The silence, so distant and removed: the house sat in eerie stillness bar the muffled ruffling from the kitchen. Shaken hands clutching at cereal boxes, buttering bread and shoving down the inner packet to appear untouched since the morning whilst feeding in frenzy, a clatter of the spoon rapidly clanging within the bowl between each mouthful engulfed in urgent secrecy. A whistle of the wind chimed through the trees of the distant garden, shit! Freeze. Pause. Listen, creeping up the hallway to peer from behind the staircase out of the window towards the driveway. Is someone home? No, it was nothing? Ok, and with the safety of a clear coast being confirmed a quick hop, skip and jump into the kitchen so as to be a silent gazelle before the brain clatter ensues, a white noise engulfing all the senses as everything once again becomes a numbed engorgement of detached panic stuffing the stomach until eventually the pain receptors can ignore it no more, all immediate surroundings are once again another world, behind a bubble, far, far away. Choking on barely chewed food, spreading the butter back to how it looked from this morning again, re-arranging the empty packets to look like they’re untouched again with cheeks stuffed wide, unable to contain the overflowing contents. Shit, it doesn’t look right. A wave of fearful urgency and adrenaline starts surging, fuck, it’s been too long: purge first, tidy later.
Jumping three steps at a time in silent agility perfected by compulsive routine. Stop, listen, clear and the deed commences. Towards the last heaves the passage of time slows, as if catching up from the sped time prior, then ultimately returning to the normality of 1-elephant length seconds. As reality begins to sink back in, staring at the blotchy, swollen, puffy, saliva ridden, vomit stricken reflection that must be me, despite not feeling like it is me. She has my eyes, streaming and red, but mine all the least. My skin, my nose, my piercing, my hair: I know it is I who stares back before me, but feel it? There is no connection. I blow the nose of that person staring back, wash their hands, clear the vomit streaks pouring from the corners of drenched yet parched lips. Dab away those tears before encroaching upon the scene of what happened in order to get here, the mess I don’t fully remember making. Placing the packets back in a line to make them appear untouched, lining up the boxes in the cupboard again, spreading the butter to look like Mum’s breakfast scrapings, clearing away the crumbs and crumpling the inner packets of the cereal to look like Mum or Dad did it this morning before finally, making a cup of tea. Yes, that’s right. I’ve been drinking so much tea and milkshake, that is where the milk has gone. That is my story to avoid the verbal lashing of how greedy I am, how selfish I am, how I shouldn’t be eating so much – as if I don’t feel ashamed enough of being a healthy weight as it is.
The fearful anxiety that twists and tangles throughout my body is difficult to distract from. I know that I will be in trouble for eating that food, but it will be worse when they realise just how much. In the meantime though, there is no use catastrophising the inevitable so I go upstairs to my bedroom, slow, slouched and weighted heavy with burden for my committed crime. I shut the door to the rest of the house, to the rest of my existence, and the rest of the world. It is here that I can distract myself, detach myself and forget until I am reminded of what just occurred.
“WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? ARE YOU JUST DRINKING MILK ALL THE TIME INSTEAD OF EATING NOW? IS THIS YOUR NEW FAD? WELL I’M NOT GOING TO JUST KEEP BUYING MILK FOR YOU TO DRINK IT ALL, ALL THE TIME. I CAN GO WITHOUT, I DON’T MIND. I CAN JUST EAT AND DRINK AT WORK.”
I freeze. Stutter. Withdraw. I should not have touched the milk. I should not have eaten something they would notice. I must stop eating. They shout when I binge. They shout when I eat for goodness sake. If I don’t eat though, they don’t shout, they don’t swear and they don’t scare me. It would help if he stopped buying in milk, or food – he thinks I care, sure. He’d be doing me a favour because then I won’t eat this, and I won’t eat that: I won’t eat anything. Then I’ll lose all this disgusting weight. Then I’ll be small and the temptation to binge will be taken away from me. He’d be doing me a favour.
Days pass: the dizziness, the weakness, and breathlessness sets in more as I cross each day off of my chart. ‘Don’t go in the kitchen; you’re banned from the kitchen you greedy bitch. Don’t eat, you don’t deserve to eat you fat greedy bitch. The only safe zones in the house are your room and the bathroom if you need the toilet. You can only use the kettle, you greedy bitch. Don’t touch their food. Don’t be greedy. Just don’t eat: you will lose weight and feel better anyway.’ The narrative instruction in my head is clear, concise, and correct: I mustn’t deviate. It is Day 4. No solids. Just the usual suspects of safe “foods”, well drinks to provide enough sugar to avoid collapsing up the stairs between lessons. A solid routine of: hiding in my room, going to school, coming home, and hiding in my room shapes my routine.
Another day. More doors slammed. What have I done now? I haven’t even been eating. I haven’t even left my room except to use the bathroom and go to school. I don’t make a noise. I sit in my room. I draw. I write. I study. Most of all, I sleep. What on earth have I done wrong?
“WHERE THE FUCK IS THE WEETABIX? THAT WAS A NEW BOX THIS MORNING AND YOU’VE EATEN IT ALL; YOU’VE FUCKING EATEN IT ALL. I’M SICK OF THIS. WHY SHOULD I BE SACRIFICING AND GOING WITHOUT BECAUSE OF HOW YOU CHOOSE TO LIVE YOUR LIFE?”
I haven’t eaten for 5 days. I was going to go to town to binge tomorrow should I feel it necessary. I don’t understand. I haven’t eaten the Weetabix. I haven’t touched it. I cry: frustrated, angry, scared, frozen with tears from the uncontrollable sobs I want to release roll to the floor. I stare at the wall, waiting. He will go away eventually, like when prey plays dead. Like the prey, I am petrified and too timid to even move in the slightest, too timid to let the tears fall until he has left, too timid to even move; I’d stop breathing if I could.
It turned out that Mum had been eating the Weetabix because she was hungry after work; there are never any snacks in.