Trigger Warning: Anorexia, Suicide
There’s a skeleton looking at me and I could have sworn the last time I saw that skeleton it did not look so sickly. Its bones are more vibrant now, sticking up and outward like the arched points of a cathedral. Not a cathedral of the Renaissance though, like one filled with stained glass and flickering candles that guide the weary to salvation. No, this skeleton resembles the sharp points of a Gothic monstrosity. The type of cathedral that shows gargoyles and dead saints staring down a sinner incapable of crossing the threshold for fear of being struck down by an irate god. It is horrifying in its beauty.
The skeleton is indeed beautiful, at least that is what everyone tells me. I am unsure as I stare at it, wondering how prodding bones and sharp lines can be deemed beautiful. I do not see what everyone else sees. They compliment the skeleton, state how fine her thin limbs accentuate her narrow form and taut face. The skeleton holds a glass of wine in her hands, as do most at this party, and yet the glass is never raised to her lips. Her lips, painted a bright red that causes her paleness to shine ever more, smile at all who compliment her angular features. Such fine features, they state, such an attractive woman. Such a healthy looking woman.
Yet the wine never touches her lips nor does the food find its way to her mouth. The skeleton merely continues to smile and I am beginning to wonder just how genuine that smile is. Hush, I tell myself, such things are not my business. If the skeleton does not wish to eat or drink, then she does not have to. I do not have to know her reasons why, I do not have to question her habits, surely she knows what she is doing. After all, whatever she is doing seems to be working as she is the center of the party, radiating a sparkling beauty in the eyes of others that I cannot seem to see.
“How are you this evening?” a man wearing a smart looking suit asks me.
I smile politely, though I cannot recall who this man is even as he bears such a familiar face, and I respond, “I am well, how are you?”
Though our courteous conversation continues onward into the realm of small talk perpetuated by topics such as the weather, the traffic of the city, and just how are those reports going to be done by Monday, I begin to wish I had answered him differently. Small talk is an easy topic, so it is not that as I have always believed that with a clear mind one can talk to anyone or anything. There was a time when I had the best conversation with a brick wall in a damp alleyway when I desperately needed to deduce a problem. As the man now chatters away, and wrongly on how global warming is not real, I think about how I wish I could have told him how hungry I am.
Though I stand in the midst of an elegant party hosted by Jen, or is it Jan, from Human Resources, with tables filled with heavenly, bite sized delicacies I have not the heart to touch any of it. I cannot touch it. I cannot touch the cheese or the chocolate, the meat or the breads, I cannot have a lick of it. As the man continues to prattle on about his conservative views of the world I think about how much I would like to take a sip of the wine in my hand.
Yet my fingers remain around the stem, unmoving and unwilling to lift the glass the few inches to my lips. I look towards the skeleton again and I accidentally catch her gaze. Instead of finding the interaction embarrassing, however, the skeleton instead extends her still full wine glass in my direction. It is a humble gesture, surely meant to show comradery as she is bombarded by a man who looks strikingly like the man I am speaking to currently. And though I raise my glass quickly to her as well, I am also quick to look away from her.
This room is starting to feel suffocating. I turn towards the man who is amazingly still speaking to me, despite my blatant disinterest, and out-rightly I state, “Would you excuse me, I think I need some air.”
A flash of hurt streaks across his face for a moment before he promptly turns towards a new victim to converse with. Perhaps this other gentleman he has trapped will share his views on how ungrateful this younger generation is compared to his own. It is with great relief that I edge away from the masses, from the tables of food, from the wine that is drained from glasses other than my own. I set my full glass on a table in the hallway, wandering towards an empty sector of the house. I said I wanted air, but the truth is I just need a moment to myself. That skeleton woman unnerved me so.
It is with a sigh of relief that I find a small door that opens towards an empty bathroom and I quickly shut the door behind me. I take a deep, shallow breath in my seclusion as I rest my hands upon the cool counter of the sink. I just need a moment, just a few deep breaths, and then the dizzy feeling in my head will stop. I wish I could eat what is out there on display, as welcoming as a hug for anyone to take and consume. I know that it will make my dizzy head truly stabilize.
I shake my head slightly, reminding myself that I should not fall towards such temptations, no matter how warm the hug might be. With a final, shaking exhale I look up towards the wide mirror in front of me. The breath I just regained is taken away from me as I see the skeleton woman staring back at me. There is a coy smile on her red stained lips and though I take a startled step back, she remains still, as if unconcerned by my presence. I glance around me, wondering if I made a mistake and did not walk into a bathroom at all but another room entirely. A toilet resides behind me, next to statue of a woodland bear holding extra toilet paper and a small basket filled with old Vanity Fair and Cosmo magazines. I turn back towards the sink with its small dish of lavender scented soap and pile of blue hand towels that look to be as soft and fluffy as a bathrobe in an overpriced hotel.
Without a doubt this is a bathroom, yet the mirror in front of me still holds the image of the skeleton. Perhaps it is a trick mirror, though a nasty trick it would be to have a two-way mirror in such a place. Yet the skeleton looks directly at me, as if she knows she is looking at me. I raise my hand to my cheek and she mirrors my action by raising a thin hand to her concave cheek as well. The others, those out there at the party, they said she had a jawline to die for, the kind of cheekbones that only actresses have. Yet with her bony hand resting upon it now it looks more hollow and gaunt than it did before.
Why do they all think she’s beautiful? I lower my hand and she does too. It is all in my head, this is a trick mirror. I look down at the sink and take up the lavender soap before turning on the faucet to wash my hands. The towels are indeed fluffy, but as I look up again the skeleton is still staring back at me. She has changed slightly though and I squint slightly to make sure I am seeing her right; which I indeed am not for I do not see myself in this mirror. The skeleton is still thin, at least many would say so, but her stomach protrudes slightly, rounding unfashionably under her now tight dress. The flesh of her arms, once bony, now sag slightly. As do her once shapely legs that show just at the edge of the mirror beneath the short length of her dress. The red dress that I, at one point this evening, thought I would love to someday wear if I were so capable of achieving a body such as hers.
The skeleton’s smile turns towards a smirk as her eyebrow raises in muted interest. What does she want? I wonder as she slowly turns back to her thin, beautiful figure. Does she wish to torment me, to show the fleshy curves of my body upon her own before turning back towards what I will never achieve? A small, extremely quiet voice in the back of my mind asks a simple question. Why would I want to be like her? I instantly push this thought away, shaking my head again in hope that a physical assault will clear my mind of such a question. For the true question is: why am I not like her when all claim she is everything a woman should be?
I look down at my slightly protruding stomach, at my flabby arms and chubby legs, and wonder if I will ever fit into a dress like the one the skeleton is wearing. Though my dress is red, it is not the same, it does not look the same on me. I do not have the rigid lines to make it so. She is a Gothic cathedral, cold and hard, sharp and angular. A moment ago I had scoffed at her beauty, now I can only think of being it as I rest my hands upon the stomach I wish would just lie flat. It is soft, yielding to my touch, and I hate it more than I hate not being able to eat.
I scrunch up my face and look towards the mirror again. The skeleton does not mirror my wrinkled nose. She stands upright with her hand gripping the handle of a knife, balancing it in her palm as naturally as can be. Cut it down. I wish that good little voice inside my head was louder, that the demons that have taken over, like those in front of a Gothic cathedral, find silence. The skeleton waves the knife in her hand slightly in temptation. Cut it down. I should get back to the party; back to the table of food I will not eat, back to the wine I will not drink, and back to the conversations I loath.
The knife flashes slightly under the iridescent light of the overhead lamps. It is now in my hand, the warm handle feels heavy in my palm and yet my fingers curl around it without hesitation. I am going to kill the skeleton. Those Gothic demons need to be silenced, but the skeleton needs to go first. She is not as beautiful as everyone says she is; no one should praise a bag of bones that wanders around claiming to be human. No one should say we should all look the way she does. Such thoughts only create demons that will not be silenced in a mind. The skeleton has to die.
She looks at me without adulation, mirroring me once more. I want to eat again; I want to drink again. I raise the knife slightly, my grip tightening in an attempt to stop my hand from shaking. The skeleton’s face is like stone, still in its neutrality and unblinking towards my actions. She has to die; I raise the knife further upward. There is no other solution.
With a quick jolt I bring the knife down and watch as it sinks into my fleshy stomach. Cut it down. I want to scream but I feel no pain, I am numb to the knife that I burrow ever deeper into the depths of my never-ending flesh. I double over, the handle of the blade the only thing not capable of wedging itself into my stomach that has always been a little too big, a little too round, and a little too soft. It is not perfect; it needs to be cut down to size.
I rise up and look at the mirror. The skeleton is not there anymore, yet neither is my reflection. The mirror is blank and I slide the knife out of my stomach. It has not done much good, it will though, if I keep it up. Soon I will be able to fit into the dress the skeleton wears, the red dress that is better than my own. Soon I will not hate what I see in the mirror so long as I continue to cut everything down.
I crack the door of the bathroom open and leave the lavender scented soap and bear statue holding toilet paper behind. I pick up the still full wine glass that I had abandoned earlier and hold it poised in my hand once again. I do not bring it to my lips and I do not look at the table of food that is slowly being carved away by the others in the room.
The hostess, Jan or Jen, comes up with a tray of small spring rolls in her hand. Her round face is warm and filled with a smile that causes me to flaunt a fake grin in return. Kindly she says, “You look simply beautiful tonight. I love your dress. You’ve come a long way from where you where before. What’s your secret?”
“Oh, you know,” I answer nonchalantly, “just eating right and exercising.”
I am hollow, a fake, a fraud. Yet my grin never leaves my face.
The hostess flushes slightly and offers me the tray in her hands. I merely shake my head in rejection and she bustles away. I cannot afford to have a spring roll. I have to keep up appearances. I have to maintain what I worked so hard to achieve. It is not enough though, not yet at least. I still have a while before I am as beautiful as the skeleton. However, as I look around, I cannot see her anymore.