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November 3, 2010
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Girl vs. Food

The alarm clock rang beside a big bed with lots of blankets. 8:00 in the morning. The girl in the bed reached out and turned off the alarm. Even though this was summertime, the girl woke up every morning at eight to go running.

Drowsily, she threw off some blankets and slid her feet to the floor. The girl drained the last of her water from the cup on the bedside table and stood up. Crossing the room to the dresser, she pulled some clothes out and quickly changed. They were her favorite things to wear, a pair of bright yellow Nike compression shorts, deep blue sports bra, and a big comfy grey t-shirt. Standing in front of her full length mirror, she lifted her shirt just a little bit above her belly button to inspect her abdomen. What she saw she liked. The ribs were clearly visible underneath her skin, the hip bones were prominent, and the space in between dipped in deep and smoothly.

“Kennedy, your father and I are going to leave!” yelled a voice from downstairs.

“‘Kay Mom!” the girl, Kennedy, yelled back. Kennedy let her shirt fall down, stole one last glance at the mirror, and jogged out her bedroom door and down the stairs to the kitchen.

There her parents were putting their breakfast plates in the sink and grabbing their keys.

“Hey Peaches, how’d you sleep?” asked her father.

“Eh, okay, I accidentally slept on my cell phone most of the night, so now there’s this weird mark on my leg.”

Her mother pursed her lips and furrowed her brow.

“Don’t worry Mom, I wasn’t texting last night, I just collapsed on top of my phone.”

Kennedy’s assurance wiped the worry of her mother’s face.

“Good, you know I don’t like texting in general, and you have been acting more tired than usual, you feeling fine?”

“Yeah, I’m peachy Mother, now go off and make some money!” Kennedy kissed her parents’ cheeks and watched them out the door.

When they left, Kennedy opened the fridge and pulled out a bottle of Muscle Milk. She found it sad that no matter how many delicious flavors were in it, protein still tasted like protein. The Muscle Milk was all she had for breakfast, Kennedy rarely ate except for when she was close to passing out. Even then it was usually just a banana, piece of bread, or a small bowl of lettuce.

She hated food. It repulsed her, frightened her, worried her. It could be so bad for you, could fatten you, destroy your teeth, maybe even kill you. Plus the way women looked when they ate food was disgusting. Big hips and thighs and breasts were not of any interest to her. So much flesh, hanging out and jiggling in your face is obnoxious and unnecessary. Why be so large when you could be sleek, slim, compact?

Most of her friends understood this. Her friends supported her and never said anything when she brought out her usual Muscle Milk, not that she saw them that much anyway. But there was Mimi, who had always been a larger girl, thick from her legs to, Kennedy later discovered, her head.

The two had been close for a few years, and Mimi had known that Kennedy could be turned off by food and had always preferred the slender, but the fact had never really interfered very much in their relationship. That is, until a little less than a year ago, when Kennedy’s minor had turned into what Mimi had called a “mania”.

The “mania” had started one day at school in the lunchroom. Kennedy had been sitting with her friends at their usual table, talking, eating lunch, and finishing homework when a girl who sat at the table behind them collapsed. She was an overweight girl, so heavy that she would become winded walking from class to class.

By the time the paramedics had arrived, it was too late. The girl had died from a heart attack and Kennedy had witnessed the nastier side of food and overconsumption, scarring and scaring her, prompting Kennedy to drastically alter her diet and physique.

The physique that now weighed roughly 82 pounds, skinny fingers running through her hair and starting to form a long French braid. When the braid was done, Kennedy noticed that there was hair woven between her fingers, large clumps, as if she had purposely torn her hair out of her head. Puzzled and slightly concerned, Kennedy shook it off nonetheless and got up to finish preparing herself for her run.

Eight laps around the park every morning was Kennedy’s routine. A little over three miles, and she could complete it with ease. Usually. Lately, Kennedy could only manage maybe four or five laps. A strong combination of dizziness and fatigue would overcome her, forcing Kennedy to retreat to her home and sleep.

Today Kennedy could barely handle one lap. Her whole world started spinning before her eyes. Sounds and other senses seemed warped, nothing was right. To combat this, Kennedy squatted and put her head between her knees. The spinning stopped enough for Kennedy to stand up slowly and walk back to her house. She laid down on the couch and closed her eyes. Letting out a big sigh, Kennedy massaged her temples and wondered if she had enough energy to go and get a Muscle Milk from the fridge. Her thoughts were interrupted by her cell phone on the coffee table ringing. Kennedy cursed and reached out to answer the phone.

“Hello?” she asked.

“Ken, hi! It’s me!” the chirpy voice on the other end belonged to none other than Kennedy’s best friend, Ellen.

“Hey Ellen, what’s up?”

“Boo, we have not hung out in forever! I hardly see you!” Ellen practically shouted.

“Yeah yeah, sorry Babe, I’ve been…busy.” Kennedy apologized, wincing at Ellen’s loud voice.

“That’s what you say. But seriously, some friends are coming over today, watching movies and junk. You should come!”

Kennedy was torn. She missed Ellen, but she hated going out lately, and most likely-

“Yes, Mimi will be there. But you won’t have to talk to her!” Ellen assured.

“Fine, I’ll come. What time?” Kennedy asked.

“Eight-ish! See you then Boo!”

“Aight, bye!” Kennedy said. She hung up the phone and sighed. She was less dizzy, but still drained, and tonight would not help.

But needing to shower, Kennedy ignored her fatigue and went upstairs.

In the shower, Kennedy started to relax a bit, the hot water soothed her and brought her mind away from the sure to be fiasco of the get-together. But the tranquility of the shower was soon forgotten when Kennedy noticed that more hair was coming out. Small locks of chestnut hair flowed down with the water, down her shoulders and stomach, past her hips and down her legs, collecting in the shower drain.

Kennedy became worried. A lot of hair was coming out, what was wrong with her? Was she sick? Maybe stress about something? Kennedy chewed her lip and turned off the water. She stepped to the sink and wiped some steam off the mirror. Sure enough, there was a bald spot forming on her head. Her thoughts strayed to a vainer place, how could she go to Ellen’s tonight with a bald patch?

To make matters worse, she started to feel dizzy again. To fix it, she wrapped herself in a towel and went to the kitchen to get herself a Muscle Milk. She chugged it, and after some small debate, got out another. This was just something else to worry about. Her appetite was returning, if she let her diet slip and started eating, she could become fat! Fat, unhealthy, and lonely. No one would love her, she would die alone!

“Shut up Kennedy!” she said out loud. “You’re better than this! You can stay thin! You don’t have to eat!”

She started crying softly. After about a minute, she dried hey eyes and went to bed. Kennedy needed her strength for tonight, and crying would not make it any better.

At seven o’ clock Kennedy started to get ready. She threw on some jeans and a tank top and started to fix her hair so the bald spot would be covered. She found that a side ponytail did the trick, a little obnoxious, but she didn’t care, it did what it had to.

Her father dropped her off at Ellen’s house a little before eight, and Kennedy was feeling awful. She was still dizzy, still tired, still hungry, even after downing half a Muscle Milk and three ibuprofens. Kennedy let herself in the front door, and was quickly bombarded by a figure with long red curly hair.

“Boo!” squealed Ellen. “Thank god! Where have you been?”

“Hey Babe, I told you, I’ve been busy with stuff.” Kennedy unwrapped Ellen’s arms and looked around.

“So where is everybody?” she asked.

“Downstairs in the basement! Come on! I just finished making popcorn, want some?”

Kennedy could smell the salt and butter, and really did want some, craved some, but she refused.

“Nah, I’m good, let’s go downstairs, ‘kay?”

“Sure thing, we’re about to pop in The Shining! Dang I love that movie.” Ellen said. She grabbed Kennedy’s hand and pulled her down to the basement, where a few other girls were. Kennedy saw her friends Racquel, Jordan, Dani, Kayla, and her less then friend, Mimi. The girls all ran up and hugged Kennedy, exclaiming how they never see her, they miss her, love her, and does she still have that top lent to her? Mimi just sat on a bean bag chair, looking rather awkward. Kennedy stood in the center of the girls, feeling disoriented and sad, sad that Mimi wouldn’t even look at her.

Though Kennedy knew Mimi wasn’t really to blame. Kennedy had started to criticize every single thing that Mimi ate before their relationship went sour. Too many calories, too many carbohydrates, Kennedy looked at Mimi with disdain every time she put food in her mouth. One day Mimi expressed her feelings using some choice words that Kennedy usually only saw scrawled in the bathroom stalls, and Kennedy called Mimi a fat pig that should be slaughtered.

“You’re what’s wrong with America!” Kennedy had shouted, looking back wishing she could have said something wittier.

Now Kennedy regretted everything, and wished she had her friend back. She also wish that the popcorn was somewhere else, it tantalized Kennedy’s nostrils, and her stomach growled rather audibly in protest.

When the girls were done fretting over Kennedy, they turned their attention to the popcorn. Hands stretched for the bowl, girls started shouting playfully, demanding that they get the snack, and with all this commotion, Kennedy’s exhaustion and dizziness worsened.

She sat down in a chair, and the fight for the popcorn raged on. Some girl, for some strange reason, decided that she should throw the bowl. It flew through the air and hit Kennedy right in the head. She gasped, and everything went black.

When Kennedy came to, she was in a hospital bed, alone and hooked up to some medical apparatus. A doctor walked in and said

“Ah, glad to see you’re awake!” though his face was quite serious. “You passed out, and I don’t blame you. Wait, actually I do. You’ve been starving yourself, straining yourself. I’m surprised this didn’t happen sooner. You have to eat something.”

“But-“ Kennedy protested.

“Nope, don’t want to hear it.” The doctor interrupted. He pulled out a pudding cup with a spoon and said “Eat.”

Kennedy obeyed.

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