"I'd really like some pie."
I tried not to think about how stereotypical this situation was – me in my work garb, leaning over the edge of a greasy counter to better hear a young waitress who was smacking on a piece of gum. Her curly black hair was tied back, away from her face, and her red lipstick was smeared across the left side of her mouth. It made her face slightly lopsided. She would have been pretty if she hadn't have been so ugly.
The waitress leaned over and pulled out two slices of pie, one in each hand, setting them on the counter between us. I leaned back slightly.
"Cherry or apple?" she chewed on her words, a bubble of gum formed slowly from her mouth over the two desserts. I envisioned her saliva scattering over the crusts in little gobs as the bubble burst. I didn't want dessert anymore.
"Oh, neither. Never mind," I dunked my words in my coffee to add a little extra weight. It worked.
That coffee was free even though I had to pay for it. Coffee was one of the only free foods; it was something that I could actually ingest without feeling guilty. It only had ten calories per eight ounce serving. Calorie counts infiltrated my stream of consciousness - Coffee (10), Bagel (90), Milk (140). I was great at math. I became a human calculator over the course of six months. A running tab of every morsel that passed my lips was kept in the back of my mind. I added up how much poison food I ate every day. Sometimes, if I was lucky, my count would stay at zero for a few days or so.
I watched as the waitress haphazardly slid the two plates of pie back into the dessert display. She glanced back at me, and her eyes fell to my fingers. She watched them dance over the shiny surface. They were thin ballet dancers. She looked back at the pie and frowned; her eyebrows stitched themselves together. She was visibly irked at my sudden lack of an appetite and subsequent change of heart. At least, I hope she was. It comforted me to think that perhaps someone cared, even if it wasn't out of empathy. I lied to myself a lot; this wasn't the first time that I tried to believe that a person could care about me.
I shook mentally shook myself. I glanced back down at my reflection in the layers of grease on the fake linoleum that my forearms were resting on. I couldn't help but wonder how many other men had been in here and had done the same thing. Probably not many. I bet it was great pie; it would have been so delicious. Good thing I didn't eat it.
I stood up and made to walk away, leaving an empty coffee mug and a two dollar tip floating on top of the ocean of grease and anxiety. I imagined them sinking and capsizing under the force of nonexistent waves. I turned my back to the scene. I patted my shirt pocket to make sure the notebook that held my calorie counts was still there. It was. It always was. That's the nice thing about eating disorders; they never leave you alone.
I walked out of the door of the coffee house and down the left side of the street. I never walked on the right. Don't ask me why; I just never did.
It wasn't just getting dark, and it was not early morning, contrary to what you might think. This was no story of how the morning was accentuated perfectly by the smell of French vanilla mocha. This was not a cool night that would be warmed, if only slightly, by the steam of a cappuccino. It was actually around one o'clock when I exited the shop, and it was pleasantly warm outside. I shun conformity, in case you haven't noticed. That was a lie. Forget I said that.
It was the kind of day that made most people look at those who exited the coffee house with a sort of disgust. I'm sure they were wondering why I was drinking coffee on a ninety degree day. Or, maybe not. I still envisioned them begging me for an answer, though. Who drinks coffee in the middle of a ninety degree summer day? I longed to scream - the ones who are cold inside and out! We are the frozen and the lost. We are the ones with souls that have been dipped in liquid nitrogen until they are incapable of anything aside from self-hatred. I wanted to tell my wouldn't listen; they never did.
Sunlight trickled through the eyelashes of a group of passing women, illuminating their souls; they smiled at me kindly. There were three of them. I held my right arm against my protruding rib cage and looked away. One woman stood out; her hair was the color of dried blood. She smiled my way. It was like staring at a supernova. How could someone be that happy, that radiant? That's when I came to the conclusion that people can't be that happy, and something had to be wrong with her. I paused.
"What's your secret?"
She stopped and her smile faltered just a little bit. Her eyes brushed over the outlines of the dark circles that I was always fighting so hard to hide.
"My secret." She repeated. It wasn't a question. That's when she told the emaciated stranger in front of her how she could be so radiant. It was not as glamorous as one might think.
She changed her words to pillows. They were full of fluff; they didn't hurt me because she didn't want them to. Of course nothing was wrong with her, of course. Her friends were getting impatient after about thirty minutes of dawdling. The pillows buried me until I couldn't breathe. Her words were lost on me. She smiled like she had accomplished something and grasped my shoulder lightly for a second before running off with her friends again. She left me hiding behind a fortress of soft-spoken words.
No one could truly be that happy. I used to think that maybe I could be. 200, 190, 180, 170, 160, 150, 140, 130, 120, 110, 100, 90. With every pound that I lost, I rose up. Then, I fell. After a while, you become consumed. The beauty of control is so great that it eats you alive, and you start to feel like maybe you created a monster. You can't figure out if that monster is the disease or yourself. That's the worst part.
Ana becomes your mother, your sister, and your lover. No one else matters. It's isolating. At least, that's what the brochures and pamphlets would tell you, should you decide to sit down and read them thoroughly.
I love ana. I love food. It's like loving the water on earth and the climate on mars.
That didn't make any sense. I apologize. No, I don't. I'm one big, walking contradiction.
The only problem is that I'm scared to death of walking on the right side of the street. Maybe someday.
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