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Fiction Sad

This story contains sensitive content

Trigger warning: alcoholism; eating disorders

In the brief period of time she could stand, she looked in the mirror at herself, naked and shivering, taking in her protruding collarbone, her thin thighs that could no longer support her standing body for more than 60 seconds, her concave stomach, her eerily defined ribs, grayish and yet still red and splotchy, angular face, her skeleton-like arms. No longer would she have to use seat belt extenders or bear the stares of those who looked at her in disgust when she waddled through the grocery store in search of Klondike bars or Doritos salsa chips or Chips Ahoy cookies or any junk food to get her hands on to eat way too quickly, stuffing down her feelings of her father leaving her when she was 9. 

Now breathless, she collapsed into bed just as the doctor walked through. 

“I’m sorry,” said the doctor, wearily shaking his head to Ava. “Your heart has almost given out from your bulimia. You have a couple of days left. However, we have a new heart available, but we need to know you’ll stop purging or you’ll ruin this heart too. As long as you give us your word that you’ll seek therapy to stop purging, we can transplant the new heart right away. I just need an answer, a yes or no,” the doctor waited expectantly to notate what he anticipated would be a yes on his chart, almost impatiently, so that he and his team of surgeons could immediately proceed. 

Ava thought about how her father used to sing Disney songs to her at night before bedtime, when he’d hug her so tightly that she felt such comfort and protected in his embrace, when he’d braid her long black hair perfectly just so he could spend time with her chatting about his days when he himself was a child, living with his parents on a farm, so many years ago, before he left. 

“You’re my perfect little girl,” he said, tucking her in and kissing her on the cheek, before heading into the living room and arguing with their drunk mother who hated their close bond. “You’re worthless!” She’d scream at him and he’d shush her and remind her that Ava was in the next room. 

“You love that little bitch more than me? Don’t you?” Ava’s mother would cry and scream. 

Exasperated, he would beg her to be quiet and stop drinking and that he loved her. Inevitably they’d go into their room, where Ava could hear low moans coming from the bedroom. But he always treated her like a little princess and knew how to appease her drunk mom, doing a balancing act of sorts, never letting anyone dare hurt Ava and never neglecting to tell her how special she was, how perfect, and then always placating her drunk mom, who had spiraled from a loving housewife into a spiteful alcoholic after a miscarriage of Ava’s twin, a boy who her mother constantly idolized and adored, hateful that Ava had survived and her precious baby boy hadn’t. 

Then, on her ninth birthday, her father was hit by a drunk driver and killed. And her mother drank even more, blaming Ava for his death because “if he hadn’t been picking up your birthday cake, he wouldn’t be driving that night.” So began the two frequent fighting and parade of men meeting up with her mom, and then Ava sneaking out at night to not meet up with boys, but to stuff herself with double double’s at Wendy’s and large McDonald’s fries and Dairy Queen blizzards - and anything else she could get her hands on after she took money from her mother’s purse, who never know exactly how much was in her wallet due to her near constant inebriation. After all, the generous life insurance that her father had thought to get when Ava was born had paid out quite well and even with so much of it being spent on booze and fast food, it would still last for a long time. So Ava ate and ate and ate, chasing a feeling that she felt that only food could fill. 

“You’re getting big and disgusting,” her mother would yell, eyeing her up and down when she was well into her bottle of vodka and on her way into oblivion. “Perfect my ass,” she mocked, her words spat with unkindness. 

And then, what had happened after she finally turned 18, kicked out of her mother’s house? Steven, 10 years her senior had helped her when she begged for change on a street corner, and he was intrigued by her intelligence and humor and managed to overlook her 350 pound frame, maybe because he weighed nearly what she had too. They spent so many days looking into each other’s eyes and having meaningful conversations as they shared 12 piece family meals from KFC or had date nights at McDonald’s or ordered in from Dominoes and Pizza Hut just to compare which pizza tasted better - and then they wound up eating both pizzas. But Steven eventually got fed up being fat, got into shape, and had left her for someone 200 pounds lighter and 5 years younger. 

“Get yourself some help,” he sneered, as he wasn’t also enveloped in potpourri of Wendy’s and Burger King and Chipotle just a year ago before he met the trainer - and now lover - who helped get him into shape. 

Alone and at her heaviest, she lost weight with what had started out as a very bad flu, her vomiting up anything that she ate, and then spiraled into something cathartic, almost serene. She couldn’t stop. The vomiting from the flu was long gone and replaced by the realization that she could feel full, then empty, then lose weight, then deteriorated into something she no could handle.

Two years of daily purging, no matter what she ate or drank - even water - had eventually cost her her teeth, one-third had fallen out and the rest rotted so much they stank up her breath and general direction of whoever or wherever happened to get a mouthful of her breath. Her face, so red and splotchy looked almost clown-like from the constant broken blood vessels in her face from all the vomiting. And then there was her heart, it beat so fast that sometimes she couldn’t stand upright and had to lay down, her hand clutching her chest as if she could somehow stop the pain coming from her heart. Luckily, she was at the grocery store, in a motorized cart - for she couldn’t stand for long periods of time - picking out foods for her next binge and purge session before she had a heart attack- at age 31. 

And there it was, because no matter how long she chased for an ideal body or peace of mind, she was exhausted. And her heart had let her know before she finally could see it for herself. Ava simply wanted to be with her father. 

She finally made eye contact and said “no” to the unbelieving doctor. She closed her eyes. She finally felt at peace. 

July 21, 2022 23:51

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1 comment

Susan Dalziel
11:50 Jul 30, 2022

A very moving piece, poinient and sad. I wonder if there are some overly long sentences in there, I got a little lost sometimes reading them. Occasionally I think there is a slightly odd sentence structure but this is good read. Well done, keep going.


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