I decide to go to the supermarket to buy food I will barely eat. It is a 20-minute walk via the “shortcut,” a walk on the footbridge over the Charles River. I have done this route many times. Today, I am taking my rolling backpack and a pack I will carry on my back as well. I plan to buy, among other things, a fair amount of canned food and dairy, including eggs, and a glass baking pan to make a turkey-lentil-rice dish I’ve been dreaming up.
It is a warm and windy afternoon. I have eaten a meal today and taken vitamins. I rarely take vitamins anymore, because they are only effective if you take them with a meal, and I don’t eat meals anymore, but today something got into me and I ate an entire meal, or at least the equivalent of one. So I knew I had enough energy and strength to make this trip without Gatorade as a backup.
The supermarket is in the same shopping center as my gym. I keep wondering if someone who goes to my gym shops at the same supermarket and sees me there. When I work out, I cannot hide my body very easily, even in loose clothing. Sometimes, I wear long sleeves and wind pants. Other times, I just don’t bother covering myself. It’s obvious something’s not right.
The last time I went to the gym I was working out three or four times a week between mid-June and the end of July. Very few people knew this, even my closest friends. While many of my friends who were trying to lose weight were having trouble getting up the motivation to exercise, I had motivation to spare. I wasn’t doing it specifically to burn calories, but to do something with all the energy I had from eating all the food they were making me eat.
Bullshit. The truth is, as soon as I saw the scale go up, as soon as I saw the flesh on my body, I panicked, and would do whatever it took to get rid of it.
I worked out vigorously. Where I was originally using 15-pound resistance, I worked my way up to 45 pounds. Forty pounds became 70. I increased my walking speed from 3.5 miles per hour to 4.1. I taught myself new exercises, and incorporated some of my old routines into the current routine I was doing. I developed solid muscles all over my body. And on a skinny person, muscles are very, very noticeable. I had to hide my new biceps from my therapist because I was afraid she’d ask questions. So I wore long sleeves.
This didn’t last long. When the starvation returned at the end of July, I knew I was too malnourished to support a vigorous workout, so I stopped going to the gym. When you don’t eat enough, your body takes nutrients from itself–from fat stores, from hair, from bones, from all the organs including muscles. So I lost muscle mass. A lot of muscle mass to the point that I can now roll up my sleeves and I no longer have to worry about my T seeing enlarged biceps. Really.
I arrive at the supermarket and grab a carriage. I place my rolling backpack on the underneath thingy and wheel the carriage into the supermarket. This time, I’m less self-conscious about what I’m buying and who is seeing me than I usually am. Relieved, I turn up my MP3 player and head into the dairy department.
Yogurt. Nonfat. Plain. Uh-oh, someone’s there. Who is this skinny girl buying yogurt, anyway? What right does she have to buy nonfat? And plain? Why the heck doesn’t she buy vanilla like a normal person?
Fuck off, fat lady. I grab two quart tubs and move on.
Other groceries are easier. I dodge more fat people in the aisles. I bump into a guy. He gives me a look: You’re so skinny–you had plenty of room to get by. I apologize. He obviously isn’t accepting my apology. Well, fuck you.
I turn up Indigo Girls even louder. What brand of tuna is the best? Who knows.
Finally, I get to the register. I empty my cart. I easily slip between the cart and the candy display. I remember a time that I barely fit between the cash registers, for godsakes. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But I was once fat. Once.
I pay for my groceries. This is complicated. Store card, food stamps card, debit card, coupon, receipt. Meanwhile, the bagger has bagged my groceries in plastic. I did not want bags.
Why the heck did he bag them without even asking me if I wanted bags, or even if I wanted “paper or plastic”? Why did he just assume I wanted plastic bags? I am pissed.
“I didn’t want–” I stopped myself. “Okay, okay, you’ve already bagged them. I’ll take the plastic. Fine.” I went on and dealt with the plastic, that will pollute our earth and never go away.
I pack my groceries into my rolling backpack, most of them. Most of them I keep in the plastic, just for the heck of it. I place the glass baking dish and eggs in the backpack I am carrying on my back. I return my carriage and off I go.
I know I am carrying one hell of a lot of stuff. The canned goods are heavy, and yes–I have soda on me, too. Diet, of course. I ask myself if I would be able to carry the rolling backpack up the stairs after I get off the footbridge. With my weakened arms? Probably not. Added to that is my general state of body weakness. I could easily lose my balance, fall, and injure myself. Going up the stairs, unless I have help from some stranger, would definitely be unwise. And what were the chances of running into a stranger who could–and would–offer to help? So, reluctantly, I go around the long way. This is adding about 15 minutes to my trip, especially considering I’m slow with the heavy load. I curse my eating disorder the entire way home as Indigo Girls sing and strum mightily.
I arrive home to Puzzle. Home now. But this isn’t the end of the story. So keep reading.
I let Puzzle out of her crate, and turn the AC up to 80 degrees. I have to keep it on for her allergies, otherwise I’d shut if off entirely. I switch off Indigo Girls. Take the wallets out of my pockets. They slide out so easily now that my jeans are so loose. Only one pair fits now. Then I empty my groceries. The dairy goes into the refrigerator, canned onto the counter. The non-refrigerated stuff I can deal with later.
Then, I place the knapsack I carried on my back onto the counter. I remove the eggs, carefully unwrap them from the canvas bag I used to protect them, and inspect them for breakage. Suddenly, whoom! The knapsack falls.
The glass baking dish shatters into a million pieces.
And no, the glass doesn’t end up all over the floor, to cut into Puzzle’s little paws and unsuspecting bare feet. No, the shattered glass pieces don’t end up under the refrigerator. The entire glass baking dish, shattered to bits, is protected, carefully wrapped, against my wishes, in a plastic bag.
My wonderful new book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is now available in e-book form from Chipmunkapublishing. Click here to download the .pdf file. To read excerpts at my home site, click here. The book will be available in paperback form in May 2011.