Remember that summer we didn’t eat? We felt absurdly large in our size four swimsuits and cutoff shorts, so we starved ourselves. We climbed over rocks and over backseats. We let the summer sun touch our new skin and the summer boys feel our new bodies. We felt the highest highs and the lowest lows, but we had each other to keep us strong so we would run out into the streets, take the back roads to a field, strip to our souls and scream to the sky.
Remember the fall we didn’t eat? We kept a firm diet of Adderall, cigarettes, and coffee. Our parents’ might have said something, but we were playing it too well. Grades didn’t falter, social lives thrived, friendships strengthened. Ours strengthened, even as our bodies wasted into clouds of dust and our vibrant personalities faded with the leaves.
Remember the winter we didn’t eat? We had to get creative, too many family dinners. We took those volunteer jobs at the daycare center hoping we would catch colds, a flu just in time for the holidays. When that didn’t work, we declared that it was the season for giving and spent our Thanksgiving and Christmas working at the food bank, feeding homeless people who most certainly had more to eat than either of us.
Remember the spring people caught on? Me 5’10” you 5’7”, we both weighed in at under 100 pounds, we were sent to facilities, separately, we were told we could no longer be each other’s best friend. When we heard that we promised to not eat until we could see each other, but that didn’t happen. We got better, codependency stripped from us.
Remember the next year, sitting in a diner when we finally talked about it? You were so much better than I was, but we were both trying, getting our lives on track. You said that cigarettes would kill me, a clinger-on from our past lives. We looked at our meals and said that we were strong enough to eat them; we realized that our love for each other didn’t depend on an eating disorder. We entered back into each other’s lives and this time we took up more physical space than emotional space. It felt liberating and warm. We laughed when we thought about how unreal that year had been, then two girls walked in and ordered hot cups of tea and complained that they had eaten too much the day before, one girl announcing that her diet of an apple and a coffee had left her bloated. We stopped laughing then. Looking at a mirror of our past didn’t seem so funny anymore.
Remember how you told me that even if someone recovers from an eating disorder and continues to live a healthy life they’re still 30% more likely to have a heart attack later in life? I told you that something else would get to us first. I watched you shrink, then I watched you grow back. I watched you run a marathon, and watched you eat a huge meal of pasta and bread that night at a celebration dinner. I watched you walk down the aisle from the vantage point of Maid of Honor. And I watched you collapse on your kitchen floor, as I ran for a telephone, frantically dialing 911. But today I will not watch you get lowered into the ground, because I can’t face you. I can’t face your family or your husband. Because I am selfish and I am weak, and I can’t forgive myself.
Remember all those years ago when I unintentionally embarked on a journey that would kill you? Because I do, and I am so sorry.