Creative Nonfiction 2014

Mirror

By Danni Kosturko

           I look in the mirror; I only see fat. Fat on my face. Fat on my arms. Fat on my stomach. Fat on my thighs. Just fat. Fat everywhere. That’s all I ever see when I look in the mirror.

           I step on the scale. My feet are bare. I’m bare. Clothes add weight. Hair adds weight. I want to chop all my hair off. Limbs add weight. Would it be so bad if I lost a leg? What’s that? Like ten pounds? I close my eyes and wait five seconds. I look down. The red numbers flash 112.1. I smile. I lost weight.

           I wrap the tape measurer around my waist—twenty-three inches. I need to lose more weight. I want to lose another inch.

           I put the tape measure away. I walk to my desk. I kneel down and open the bottom cabinet. The purple box sits there, waiting. I open it. Papers burst out. I push them aside until I reach the bottom and pull out my secret weapon. The tiny, clear bag is filled with pills. Pills my cousin needs to help him focus in school. But when I asked if I could give him twenty bucks for twenty pills, he didn’t even hesitate. I know I should feel bad, but I don’t really care. They stop my hunger. That’s all I care about.

           I go down into the kitchen. My parents will be here soon. They’ll want to know if I’ve eaten yet.

           I pull out perogies from the freezer. I take out a pan and pour some oil into it. Once the pan is warm, I throw the perogies in and let them fry. When they’re done, I eat three. I look at the calories on the back of the bag and write it down in my notebook:

Dinner: Perogies-130 calories

Total Calories: 425

           Dinner is my biggest meal. It holds me over until the morning.

           I put the other six perogies I cooked on a plate. I cut them up, spread some of the cheese across the plate, and make a mess. I take five of the perogies and wrap them in a paper towel before I throw them into the bottom of the trash. There’s one left on the dirty plate. It looks like I’ve had a real dinner.

           My mom comes home.

           “Did you eat yet?”

           “Yep! Had a bunch of perogies.” I motion to the plate by the sink. She gives me a kiss and goes upstairs.

           I used to hate how much my parents worked. Dad was always in New York; Mom could never get a free minute from her job. But not having them around made it so much easier to lie about what I ate. They trusted me to eat, to take care of myself. I was old enough where they didn’t have to worry. All I had to do was say the magic words “I ate,” and they smiled and said, “Okay.”

           It doesn’t take long for the aches to start. At first, they were hard to ignore, but now, they’re my best friend. They tell me I’m doing a good job. They tell me that I’m empty. They tell me that I’m hungry. It’s easier to ignore them now.

           My family starts eating their own dinner: mac and cheese with garlic bread and soda. I want some. I want to take the biggest spoon we have and eat everything by myself. I watch them eat. I watch each bite. I pretend I’m eating too. I move my mouth, remembering what the foods used to taste like. Pretending to eat is even better than eating; you can eat without getting the calories.

           I open my laptop and go to the website. This is my favorite website. It helps me stay focused. It helps me remember my goals. I scroll through the pictures of girls; their waists are tiny, they can wrap their fingers around their wrists, that girl is wrapping her hands around her thighs. How did she get them that small? I want mine to be that small. I want to be small enough where my hands can wrap around anything on me.

           I type into Google “How to get tiny thighs.” The first page brings me to a forum. It’s run by girls like me, girls who will do anything and everything it takes to become perfect.

           My phone buzzes. I have a text from JØy EnjØys.

           How’d u do today?

           Great. I’m at 425. And I’m down to 112. U?

           Got to 215. Down to 110.

           I glare at my phone. I suddenly hate her. I hate that she can eat so much less than me. I hate that she weighs less than me. But I respond:

           Awesome! Ur doing great! <3

           U 2! <3

           I wonder if I’ll ever meet her. She’s one of the most important people in my life and I’ve never even seen her in person. I’m friends with her on Facebook, but that doesn’t count.

           I still can’t believe what she looks like. She looks like a total rebel: hair two different colors, clothes with purposeful holes in them, always posting pictures of her drinking and smoking pot. When I first met her online, I never would have imagined someone like her to be just like me.

           When she asked for my number, I was really worried; I had gotten the “internet predator” speech a thousand times over. But she wanted to help me. She wanted to support me. Together, we would get skinny. So I gave her my number and Facebook.

           Around nine o’clock, I go to my room. It has been hours since I had last eaten. I need to get away from the food before I lose it.

           I get ready for bed. Before I climb in, I open my window. The freezing wind comes through. I double check to make sure my door is locked. My parents would kill me if they knew I had my window open on a February night. I had read that if you sleep with your window open at night, you’ll shiver, and your body will be forced to burn calories while you sleep.

           I wake up the next morning. My throat hurts, my head hurts and I feel like I had a ton of bricks sitting on top of my chest for hours. I knew it was from sleeping with the window open. It happens every time I do that. I get up and close the window.

           I walk through the hallway and into the bathroom. Dad was already in New York and Mom was already on her way to the hospital for the next twelve hours. Ryan was downstairs, probably eating breakfast and watching TV. He’s always ready before I am.

           I step on the scale: 110.4. I smile.

           I quickly get ready, pulling on my skirt that doesn’t fit me anymore and my baggy polo. I hate these stupid uniforms. But they hide my weight loss. They are so unflattering that I can’t even tell how tiny I’m getting.

           I grab an apple (60 calories) and get in my truck. I yell to my brother, who is taking his time getting out of the house, before speeding off to school.

           In homeroom, I pull out my journal. I lean over it, far enough where anyone who tried to look at what I was writing wouldn’t see.

           Breakfast: Apple-60 calories

           The bell rings and I throw my notebook in my bag and go to find my friends. Showtime. I walk down the hallway to homeroom 306. Janelle, Lindsay and Tim are at their lockers. They each give me a smile and say hi. I force my lips to turn up, despite the fact that I feel anything but happy. I feel numb. I feel angry. I felt like punching the blue lockers that can barely hold anything. Not a single one of them see through it. I am the leader. I am the listener. I am the one with the advice. I am the one that doesn’t have any problems. I am the one who has everything right. I am happy.

           Lunch comes. I skip past the long line. I’m not getting pizza or chicken tenders. I go to the small fridge and take a fruit cup (40 calories) and a yogurt (60 calories).

           “Good for you, eating so healthy,” the lunch lady remarks as she takes my $3.25.

           I chat with my friends while picking at my lunch. I never finish the fruit cup. I only like the watermelon and grapes in it. No one ever asks me, “That’s all you’re eating?” or  “Aren’t you hungry?” I want them to notice. Lindsay watches me. I know she knows. She just won’t say anything. She doesn’t know how. I wish she would. If they told me I had a problem, then I would know it wasn’t just in my head. I would know it was real.

           Once lunch is over, I take out my journal.

           Lunch: Fruit cup and yogurt: 100 calories

           School ends and lacrosse practice starts. I take out the banana (100 calories) I stored in my locker earlier that morning. As much as I don’t want to eat it, I would be running around for two hours. If I passed out, everyone would know. No one could know.

           After practice, I use an online calculator to see how many calories I burned: 210.

           Exercise: Lacrosse: -210

           After practice, I weigh myself, shower, weigh myself, text JØy, take some Adderall, eat, weigh myself, brush my teeth, weigh myself, then lock myself into my room for the night. I take my journal out for the last time and finish my entry for the day.

Total: 450 calories

           I take a picture of some skinny girl I found online—a girl I would do anything to look like—I tape her onto the page of today’s entries. One day. I have to keep going. I would get there.

           I don’t open the window tonight. I don’t want to get even more sick.

           I close my eyes and prepare myself to do it again tomorrow.

           My eyes keep opening. I keep checking my clock. It has only been two minutes since I had last checked.

           I can’t sleep.

           I throw off my covers and go over to the windows. The moon is full and bright. I look above my window, at the white ceramic cross that hangs between the two windows. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have that cross. I never asked, but I assumed it was a gift from my baptism.

           I push myself onto my knees, and for the first time in a very long time, I pray.

           I look at the little girl painted on the cross; she has blondish, red hair that is tied into a short ponytail. She is wearing a white nightgown. Her eyes are closed, her hands are folded up and together and she is kneeling. There is some prayer engraved under her; even though I’ve had that cross my entire life, I have no idea what it says.

           I look pass the cross and out the window, staring at the moon and the dark sky.

           “Please,” I plead. “Please just help me.”