and I think that was the final straw to make me see.42

He asked me all the questions the other doctors and nurses had asked, about diet and exercise and the like. He didn't show much reaction to my answers, which I took to be a good sign… but then he pulled out a bunch of photos.43

He had a whole stack of photos of all these girls and women, these incredibly, horribly, shockingly skinny girls and women… women with collar bones that stuck out like doorknobs, with arms practically the width of two index fingers… women who's skin was stretched so tightly over their face you could practically count the separate bone sections of their skulls. Women who were dead, in obvious morgue shots… and women who, though alive, looked like they would fall down dead at any minute.44

I could not believe some of the photos I was seeing… I could not fathom how anyone- anyone outside an African famine or a Nazi concentration camp- could get so skinny. I just kept staring at them, actually speechless…45

Dr. Wate kept showing me more and more, until I wanted to shove his hand away, scream at him to stop… but I couldn't. All I could do was stare at the photos in a stupor.46

When he finally had forced each one before me, made me look at every one before me, made me look at every single walking death stick, he looked at me seriously for a long moment. I wanted to hurt him then… why had he shown me those fucking pictures? What the hell was he trying to prove- there was no way he could tell me I looked like those girls!47

"Jacqueline," he said quietly, "those are not all the girls we've ever treated for eating disorders in this hospital. Those are just the ones, from 1970 onward, who died."48

I just looked at him incredulously. Of course they had died- they were obviously starving to death. But that had nothing to do with me.49

"Jacqueline, I'm not going to tell you that you are as thin as those girls, or in as great a danger of dying," he continued, apparently anticipating my thoughts. "But I will you tell that obsessive and compulsive behaviors escalate, especially with certain personality types. I will tell you that if you continue to build upon what hardship you already place on your body, or even maintain the pressure you already place upon it, then you will very possibly end up heading in the direction that those girls did."50

Obviously, my defenses went up at that statement. There was no freaking way I was as deathly skinny as those girls- no freaking way I ate as little or worked out as much as they must have! I'm only doing what I should be doing to stay healthy! Those girls must have done nothing but run for twenty hours all day!51

I said as much to him, but he had an answer ready.52

"Jacqueline… when those girls first started out, they were heavier than you are. They ate more and worked out less than you do… and look what happened."53

And that is the words that scared me… those were the word that would not leave my mind.54

They discharged me the next day; they didn't really have a reason to kidnap me. And for a few days, I tried to ignore what had said- what Idris had said. I tried to tell myself it didn't apply to me, only to other people. I was fine. I pretended I didn't' notice Idris's worry when I continued to go out and run for hours, to come back and eat fruit and celery for meals. I told myself it was fine- healthy.55

Btu I couldn't get the image of those girls, those skinny dead girls, out of my mind. I kept picturing them… as I ran, as I ate, as I studied. Even in my dreams.56

And it was them, those dead girls, that finally made me start to worry. And then it was them who slowly made me realize that I did need to change… at least a little.57

I've started small. I mean, I'm afraid to stop too much. What if I'm wrong, and I just start piling on weight? What I do right now is run for six days, and on the seventh day I go out for the same amount of time, but instead of running I walk. In a few more weeks I'll probably cut down again, and I'll run five days and walk two. That's all I can think of for now. I get too panicky if I do any less. A day off every week is still out of the question.58

I'm trying to eat a little more too. Not junk food or anything- not too much- but at least 1200 calories every day. I read somewhere that 's how many everyone needs a day to survive. It's harder than I thought to do.59

The weirdest part about this- the thing that really blew me away- is Idris. Once I told her about what I was trying to do- I had to, to make her stop looking at me all worried every time I walked out the door- then she decided she wanted to change herself too, only in the reverse of the way I was.60

I figured she wasn't serious, that she wouldn't stick with it. I mean, all I'd ever seen the girl do was sit around and eat stuff. She'd apparently been doing it for years; she claimed it was as compulsive for her as my habits are for me.61

But she was… when she actually started to carry it out, to actually stick to it, I was astonished. Like with me, it wasn't a huge difference. It was barely enough to make an impact actually. But it was a start- an effort.62

What she did was throw away all the junk food in our room… ALL of it. And so far, as far as I know anyway, she hasn't bought anymore. That in and of itself was amazing to me. It seems almost unnatural to be in the dorm and not see her eating anymore. Granted, she still eats all her meals in the cafeteria. That's certainly not healthy, but at least she's not snacking in the room all the time too. That probably cuts out a lot of calories. I have noticed she bites and picks at her fingernails a lot now, almost like a smoker needing to do something with their hands. Hey, fingernails are calorie-free, at least.63

Not only the food thing with her has changed, but exercise too, to a degree. Idris goes out to walk with me on the day I walk instead of run, and by herself on Saturdays. Not for as far or for as long as I go- she always get tired and turns back way before I do- but she's starting to attempt to move a little, at any rate. It's a start- and I guess for that, the fact that she's trying a little, I kind of respect her a little more.64

Idris and I… I don't know, it's different with us now. She doesn't grate on my nerves quite so much- but then, she's not quite so meek and awkward as she was either. Once in a while she'll actually say something in a voice that doesn't sound like she's afraid you'll hit her. Of course, I'm trying not to snap at her as much too, which might be part of it.65

I don't know. Idris and I will never be best friends, but then, who has ever has been my best friend? No one- and that's probably my fault as much as anyone's. However much she annoys me, I have to admit that Idris might have saved my life. At the very least, she was there to start a chain of events that have started to make me change my life. She cared about me, what happened to me, even after I didn't with her- even when I didn't really with myself. I guess you can't say that about most people… and as sappy as it sounds, I guess I have to appreciate her to an extent.66

That doesn't mean I'd ever let myself look like her, however, or that I'll understand why she reacts to things so differently than me. That doesn't mean that she doesn't need more of a spine, or that her messiness and the fact that she never makes her bed and snores doesn't irritate the hell out of me.67

Yeah, but whatever, right? Look past the small things and all that yadda yadda.68

Still. If she doesn't make her fricking bed by tomorrow and hang up her wet towel, I'm going to throw it out in the hall. Or perhaps down the garbage shoot… 69

The end \