I think I’m dying. Those were the only words revolving in and out of my thoughts as I laid there scrunched up in a ball underneath the winter quilt. I had been under the blanket since I woke up that morning. I hadn’t moved a single inch. Because I thought I was dying. I moved one frigid hand to my chest. My heartbeat was gone. It just vanished. There was barely any blood flow through my fingers, or my arms, or my legs. I probably would have actually died there that morning had it not have been for my brother, but then again, he had started it all.
It was the beginning of my teenage years- the eve of my thirteenth birthday to be exact. My older brother, Steve, had just come home from football practice. He was star quarterback for the varsity team, and like any great sister, I supported him more than anyone else ever could. He dropped his bag on the floor and messed up my hair. Of course I yelled at him, but that was our thing. That’s how we managed to put up with each other.
“Hey, Midget.” That name never really bothered me growing up. Steve was always bigger, braver, and taller. I was his dinky baby sister. And maybe that’s where it all started. I was just his dinky baby sister.
“Mom and Dad said they were working late. Want to go out for dinner?”
Of course I did. That’s how it worked. Just him and I out at Mario’s seeing who could eat the craziest topping combination in just one slice. He always won. Steve could eat anything. But it was different this time. This time he was bringing his girlfriend with us. And she wanted to go to that ritzy place on the outskirts of town.
I let them share one side of the table and I took the other. It was candlelit and had live music...far different from what I was used to. But they had a full page of elegant desserts. Mario’s only had plain vanilla ice cream.
“What can I get for you?”
My mind had been decided since we had ordered drinks. “I’ll take the triple chocolate cake with a side scoop of strawberry please.”
The waitress, I remember her name was Anne, looked down at me the way teachers do to the students when they don’t have their homework. Her eyebrows scrunched up together and her lips jutted out. “I don’t think that’s a good idea given your weight.”
My weight. No one had ever said anything about it. I knew I wasn’t the lightest kid in my grade, but it never struck me that I was the heaviest. My doctor never even said anything about it. I thought I was fine.
Steve did too. “She’ll have the cake and ice cream.”
As the waitress walked away, I turned to my brother. “Beast?”
“Hey, don’t worry ‘bout it. She’s a complete stranger.” His girlfriend nodded and handed me a clean fork. I took it and, once the magnificent dessert appeared, dug in. Anne was a stranger. Anne had no idea what she was talking about. Anne was only the beginning of my problems.
I had pushed that day clear from my consciousness for the rest of my middle school life. I got taller. Made a couple new friends. Steve graduated and went to college on a football scholarship. Both of our lives were absolutely perfect. Well, until I entered high school.
I knew the school already from tagging along with my brother. That wasn’t the issue. My second problem actually came up while shopping for a dress at the mall. I was with my mother this time- Steve absolutely despised going within three feet of the building. It was a nice day. Sunny. Breezy. The leaves were just beginning to change. It was that kind of day that was perfect for a mother-daughter outing.
“I like this one, Mom.”
“Well, try it on.”
I found a size six and walked over to the fitting rooms. The dress was absolutely amazing. Except that I couldn’t zip it all the way.
“How’s it going, Bree?”
I opened the door, disappointed. “Not this one.”
Dress after dress we tried only to have the same situation. My waist was too big. Too large. Too wide. Too fat. I looked in the mirror once more. Too fat.
“Can we go home? I’m not feeling all that good.”
She nodded. “Still not up for our ice cream sundaes?”
“I just want to get some sleep.”
I lived in a foggy haze for days afterwards. Anne was right. I was fat. All one hundred and thirty pounds of me. Fat. I covered my body in Steve’s baggy t-shirts and made sure to wear huge sweatpants. Getting me out of the house was now more of a challenge. I couldn’t go anywhere like this. With the windows and mirrors only reflecting the girl I knew no one could ever like. The movie screens showing the beachbabes, the models, the women that us girls were supposed to look like. Everywhere was a reminder. And that’s why I refused to go absolutely anywhere.
Except school. They made me go there. It only added to the problem. Seeing the pretty faces on the size 00 bodies of the populars as they flirted with the guys. The guys that called me ‘blue whale’ and ‘big bootied.’ But the slanders didn’t stop there. Each day they grew worse and worse until finally I realized what I had to do.
I stopped eating. And I hid it for a while. Mom or Dad would pack lunch and I’d just pitch in the dumpster as soon as I reached school. Eating out, I’d pretend to be sick. Even dinner sometimes, I’d skip for the sake of homework or, well, an instant thought of queasiness. And that’s exactly what it was. Each time I laid my eyes on food, my stomach would flip and turn and hate me. But I hated being fat. Sometimes, I’d even hit the gym just to make sure.
After a couple months, the headaches disappeared and I felt pretty good. I’d dropped two sizes and my waist had shrunk quite a bit. But that was only a peak of what was to come. The blunt of it came as I reached the end of freshman year. The same time Steve came back home.
“Midget, you got taller!”
I smiled and tried to brush back the spinning world.
“Just a little tired.”
I was. Since the beginning, I had lost all my energy. But the spinning world made it harder. In fact, I don’t know how I made it past him without noticing. But I did. And that was an unfortunate thing.
My life only got worse and worse. My immune system dropped. My cardiovascular system slowed to dangerous levels. And my waist got thinner. I was in a living h---. And I continued to walk on through. I was only one size away from being a 00.
But I never got that far. Steve caught me dumping my lunch into the dumpster in the backyard.
I spun on my heels, only to have the world spin even more.
“Please, Steve. I need to do this.”
“You need to starve yourself to death?! You need to-”
“I need to be a 00!”
“Double zero is nothing, Bree. You hear me? You don’t want to be a nothing. Now eat your sandwich!”
It was maybe sixty thirty in the morning. Mom and Dad had left to work already. It was just him and I. And he was going to win no matter what. Steve nearly shoved the PB and J sandwich down my throat despite my protests. The food was foreign on my tongue and it twisted in my stomach on the way down. All I remember was getting sick all over his old football jersey and him cradling me as I was placed in bed.
Then I woke up in h---. A living h---. With pain erupting through my body. And the chill in my bones. And the lack of beating in my chest. I really thought I was going to die. Even more so when Steve carried me all the way to the ER.
They attached tubes pretty much everywhere. I had lost nearly seventy pounds in a matter of two years. I had dropped to a 00. And I had nearly killed myself to do it.
“Why, Bree? Why would you do this to yourself?”
“Remember that waitress?”
“The one I told you to forget about?”
“Yeah. It started with her. And then the dress sizes. And then the kids at school. I want to look like a d--- model, Steve. Don’t you get that?”
“I do, Bree. I do. But, seriously, this ain’t worth it.”
And I know that now. They say beauty is pain. I say it’s a pain in the butt and it’s certainly not worth starving over. So what if I wasn’t any supermodel? Or a double zero? I was alive.