The room is decorated only with a long table. The table is covered endlessly with food, food and more food. I start eating and can't stop, shoveling in plates of chicken and potatoes, soup, corn, steak. New food takes the place of what I just ate. I keep going, ballooning up to a fatness I can't comprehend. Suddenly I'm in a room where the whole floor is a scale. The walls and ceiling show my weight which keeps going up, and up. Everywhere I turn the big numbers blare into my head, even when I close my eyes. Horrible, horrible. Fat, fat, fat.
I start awake, feeling full and fat. Sleep is impossible, and the feeling won't leave, so I go to the bathroom and throw up. Nothing comes up but some stomach acid, smelling acrid, but I feel instantly better. Lighter, like air. I am afraid to lose this feeling, so instead of going to sleep, I pull on a sweater and some shoes, preparing to run. I figure about three miles should be good, maybe two since I'm tired.
I go for awhile, faster and faster, until I am sprinting, but not sure where I am getting the energy. I'm not gasping for breath, only because I'm not thinking about it. Suddenly I am flung onto the pavement, smacking my knees when I trip. They throb, but I don't think about the pain, just try to get back up because I need to run to burn away the fat. I stumble when I try, and just end up collapsed onto the pavement.
"Asili!" Ronnie runs up to me, but I barely register it. There are dancing black spots in my vision, and I feel like throwing up. "Are you ok? I… Asili, can you hear me?" He sounds frantic, and I try to respond, but it just comes out as a moan. I feel arms wrap around me, and am suddenly lifted off the ground. My head lolls back, and I try to cough, before finally just blacking out.
I wake up to a little boy with bright orange hair peering at me.
"You aren't dead?" He says incredulously, backing up a few paces. I yawn and shake my head.
"Well. Who are you? Nonnie carried, so he must like you. Are you his girfren?" I smile and blush, his little kid voice is so cute.
"No, he's my friend. But what is your name? Mines Asili."
"Sisi? I'm Elliot." I nodded at my mispronounced name, and laughed when he stood up tall, like he was very proud of his name.
"Oh," I said solemnly, "That is a very cool name." He beamed, and then ran across the room to his toys. I took the chance to study where I was. I was laying on a couch, a warm blue blanket over me. The walls were a green, and really dirty, and the carpet was black. Toys were everywhere, action figures, cars, any type of little boy things you can imagine.
"Lookie! His name is Turbo, and he goes real fast!" He comes back carrying a red toy car, and starts rolling it on my leg to show me how fast. I nod, about to compliment it, but I am interrupted.
"Elliot James! You better not be harassing that girl! Now hurry up and get dressed or you'll be late." His face turns to one of a kid caught doing something he isn't supposed to, and rushes out of the room.
"Bye Sisi!" I smile, and snuggle up, wishing to fall back asleep, so that I could avoid the coming confrontation a little longer. I was just glad he obviously didn't call an ambulance.
"Hey." I watched him walk cautiously into the room, and shut the door. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm feeling fine. What time is it?"
"Around 10. Now… mind telling me what happened last night?" I shrugged.
"How did you even find me? It was like, two in the morning."
"You feel right outside of my house, and my dog started barking at you. Now, please, you scared the heck out of me, so tell me what the hell happened." I sigh, and sit up.
"I don't really remember. I think I was still stuck in a part of a dream." I lie. He stares at me, and then breaks out into a small smile.
"It's a good thing you are so light though! Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to carry you all the way in here half asleep." I try to keep my breath from hitching, glad he didn't suspect a thing, and surprised he thought I was light. He must be pretty strong.
"Can… Can I take a shower please?" I feel disgusting, dirty and gritty. I also want to check my weight before I eat or drink anything. First thing in the morning is always the best time to do it. He nods, and leaves for a minute, bringing back some clothes.
"C'mon let me show you how the shower works, it's a bit temperamental." He grins lazily, but I am still too shaken up to fake a smile back, so I just follow him to the bathroom and pretend to pay attention, but really my brain is just screaming for him to leave already, because I want to know, need to know what that scale will tell me. Finally he is smiling and shutting the door, and I am blissfully alone. I hunt around for a scale, and am relieved to find one shoved in a dusty corner. I lay it out in front of me, turn on the shower, strip all my clothes off and take a deep breath. I step on.
85.7. I grin at my reflection, amazed that a few short months has brought me this far. I no longer have the luxury of school, where no one takes note if I eat or not, but with everything with my mother and the baby so hectic, I have been able to get along just fine.
The shower washes over me warmly, and I want to curl up and stay in there forever. I have been so cold lately, shivering on even the warmest days, so I am always layered. I run my fingers through my hair and am surprised when my fingers come back with a small clump of it. Am I losing my hair? I shrug, and write it off as me pulling too hard on my wet hair. I step out into steam, and reach for the towel. It caresses my over-sensitive skin, and brushes lightly over my protruding ribs. How, in my concave stomach, can there still be those huge, mocking pockets? I get down on the floor and do my crunches, then some push-ups. I soon feel weak, however, and stand back up to throw on the clothes I was given.
I am glad that they are Maize's; because of how much bigger she is than me. It will make my smallness not seem so small in the bagginess of her clothes. I tie the drawstring on the sweatpants and step out in the freezing hall. The smell of eggs hits my nose, so I follow it, down the stairs and to a small kitchen. Ronnie is standing at the stove jumping back and forth like a crazy person.
"Um, what are you doing?" I ask him, confused. "Training for the ballet?"
"Trying to avoid the popping grease. How many eggs you want?" I wrinkle my nose behind his back.
"None, thank you. I don't really feel well." He turns around, concern written on his face.
"you have to eat something. Please just one? That could be the reason you don't feel well; you need to eat." I didn't want to look suspicious, so I threw on my best sickly face and nodded pathetically. We sit at the table, and I begin the arduous task of cutting the egg into a thousand small pieces with my fork. Ronnie's eyebrows go up at this.
I shrug. "It's an OCD thing. I can't help it." He believes the lie and turns back to his own food. I pick up a small piece of egg white and wipe the grease off onto the plate, then cautiously stick it in my mouth and chew. It tastes so good. No, it is disgusting. No, it tastes like nothing. I force my taste buds to stop, and taste absolutely nothing. Suddenly my stomach actually does cramp up, and I double over.
"Asili, are you ok? What's wrong?" I push myself back up, a sheen of sweat covering my face, and shove the plate away from me.
"No more." He nods, and that is the end of that.
My dad is on me in a second.
"Where have you been? I have been worried sick!" He yells. I shrug, and try to look apologetic.
"I went for a run this morning, and saw some friends, so we went out to breakfast. Sorry, I should have left a note, but I thought I would be home earlier." His face lights up a little at the thought of me going out with friends, and I can see I am off the hook.
"Yes, you should have. Did you have a good time, though?" I smile and nod, going into a lie about what I ate, and where. He bought every little thing.
Later, safely tucked away in my bed, I stared at the ground, thoughts swirling. What if Ronnie had realized my secret? What if he had called an ambulance? What if I hadn't fallen in front of his house, but on some dark and lonely road? Too many what-if's. I rub my eyes and roll over, contemplating what to do for the rest of the day. I was not going to risk running again, and couldn't find the energy to get up and do my small workouts, so just laid there.
When I woke it was dark, black outside, and I was surprised nothing had woken me. I stood up unsteadily, trying to not fall into things. The clock read 1:30 AM. The lines blur together, until the red numbers are just a blot of light. Shaking my head to clear it, I stumble downstairs and get a glass of water. I am so thirsty, my mouth feels like cotton, but I can't stomach another cup. I burp, bringing some of the water back up, and I feel like I am going to burst. Pain ruptures inside of me, and I barely make it upstairs to my bed. I lay there in agony, curled into myself. I want to cry, but I am too focused on breathing. Shallow breaths in and out. A scream breaks out of me, guttural and loud. I can't breath, and the pain, oh God, the pain. I taste blood, and realize I clenched my mouth on my lip. My dad comes bursting into my room, but I can only give him a fleeting glance. My vision is hazy, and black spots surface from the pain. Please, God, make me pass out. I am unaware of anything else as I retch, nothing coming out but a few flecks of blood. I hear shouting in the background, but static soon overwhelms my ears, and then nothing. The world fades out, and I slip away.
The light is blinding. So white and cold, but I have nowhere else to look, so I close my eyes. I hear beeps and soft talking in the background, but there are no distinguishing noises, no actual words to make out. I can tell it is the hospital though, from the smell, and the weird feeling in my right arm. I know it is an IV, and I start to freak out wondering what kinds of fatty poison they are pumping into me. They will make me fat, I know they will. The beeping gets faster as my heart rate goes up, and a nurse comes rushing in.
"Calm down now honey, it will be alright. You are just in the hospital for a short time now. Nothing to worry about, just calm down." I feel a prick in my arm, and her voice becomes so consistent and melodic, I start to drift away. Like I am in a boat and her voice is the gentle water rocking me.
"Just breathe, baby. In and out, you can do it." I close my eyes and sleep.
When I come to again, my mind is a little clearer. I can turn my head at least, though it is heavy. I look to my right and see a tall computer type thing. I know it measures my heart rate and pulse, or whatever else the doctors need to keep track of. There is also a pole with an IV bag, which I know contains liquid nutrients, food to feed me and get me fat while I sleep, unsuspecting. On my left is a curtain, most likely hiding a sick roommate, and the door to leave. I wiggle around, seeing which parts of my body have movement, and which are leaden logs. Suddenly the curtain is moved slightly, and a head pokes in. It is a woman with brown hair, pulled back into a tight ponytail. Her glasses slip down her nose, and she smiles at me kindly.
"Hello. I am your nurse Gail. How are you feeling?" She slips the rest of the way around the curtain and I get a better look at her. She is pretty average, not too tall, but not quite short. She is thin, and I would guess in her late twenties early thirties.
"You have to take out this IV." I skip the introductions, desperate to get this evil thing out of me. My voice is scratchy, but I make it work.
"Why is that sugar?" Because it will make all the work I did for nothing!
"There is something wrong with it, I think. I would feel much better without it. I think it is poisoned." Gail smiles at me sadly and shakes her head.
"Nice try Asili. Don't worry about the IV, it is going to make you better, I promise."
"You don't understand! Even if you don't, I'll just starve it out when I get home anyways!" I want to sob, to yell at her to understand. I need it taken out.
"I am sorry to say it will be a while before that happens." She says cryptically. When I ask her what that means, she just tells me that it is something to discuss with my father, then leaves to go get him. I mull over what to do when he gets here, and am almost terrified. Will he yell? Tell me what a selfish brat I am being, like my mother probably would? Or worse, the more likely option, will he cry? I sigh, figuring I will find out in a minute.
"Asili? Oh honey." He comes in tentatively, and then collapses next to my bed, grasping my hand. I say nothing, feel nothing, just watch him in disinterest. I know my eyes mirror blankness, but can't bring myself to feel. Well, feel anything but tired. I squeeze his hand once to let him know I am there, and close my eyes to drift off into a restless sleep.
"So you are locking me up. In a crazy home." I have that horrible feeling like when you go to sit down, but someone has pulled the chair from beneath you. My father has just informed me that I will not be going home after the hospital, but to a 'home' for crazy people. Tears sting my eyes, and I can't look at dad, the betrayal just too much to bear. He thinks I am crazy, and doesn't want to even be in the same house with me.
"It isn't like that Asili! This is for your own good. For your recovery, so you won't… do this to yourself anymore." He can't even face what is wrong with me. What I am. Good, he deserves to have trouble with it.
"Don't tell me what it is like. I know perfectly well. If you don't want to deal with me fine. Leave, please." I say, and roll over. He stays there for a little longer, but finally walks out, leaving me to myself. I pull back the sheet and gown and look at my stomach. It is large and doughy, the skin stretched to its limit. I want to cry with how fat I have gotten already, and how soon I will barely be able to make out my ribs. I sigh, covering myself back up, and curl on my side. I know the nurse is going to come in soon to weigh me. They have been doing it for the past three days. What happens instead, though, is pretty unexpected. Eli and Ellie have been to visit me, and tell me that Terry will home soon. They bring me news and homework, helping me stay up in my classes. Even Maize has come around, being her usual self, but not saying anything about Ronnie, who hasn't been to visit yet.
This is why I am surprised when he walks past the curtain, and sits on my bed silently.
"Hi." I whisper, afraid for some reason, of his eyes. They are unreadable, blurry and large. The bags under his eyes are not hard to read, however, and I hope it wasn't me causing them.
"Hello." He says unsteadily. We sit awkwardly for a few minutes until words burst out of his mouth.
"Do you know why I didn't leave you alone the first time we met?" He asks decisively, as if deeming me worthy to know something secret. I just shake my head. "Because I felt Koi No Yokan. That is a Japanese phrase, one that is untranslatable into English. It is the sense when you first meet someone that you are going to fall in love. I felt it, and didn't want to miss out. So when I heard you were in the hospital for starving yourself, I felt like I lost something. I felt the loss of a love I didn't even have yet. But I am not sure if it is lost yet. I still want to believe in love. That it can save a person. That it can save you." I have that sensation again, of a chair being pulled out from beneath me. I stare at him, as he focuses his intense, blurry eyes on me. I can't breathe, and have no clue what to say. I want to cry and laugh at the same time.
"I… I don't know what to say." I whisper uncertainly.
"Say that you think someday you can love me. Please." He looks so scared, but I can't do it. I won't let myself be blinded, pushed away from what I really want. He doesn't love you, and he never will.
"No. I… I'm sorry Ronnie, but I can't. I don't love you, and I am not going to. Whatever you felt, you felt wrong. Now please. Leave, I'm tired." I say frailly, as if one more word from him would break me down, and change my mind. But he says nothing, just closes his eyes, gets up and leaves.