You wake: obsession is your pulse. You are too young, too tall, and too thin.
You hug stucco wall as you creep down the stairs, house dead with leftover night. Excitement of ritual trills your mind. You pull the insulation from your frame. Stone air raises ashen flesh; blankets dead soul, living corpse.
Step on. Glimpse numbers shifting uncertainly. Each breath begs of mercy: Lose – Please – Lose – Please. Lungs hurt to expand, inflation presses against clean bone of ribs. Tortured heart wheezes and skips in syncopated suspense. Look down, between naked feet. Your life lies here. Step off.
You lost. That means you’re winning.
In the hospital, they own your weight. They tell you it doesn’t matter, the number is not important. But you know they lie because they wake you up at six-thirty twice a week to take your number for themselves alone. Everything here depends on your weight. You get rewards for getting fat: You get to mingle with the civilized world—that is, down the hallway in the classroom with other sick children. You are punished for not getting fat: they give you more food, forbid you of getting out of bed. And your morning ritual has been slightly altered:
The itchy blue child’s cuff—the adult one too big—tightens around your bone and flesh alone. Next you stand. You see lights, ones that do not exist outside your lenses. Your head floats away, you feel yourself being drawn from the crown. You bend down, head between knees, life left behind while thirsty blood trickles through deprived veins. Thermometer pokes at flesh of tongue; it reads an arctic number.
The padlock is undone and you are permitted to enter the sterile room for few precious minutes. You sit on your hands for comfort, palms against white ceramic, as solid and painful as your seat bones digging into your knuckles. Thin blue gown falls open at your shoulder blades; spine protrudes like a saw resting down your back. You pee into a plastic hat dipping under the toilet seat, door open, embarrassed eye looking in. These are the rules. Hunger imposes itself, nestled inside the concave hollow between pelvic peaks and enveloped ribs. This sensation brings impenetrable comfort; you feel light, you feel clean. Safe.
You stare at the image portrayed in the mirror. It is translucent. Sallow wrapping gives way to icy veins. You do not see marred soul and blood diluted with salty tears. You see your bones, and that’s what matters.
Time is up, bathroom locked.
Step on. Bare toes against black lacquered metal. You focus intently upon the neat rows of calculated lines, the sliding stones that hold your worth inside. They do not move, and you know why. You give your most cherubic smile to the bearer of worth. She knows the rules as well as you do; you also know that arguing is futile, as you have attempted endlessly in the past. Blind weight. Heels pressed backward, your abdomen protests in agony. You try your utmost to form eyes on the back of your head, you close the set you came with and envision the number being siphoned through laws of physiology. You cringe every time, embarrassed that these people know your abhorrent value. You pray to your strength that it will be lower.
You climb back into bed, legs trembling with thankfulness, quilt that Mum brought from home pulled to your ears. Back turned to the tray of cold food on the table: the medicine that is supposed to make you better. Please, the nurse begs. They do not sit with you anymore; you have not eaten in days. Caloric vapours make their way to deprived taste buds. You savour the air, your stomach begs for your surrender.
Radio beside you is never turned off, nor ever heard. You are numb, you don’t know of any emotion when the therapist asks. Your starving mind no longer operates as the psychology manual says it should. Your thoughts make no connection with coherent words; they falter, they get lost along the way.
Outside your window record rain falls, sheets of hunger upon satiated grounds. With each passing day you watch the flood rise so that cars cannot pass into the vacant lot. Your solitude is reflected in each drop you see fall. Your desperation is the rising tide. You are suffocating in here.
Three years later, you wake, shed your garments, step on. You lose. (Step off.) Your glowing eyes and uncontrolled smile say you win.
You sleep, and obsession is your lullaby.