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It started with a laugh, a joke directed at my best friend.
"You're such a cow," someone laughed. We didn't turn to see who, but knew it was meant for my friend's ears.
We skipped our last class, and just ran home. My friend was out of breath, tears already burning her cheeks. I stayed at her house that night, and we ate boxed pizza and ice cream straight from the carton. In the morning, I was sick: I wasn't used to downing that much food like my friend was.
I looked in the mirror, and I swear I saw ten pounds just appear. Out. Of. Thin. Air. I was skinny, I knew I was. I was a basketball star, and before that a swimmer. I had always stayed in shape. But right now, all I could see was fat. My best friend was fat, and that was fine because I would always love her, and her parents would always love her, but who would love me if I was... no, I couldn't even say it.
I skipped dinner that night. I told Mom I wasn't hungry, and she looked really sad because she'd made Chicken Curry, my favorite. But Mom would get over it. I wasn't going to let a little parental disappointment stop me.
The next morning, and every morning after that, I weighed myself. 143 pounds? Fat*ss. I had always been tall and slender, with a fair amount of curves, but that was no excuse. 90 pounds? That sounds better. Anything over 100 is repulsive. No more dinners for me.
I ate nothing but hard boiled eggs and apples. Every morning started out with a steaming cup of peppermint tea to curb my appetite, followed by a handful of vitamin supplements. I drank a bottle of water every hour, and made sure to sleep at least nine hours each night. I stopped hanging out with my best friend, knowing her presence would just tempt my growling stomach. I went to basketball practice everyday, and afterwards went straight home to bed before I could faint from exhaustion. I woke up early to do push ups and finish my homework.
On the weekends, I'd text my best friend and try to sound upbeat about school, food, and life in general. I went to the GYM Saturdays and Sundays, when I didn't have Basketball practice for an hour and a half. I spent an hour on the treadmill, and another hour on the elliptical. Afterwards, I would just go home and sleep.
One morning, Mom asked me what I was going to have for breakfast. I told her I wasn't really hungry, that I had eaten a big dinner the night before. I should have known it was a test, because she started crying and yelling at me all at once. She knew that I was lying, and started going on about how skinny I had become. She pointed a finger at the bones showing threw my V-neck sweater. I looked at them, ran my hand over them, and smiled.
The month following that was a blur. Mom took me to see a bunch of doctors that weighed me and prodded at my skin. They even did a bunch of tests. Apparently, my iron levels were really low and I was anemic. The lack of nutrients was supposedly damaging to my health. But whatever. I was 98 pounds, that was the important part.
One doctor said he was surprised that I could even walk, and made me sit in a wheel chair. I almost died of mortification when Mom started pushing me around in it. Like I was a f***ing baby. Gawd.
I was put into a "special treatment center" as they called it. I refused to eat the slimy, fatty foods they wanted me to swallow, so I had to be tube fed for a while. It. Was. Disgusting. I ate what they told me to after that. I threw it up for a while, but I was soon caught and put in isolation. Two weeks later, I was allowed ground privileges on account of my good behavior. I didn't want to leave my room, though-- the other patients scared the cr*p out of me. It was like living in a nut house.
After four and a half months of hospitalization, I was released. I had put on almost fifteen pounds. I sulked on the ride home with Mom. She told me everyone was waiting for me. Everyone? Everyone. My two grandmas, aunt, uncle and cousins. Even my best friend. The thought of seeing them again brought tears to my eyes. Mom had to pull over a block away from our house because I was crying so much.
I told her I was sorry, that I didn't mean to hurt anyone. That I just wanted to be okay again, to be happy. I just wanted to be perfect, to not be someone who got called the "F" word. To not want to cry at chocolate commercials. Gawd, I missed chocolate. I told her that, all of it.
Hope swelled in her eyes. She told me it was okay, that I wasn't fat, but that perfection was an unrealistic goal, that only God could be perfect.
I smiled at this.
She took my hand in both of hers, kissed it, looked into my eyes and told me that I was loved.