Hell or Heel

March 19, 2011
By , Tucson, AZ
I am hanging out with three boys, Charlie, Walker, and Marco on Christmas Eve Eve (as Charlie likes to call the 23rd of December) of 2009. It is a warm and sunny day in Tucson, Arizona, not unlike the weather the rest of the year. We have been working on building a go-cart for most the day, a process in which I have mostly stood aside and watched the boys in their attempt. Their building process has gone something like this:

* Drill randomly placed holes in a reused 2x4.
* Walk in a very running-like way to a neighbor’s house to borrow some power tools.
* Create pitiful piles of sawdust from lethargic sawing.
* Run in a very walking-like way back to return the borrowed drill and request 2 inch nails.
* Hammer rusty nails into sliver-filled plywood.
* Hurry, half-skipping, half-walking to exchange 2 inch nails for 1 ¾ inch ones.

Despite this somewhat drab routine, I have enjoyed myself immensely for the simple reason that I have an excuse to be around Charlie, my current doppelganger impersonator, aka my crush.
After a while of “working” (or leisurely surveying wood for new spots to make holes in) on our “go-cart” (which would be more accurately described as a piece of plywood with a rope and wheels), Marco nags us into jumping on the trampoline. We spring around on it for a while goofing around, throwing wet socks, launching Charlie’s dog (who was seduced into joining us on the trampoline for the sole purpose of adolescent amusement) into the air. We fly to tremendous heights, far beyond what any of us could bounce alone. The adrenalin of bounding across the half-slippery tramp mirrors the height of our jumps. And then comes Charlie’s question that brings my body falling back down to the ground, hard:
“Say, how much do you all weight?”
“Why, out of all questions, must it be this one that my crush asks me?” I think to myself.
There is an awkward silence. Then, in an effort to get a response, Charlie continues, “High eighties, low nineties? That’s where I am.”
Should I say a hundred and one? It’s the truth, but it’s awful, embarrassing.
Walker voices, “A hundred, on a heavy day”.
Two out of three of these boys, who are taller and more muscular than I am, who are supposed to weigh twenty times as much as me, weigh less than I do. What would they think if I told them what I really weigh?
Marco proudly declares, “One-thirty, what now?!” as if it is an excellent comeback to a poorly worded argument. It is obvious he has been waiting for his friends to respond so he can win the competition of body mass.
What if I told them eighty-five? Is it believable? What if I just vaguely said how much I am?
Charlie looks over at me, a glance that translates into “It’s your turn”, and I finally give the response closest to my lips. “Around there.... Around eighty-nintey.”

Within months, the lie changes to truth. It starts slow: I decide to cut back on sweets and eat smaller snacks. But the number on the scale increases that first week, and the lie haunts my very essence. So I cut back more. Portion everything out, measure in quarter cups and skimp off the top. I loose one pound, then two. Run an extra mile after track meets. Three more pounds roll off, then five, then nine! It is unbelievable how quickly the weight flakes off, like peeling off the excess flour from a measuring cup with a butter knife. I start cutting sandwiches in half, then quarters, then eighths. Run two miles, make it four, make it six. My credo morphs into “Be able to fit another meal in your stomach every second of every day. Fullness is not tolerable.”
I begin to dream of food: smooth Costco pumpkin pie, bread with Smucker’s Strawberry Jam, creamy 2% chocolate milk, crusty tortillas, rejuvenating olive oil, and rich salmon. But these seductions cannot beguile me because I know what my mission is: Become my lie.
I start to hide food, cut food down into crumbs, lie about skipping meals. I stretch the truth when I go running: I just went up the hill and back. (I did go up and back, but then around the neighborhood twice and up the canyon and to the school track and then back home.)
My parents take me on walks, asking me if anything is wrong and pleading me to eat more. After we get home, I sneak out of the kitchen with only a bite. My mom shows me a journal of exactly what I’ve eaten, to convince me that it isn’t enough. I pay close attention to her counting of my caloric intake, and note every missed or overestimated calorie. My dad takes me out to breakfast and reads me a letter about how addicting anorexia is. I look up the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa and find I am still five or six pounds away. My neighbor goes running with me and grieves about track athletes who didn’t eat enough, and therefore performed poorly. I lament over those lost opportunities aloud, but silently rejoice that there is trophy far above a track and field medal: It is called control.

But as time goes by, the control I am looking for drags me down. I get frustrated and hopeless and confused. I can’t stop thinking about food, and I don’t have room for anything in my life besides avoiding it. I am being dragged into lifelessness, and rather than controlling food, food is controlling me.
So I give up. I decide I don’t want to be my lie- I want to be me, even if the person I am has some weaknesses. I learn that even an Achilles heel isn’t as bad as hell.

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