I look in the mirror, and all I can see is a hollow where my stomach should be. It’s impossibly concave; dipping directly below my waistline, jutting back out where my hands meet my hips. My pants gape in the back in that coveted way that screams, Thin! Thin! Thin! They are loose; too loose, the kind of loose that makes women cheer without reservation. But there’s a hollow where my stomach should be, and I hate it.
“Those collarbones!” she gasps. “That dress… those shoes… you could be a model!” I beam, ignoring how uncomfortably bloated I feel. My ribs constrict against the dress’s ruched fabric; I can barely breathe. Just an hour before, I could hardly close the back of the dress, and I live in fear of the zipper sliding down, down, down, until it slips just a little too far to be passable. Still, I carry myself with pride. I bought this dress at 17, and 4 years later, it still fits.
I stand in front of the mirror after a veritable feast, hoping and praying that no one can see me cry. My stomach puffs out above my skirt’s elastic waistband, which, in my tryptophan delirium, I am convinced has stretched a little too far. All I can feel is the skirt’s fabric clutching my midsection. I pull the band up, up, up until I can no longer feel the cloth groping me. But I cannot seem to soothe my fear that maybe, my days of thinness are behind me.
My eyes are empty, my arms hang limp at my sides, and my cheeks are stained with tears. All I seem to notice are my bones, which jut out sharply, too sharply. They press against my skin, screaming to escape from under me. My shirt billows around my body as if I were a hanger; my leggings bunch against my legs as if I were a phantom. I press them tight, tight, tight against me; watching in dismay as they expand. All I see is a skeleton staring back at me; a shadow of the woman I once was. I cry.
I eat until I am barely convinced I should stop, stuffing overly-processed food into my mouth without any regard for my feelings. I can feel my stomach expanding over my waistband, but I don’t care. I just want to feel full, too full, the kind of full that will make me feel something, anything. My stomach feels tight, tight, tight like a drum; seconds away from bursting. But my body no longer matters. I keep eating. I hate myself for it.
I starve until I can count my heartbeat thumping in my chest. My hip bones rest sharply, too sharply against my hands, but it is not enough. All I want is to shrink into nothingness, to make myself small, small, small until I disappear. I tug at my skin-tight sweater, telling myself that I don’t deserve to feel full, until nothing else can convince me otherwise. I wholeheartedly believe that I have no right to take up space. I am everything the world says I am supposed to be, but I still can’t love myself.
Every time I look in the mirror, there’s a hollow where my stomach should be. It’s the sort of gaping gap that makes women celebrate with oblivion, but it screams that I am too much and too little; always empty, never full. I judge, poke, and prod it in a twisted little game I somehow love to lose. But as I work to fix the hole in my heart, I hope that the hollow in my stomach will someday be enough.