I would like to share with you all another short story of mine. I hope you enjoy!
Spaghetti in the Roses
I look in the mirror and, instead of a beautiful person staring back at me, there is nothing more than sullen face placed above a ribcage outline. How did it come to this? When did I stop eating? When will I start again?
I turn around, perhaps a little too fast, and sit on my bed, the room still spinning around me. A picture from when I was younger, me sitting on my mom’s lap, stares back into my tired eyes. I remember those times, when it all seemed so simple, before I realized that the world was watching me, before I ever cried over someone else’s words. Simpler times and yet, when I was young, I could only imagine what “older” felt like.
I close my eyes and lie down, listening to a light breeze through my open window. The thoughts begin to invade, as they always seem to do when I’m alone, and the whispers of the past creep up into my present and cloud my future. I turn around, putting my hands to my ears, hoping to somehow block out the noises that have made their way deep into my heart. I try to make the thoughts go away, twisting and turning on my bed, anything to get away from it all.
Somewhere in the thrashing I fall on the floor, along with me sheets. I don’t want to get up or I’m too physically weak to do so, either way I’m laying on the floor of my room, tangled in sheets, with nothing left but my thoughts.
I think about it. The first time something was said to me. I was twelve and my older sister made a comment about how I could have so much potential if I only tried. She said that if I didn’t have the little flap in my belly, I would be the most attractive person in school. I thought about it a lot after that, especially in passing the hallway mirror. Who was I to go against what my sister had to say? After all, she was older and knew what was best for me.
I didn’t do much about it though, not yet.
It wasn’t until my first year of high school, when people began to ignore me, I was not good enough so they pushed me to the background. I sought ways to improve my social status. Perhaps follow my sister’s advice and get rid of the fat that had accumulated around my waist. Every time I ate something I felt my stomach grow more and more until I decided to stop, stop eating that is. It was small at first, what I neglected, little pleasures like iced cream after dinner or a treat after a long run. No one thought anything of it because no one really seemed to notice. Maybe if they noticed they would have said something.
My monster, as I have learned to call it, began eating away my appetite for breakfast. This sparked my mom’s attention. She told me every time I left the house without breakfast that it was the most important meal and that I wouldn’t be in my “right mind” the rest of the day. Of course, what did she know? I was already in my right mind. I was skipping breakfast for the greater good, so that I would be liked again.
Missing lunch proved to be easy. My mom often alternated between sack lunches, which were deposited straight into the trash, and money, that I ended up keeping. No one knew and, again, no one even cared. After all, it was normal for people to skip school lunch. What with six or more classes, five tests, essays, projects, and nightly homework, we didn’t have time to eat. So I faded into the background, falling between the cracks.
After missing breakfast and lunch for two months, only eating dinner, I still was disgusted with myself in the mirror. How were people ever going to like me if I was so ugly? Now I realize it was never about people liking me, that idea was merely the front I had put up to dissuade myself believing it was anything else.
I was still sickened by my sight in the mirror, this is before my relapse, so I decided it was time to stop eating altogether. Go big or go home is what I always believed. Dinner was the hardest to stop, not because I wanted to eat, but because we always ate together as a family. If I wasn’t eating there would be questions of “are you okay?” or “you need to eat!”
The worst comment was from my extended family that would always say, “you’re too skinny” when we would get together. It was an insult that hit me harder every time. I know they were trying to be helpful, make playful banter in place of awkward silence, but their constant jabs only reminded me that I wasn’t skinny enough. I don’t know how to explain the pain they caused other than to say it felt like being betrayed by your whole family every holiday and the worst part was that they didn’t even know it.
In order to skip dinner I had to be distressed every night, overloaded with homework, or outright not home. My mom would bring a plate in my room and, as soon as she left, it would go out my window and into the garden. God-knows what happened to it after that. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why stray cats hang around my window.
The sheets surrounding me amplify the already hot summer day and my dizziness acts up again, tearing me from memory lane. I struggle against the sheets, an unwinnable battle, as my breath makes the confined space even hotter.
After a long battle, I break my head free and the rush of cooler air runs over my face and fills my lungs. My body is still engulfed, but perhaps it is better this way. I close my eyes again and remember my relapse.
My mom discovered that I hadn’t been eating my dinner when she noticed spaghetti in the roses. I had lost a considerable amount of weight, although not enough to my standards, and it was only a matter of time before they found out about my “friend”. It wasn’t fair when they made me push him away, he was only trying to help me be popular after all.
They put me into a rehab program and, as I pretended to be happy about gaining weight, all I could think of was the lost progress. My non-eating friend was so disappointed in me and, to be honest, I was disappointed in myself.
It took three weeks until I was back at home and back in school. I was more popular than ever. Most of my weight had come back to me and I was being watched by my parents like a hawk watches its prey. The nice people at school came up and talked to me, told me how great I looked but, of course, to no avail because I knew they were all lying. They were just telling me what they thought I wanted to hear. There was no truth in their voices. Once I left the room I could practically hear them talking about me, my problems, my “issues”.
If I wanted to lose all that weight, in an attempt to look decent again, I had to be sneakier about my not eating. The voice in my head returned, I missed it like an old friend I had grieved over for far too long.
My parents made me eat even more food than normal, hoping that overstuffing me would compensate for the food deficit. Breakfast was quickly thrown up before first period into a school toilet. Lunch was still thrown away, as usual, and dinner was binged and purged as soon as possible, as to not let any fat remain in my stomach longer than necessary.
I was in my routine again and the weight was coming off, again. I think my parents were more interested in saving face than they were in my health. I now look the same as I did before I started eating again and no one has said or done anything yet, which is better anyway.
I slowly struggle to get out of the sheets, my head fogging up as I do so, the sound of birds chirping echoing through my brain. The calluses on my knuckles strain against the blankets and cause a numbing pain to spread across my hand. It feels as if someone wrapped me up like a mummy under these blankets, like there’s no way out. The possibility of my dying here settles in my brain and I start to panic. I never wanted to die, that wasn’t my plan. All I wanted was to be skinnier, more attractive, more desirable. This was the only way I could imagine getting there; I let the monster in and it consumed me.
I trash and kick and, eventually, I am released from this prison I have made for myself, only, when I stand up, the room goes dizzy. I try to regain my balance but I am not quick enough and fall back onto the hard floor, hitting my head on the end of my desk on the way down. I am still conscious, although only barely, and as I close my eyes to sleep I picture the headline for tomorrow’s newspaper, “Teen Found Dead in His Room, Cause of Death: Starvation”. Perhaps an anorexic boy isn’t even enough to make the headline, I can see myself on page five.
Thank you all so much for reading. The subject of male anorexia is very near and dear to me so if you, or someone you know, is struggling with anorexia, bulimia or any other eating disorder (male or female) please reach out to someone.
Feel free to visit this website: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
Or call this free confidential helpline: 800-931-2237
Anorexia is serious but it, along with any other eating disorder, can be treated. Thank you all and remember to always respond.