Bag of Bones and Skin
“I’m just a bag of bones and skin holding in this hunger.
Have you ever made yourself eat until you felt sick? It’s so easy to switch off, to keep shoveling food into your mouth even as the rational part of your brain reminds you of all those health articles that say mindless eating is just a sign of boredom and depression. But of course this doesn’t bother you, because that’s exactly what this is – repetitious movements of the jaw to match the tediousness of your life. Wretched, brittle life.
(Ah, speaking of brittle, wouldn’t some peanut brittle be just the fix right now – that salty-sweet crunch shattering on the edge of your teeth, ripping through the soft flesh of your mouth, leaving everything raw for the slow burn of caramel brown bile that comes to wash it all away. Oh god, you’ve never wanted anything so bad in your life.)
End it now, you think, end it before the regret fills your apartment with the sulfuric stench of indigestion…
You swear off food, you swear off ice cream and takeout from the Thai restaurant downstairs, and food blogs. From now on you follow the diet prescribed by Emmy-winning heart surgeon Dr. Oz. It’s easy, at first, because self-denial is just another extreme that begs for your complete indulgence. But willpower can only last for so long – only a day and a half pass before the hunger pains begin to gnaw at you day and night. In class you sit with your arms held protectively across your stomach, as if the sheer pressure of your hold could somehow make the hunger shrink. It doesn’t work, of course. So you sit in class and daydream about thick slices of brie on delicate, buttery crackers while everyone else stares raptly ahead, fantasizing about their own secret obsessions.
Going to bed hungry – now that’s the worst. Your body feels trapped in a state of suspension, with your last meal seeming like eons ago and the next arriving in approximately the same time it took for the Roman Empire to rise and fall. The idea of breakfast has never been so appealing. Stacks of pancakes smothered in syrup, cinnamon rolls oozing with sweet, sticky glaze, sausages crackling with hot grease, and eggs of every variety! Sunny side-up, scrambled, whisked into an omelette, baked into a quiche, hardboiled, poached, or even raw. You’d give anything for that golden yellow yolk, trembling in its translucent shell until that heavenly moment when the tip of your fork just barely dips below the surface, and the whole thing breaks apart in one gloriously languorous mess. With dreams like these, it’s no wonder that you only fall asleep once the pain has turned into numbness.
Satisfaction is no longer a definitive in your life, and eating simply becomes a hobby, like erotic fanfiction or knitting. But words and needles can be kept hidden, they can be tucked away in the dark recesses of your closet full of bloated skeletons. Now when you undress in the evening, there are bright red lines where the seam dug into your inner thigh; backwards and forwards they run, deeper than any scar that could be left by a razor. Sometimes, when you’re feeling really masochistic, you’ll take a selfie after one of your binging episodes. The weight gain isn’t really visible (that’s what you hope, anyway) and if you turn your face down at just the right angle your cheeks look like they could be normal sized again. Turn your face back up again, and they’re huge, swollen monsters, smeared with chocolate and potato chip crumbs. You take the picture, and then immediately delete it.
I’m just a bag of bones and skin holding in this hunger… and I only want more.”
I started writing this essay when I was still a binge eater, pushing through my last year of college and absolutely miserable. This is me at my lowest, and believe me, when you’re this low it seems impossible that things should get better. But they did. And even though I’m an unemployed college graduate, I couldn’t be happier. I might never be one of those self-empowered, “I’m beautiful because I say so” women that you see in Dove commercials, but at least I’m at peace with the shame I have about my body. So yes, I’m still hungry, but now it’s for something other than food.
Aimee | Los Angeles, CA | United States