I was on the plane riding home from Ohio. I removed my headphones and caught snatches of what the pilot was saying:
“…Plane damaged…needs repairs…delayed landing…66 degrees currently in Boston….We’ll keep you informed as things develop….”
What the fuck? The plane I’m on is damaged? Does this mean we can’t land? That we’re going to land in the water? That we’re going to crash? And why aren’t the other passengers panicking? Did I hear wrong? I looked around, trying to hold back my bewilderment. All the other passengers were either listening to their ipods, reading, or sleeping. Had they ignored this? Did they routinely ignore what the pilot said over the loudspeaker? I generally do, I must confess, but now, I listened whenever the thingy beeped, to gather more information, but there was none.
Okay, so the plane is malfunctioning. It could be anything from the air conditioning to the smoke detector in the lavatory to the wing tip. It could be a stray thread in the carpet. Malfunctioning. Machines are not perfect. Little things go wrong all the time. Parts wear out, loosen, or break.
“All matter goes to greater randomness or lower energy.” That is what I learned in high school chemistry. And it’s true. And true of ourselves. We get older. Our bodies break down. Our bodies lower themselves. Our faces, our skin and organs sag. This is inevitable. Although I am reasonably certain that I still walk with a bounce in my step, I can see that my face isn’t the same face I wore ten years ago. Nor is it the same face I wore two years ago.
I thought of the plane going to greater randomness as it landed somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, along with all its passengers. I thought of my last moments. I thought of dying. I wondered what the pilot’s announcements would be. Would he say, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please say your last prayers–we are going to crash and there’s nothing you can do about it.”? Didn’t they have “black boxes” that tell us what pilots say to passengers right before their planes crash? Why didn’t I know these things?
I thought of my friends. No, no, I did not want to think about my friends at that moment. I have good friends and classmates and they would be devastated if this plane crashed. Please, please, do not crash. Puzzle is waiting for me at Pooch Palace. Do not crash. My family? Naw, they’ll get over it pretty quickly. My family does not even understand that I have a deadly eating disorder. They would get over this plane crash, I thought, and not even know what the last two years of my life have been about. As a matter of fact, they wouldn’t know what any of my life has been about. I don’t think they ever read this blog or my website, or plan to read my memoir, though I do supply links at the bottom of the rare e-mails I send them. And at that moment, not knowing if the plane would crash or not, I felt very, very misunderstood and ignored.
Do not crash. Because I do not want to die and be misunderstood. Because I don’t want to be among the 40 or so passengers and 4 crew members that died in a plane crash. There are plenty of plane crashes and there are plenty of people on this plane. I will be a statistic that will be in the paper tomorrow and forgotten the next day.
“Oh, it was just a little plane, under 50 passengers.” “Too bad the plane was full.” “Nobody important was on it.” Yeah.
If the plane had crashed, I would not have died of anorexia. Sure, nobody wants me to die of this deadly eating disorder. I wondered, at that moment, which would be preferable: die of anorexia or die in a plane crash. If I die in a plane crash it ensures that I won’t die of anorexia, and it robs me of the opportunity to starve myself to death. Please, do not crash.
I did not pray. I cannot pray. I wish that I could, but this eating disorder stole God from me when it came back in 2008 or 2009. So I just sat there and waited for the flight attendant to pass out drinks so I could ask her about what the pilot said. I listened to music. I think it was Bruce Springsteen but I’m not sure. I knitted Puzzle’s dog sweater (pictured in the previous blog entry). I did not drop a stitch. Finally, the flight attendant, named Denise, came around. I asked her for a Diet Coke.
“Denise, did the pilot say the landing was delayed?” Now, I was attempting to sound the least panicked as possible.
“Yes, the landing is delayed because take-off was delayed.” Denise said, annoyed.
“What was that other bit the pilot said about the plane?”
“Yes, the plane was damaged and needs repairs.”
A passenger behind us added, “It is the connecting flight that needs repairs.”
“The connecting flight,” Denise echoed.
I did not completely believe her. I watched the wing flap intently. Hadn’t it flapped a little right before take-off? I wondered if it would flap again. I wondered if it would malfunction during landing. I wondered if I would die in a plane crash and be forgotten or survive and starve myself to death.
Anorexia is an illness understood by few. In fact, I don’t understand it. I “get it” in part but it is an illogical illness. It does not follow the “lower energy greater randomness” rule. The medical consequences of starvation are logical–if you starve yourself, your body will break down and cease to function–but self-starvation is nonsensical, dangerous, and damned stupid. Who in their right mind would do such a thing? I must not be in my right mind.
So I sat there, not in my right mind, knitting a dog sweater for Puzzle, who needs her mama, thinking that I wanted this plane not to crash so that I could continue to starve myself. No, definitely insane.
Why didn’t I think of the other alternative–that the plane wouldn’t crash and maybe I would live a long, healthy life, like to 100 without starving myself? Because wasn’t that what the other passengers on the plane were assuming, those that had heard the announcement correctly? Weren’t they assuming that they’d get off the plane in Boston, and walk into the world, and have a nice big dinner at the usual time? Weren’t they looking forward to nourishing themselves and having something else besides airline brand peanuts or pretzels? Weren’t they planning to see their friends, or business acquaintances, or families that may or may or may not understand them, and living their lives free of starvation?
Okay, maybe I’m wrong. There were just under 50 passengers on the plane. One or two, statistically speaking, may have had an eating disorder and was planning, or not planning but would, starve, binge, throw up, or do some other eating disordered behavior–soon after getting off the plane. I feel sorry for them. But I’m getting very side-tracked here.
The plane landed safely and we all deplaned. What a weird word–“deplaned.” I took public transit back home. As soon as I opened the door, I was overwhelmed by a freezing cold apartment. It was 61 degrees out and it was f*cking freezing inside. I had a fleece jacket on and a wool hat. I took off my fleece jacket and put on a warmer jacket. The heat had malfunctioned and wasn’t working (who needs heat in 61-degree weather, anyway?). I switched it on and got it working again. The heat in the bedroom was further malfunctioning–the housing authority’s computer had knocked the maximum temperature down to a lower level than it should have been. Annoyed, I shut the living room door and decided to stay in the living room and keep warm.
As I write this, I am still wearing a wool hat. It is 79 degrees here at my desk. When you don’t have enough flesh on your body, your body can’t keep warm. Anorexia sucks.
As I write this, I feel thankful that the plane didn’t crash, very thankful. I am glad to be alive today. I am glad that Puzzle has a mama, that we had a wonderful walk this morning, and that I had a great visit with my friend in Ohio. I do not want to leave my friends. I do not want to hurt them. I do not want to turn my back on them. And I am happy to be writing to you right now.
Have a nice day.
My wonderful new book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is now available from Chipmunkapublishing–click here to access. To read more about it at my home site, click here.