A Dying Desire This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Sitting between Misty and Sean, watching them shovel pizza and ice cream into their mouths, my stomach quivered. It had been months since I'd eaten anything like that. I could feel my mouth starting to water. My apple just wasn't satisfying my hunger pains. Abruptly, I shoved my chair away from the table, knocking it over, and walked away, shocking my best friend, Jeannie, who was the only one who knew my secret. She watched me storm away and I saw the fear, disappointment and concern on her face. She knew. She always knew.

It began sophomore year. My hideous braces were finally removed and my glasses - the equivalent of boy-repellent for any teenage girl - were replaced with contacts. Suddenly I was the butterfly who had emerged from the cocoon. I shopped for the clothes of the moment, hair styling and make-up became necessities of life, and boys, well, they no longer had cooties.

Time passed. And I began, like many girls, to compare myself to others and notice all my flaws and imperfections. My hair wasn't nearly as soft or manageable as Amber's; I wasn't as tan as Megan; I wasn't nearly as skinny as Krissi. I bought expensive shampoos, tanned religiously ... and began to diet.

I tried eating healthy foods and exercising, but those 20 pounds just wouldn't come off. Healthy and anything but fat, my body didn't have weight to lose, but I refused to accept that. Stepping on the scale morning after morning, I became desperate. I knew I could lose more than eleven pounds. I had to lose more. I cut my meals to one a day and ran at night, but seven days later, I had only lost two more pounds. I didn't know why: I ran every night and starved until dinner. Then my face became gaunt, and my ribs showed when I inhaled, but when I looked in the mirror, I was still fat and disgusting. The pattern continued until I was both anorexic and bulimic.

Leaving the table at lunch that day, I made my way to the bathroom. It was my only solace at times like these. Settling in the corner, sitting perfectly still, I fought the dark urge to vanish within myself, but I was too weak to resist. Kneeling before the toilet, I heaved and strained to purge my system of all traces of my meager lunch. I couldn't stop my thoughts. I wanted to be empty, devoid of all thoughts, emotions, knowledge; more than anything, though, I wanted the food gone.

Tears rolled down my face. Two years of this - this sacrilege to my body, my mind, my temple that God had given me - was enough. I'd realized long ago that it was time to stop, but I couldn't. I didn't want to. I clung to, looked forward to, that self-gratifying action every day, the process that built my self-esteem and killed my body. Somehow, I'd convinced myself that it was okay, that I would survive. My protruding ribs, scarred throat, raccoon eyes and constantly burning stomach were nothing. The people who told me to eat, who asked if I was okay, were just jealous meddlers. I was doing great; they were the ones with problems.

Creaking hinges stopped me in mid-heave, but seeing it was just Jeannie, I returned to my ritual. Beating the door in frustration and panic, she demanded I stop, and begged to be let in with me.

"Please, please, please ... Alicia*, just stop! Please, God, no more!" She kept banging on the door. "Let me in now! I'm here to help you. Please don't do this. You're not just hurting yourself anymore. Dammit, stop! For me, please, please, just stop." And with that, her voice cracked and she was sobbing, too.

Her tears stopped me in my tracks, and I realized that my pain hurt her, too. Tears still running down my face, I left the porcelain bowl and slid the latch back, never once leaving my place crouched on the floor. Looking up at Jeannie, watching her cry, I felt like a guilty child who's just said something incredibly hurtful to her mother. Stepping past me, she pushed the handle to flush, closing her eyes and inhaling sharply when she saw the blood.

"Alicia," a sob broke her sentence.

"I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry," I whimpered through my tears. "Please hold me. Please."

Leaning forward, Jeannie latched the door and slid to the floor beside me. Rocking back and forth, she held me until neither of us had any more tears to shed and we both had a case of the hiccups, and then she spoke the truth.

"You're going to get better. I promise you, because I love you and need you."

For the first time in two years, I was sure the words I spoke were true, too. "I know."

* Name changed

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

_Snow_ said...
Dec. 2, 2010 at 8:16 pm
This is amazing. Amazing, terrifying, and wonderful. (wonderful being the 'get better' part) And the way it's written is amazing too. 
 
SpringRayyn said...
Nov. 4, 2010 at 6:01 pm
That's just so awesome. I would never be able to ask someone for a hug like that, and I don't even need one like that. That is just amazing.
 
Hay_Wire This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 16, 2009 at 5:11 pm
thats...wonderful. amazing. a miracle. wow.
 
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