It’s cold again, cold and snowy and blowing all over the highways so the cars slip and slide and smash each other. It’s the kind of cold that you don’t even feel at first – you step out the door to walk the dog and almost feel warm because of how scorchingly cold the air is around you. It’s the kind of cold where you need to cover every single inch of exposed skin lest the wind and chill snap at your hands and nip at your nose. It’s the kind of cold where ungloved hands chill so fast and hard that you can feel your heart beat in your fingers as they thaw.
It’s cold again and I am starving.
In the bathtub I turn the water on very hot until my skin turns pink and my hands instinctively search for hipbones, hipbones that used to poke out proudly but have now hidden themselves under a layer of flesh.
I hate that flesh. Even though I’ve mostly left those old feelings behind, the bad ones, I still hate it. I gag at the idea of being called fleshy. I don’t want thick thighs. I want slender ballerina arms. I want long, skinny legs.
There are photos of me at thirteen where my arms look so thin you could circle them with your hand, where my legs are twigs with no thighs to speak of. It was a long year of the same lunch day after day and nightly meetings with the treadmill, a weird year where my invisible friend challenged me to keep getting thinner, stay in that size zero. And the next year, the friend went away and I was a normal girl again, no hospital stays or disappearing periods for me. I guess it’s normal now for teenage girls to have a little eating disorder or two as they grow up.
I still have a macabre fascination with those photos. I stare at them with the fascination I reserve for freak show stories and horrible murders. I forget sometimes how stubborn the young girl’s brain can be, how focused on that one thing: thinness. And how quickly it can dwindle, and then fill itself out again.
I lay in bed some mornings, early so it’s still very dark outside, and my brain tick-tocks about green smoothies and exercise routines and a smaller dress size. It lists all the clothes I’ve grown out of and given away to friends. It catches itself in the mirror and grimaces at the cellulite and the saddlebags and all those awful words that start to catch up to you when you’re not 22 anymore.
Maybe it’s because I’m the oldest child, the golden child, Type A all the way. Maybe it’s the magazines, the Kardashians – even though I know it’s all Photoshop. Maybe it’s the cycles of the moon that make me hate my body more at certain times of the month; I can always be found preening in front of the mirror if it’s tilted just so, lying sweetly. I don’t know. I’ll never know. I’ll eat the three tacos or the extra piece of cake and usually I won’t think twice about it, but some mornings it’ll torture me into sleeplessness.
Men worship my body and whistle at it, cup the heavy breasts in their hands, hold slices of flesh and bury themselves and their secrets in it. But sometimes I still can’t leave my head enough to enjoy that feeling. That imaginary friend is still there, though it gets easier to push her away.