Life writing: To someone you eat pizza with

Close-up colour photo of a person's torso wrapped in rusted chains

Like when someone you haven’t seen in months doesn’t notice how much weight you’ve lost and emptiness tastes so much better than food for a few days after.

When shoulders that can hold up the world seem somehow less than delicate wrists with a child’s watch, hanging loose on bones that still bear the never-quite-healed cracks of too many fractures and the memory of jeans that slid over narrow hips and the gap between waistband and concave stomach.

When you laugh about how sweet you take your coffee because you used to count it as food, the only calories you will allow yourself today, sixteen in each spoonful of sugar, and the habit never totally left, even after you started eating solid things again.

Standing in front of the mirror, breathing in, trying not to long for xylophone ribs and telling yourself over and over that you shouldn’t miss the spikes and troughs of skin stretched over skeleton.

Repeating the mantra it is better to be healthy and trying to resist the urge to stealthily spit the concept of health into a napkin and hold it under the table, rolled in cold spidery hands until you can safely dispose of it without anyone noticing.

And you know you could go back, so easily, any time you wanted but you also know you won’t. You grieve for the loss of the person you were for so many years and the person you might have been, if only. This is not a good if only.

When you refer to how you used to have an eating disorder and drape what you hope is a casual smile across your face because you don’t think anyone could look at you and believe there was ever a time in your life when you didn’t really eat. Because you do eat now. Of course you do. Obviously. Except for the times when you don’t.

When you get scared of the space you take up so you cut the food on your tiny plate into miniature pieces, eat half of them and spend the next twenty minutes arranging the rest into the corner of a circle, a place that doesn’t even exist.

When you fix your eyes on the bathroom wall and refuse to look down in the shower because today you don’t want to see, but you still allow your mind to wander over the parts of your body that didn’t used to be there, telling yourself again that yes, this is worth it. No matter how much, on some days, it feels like it isn’t.

When he wraps his arms around you and says you’re so tiny and you know that he means it in comparison to his own broad shoulders and hands that easily encase the width of your back and not like the ache of tentatively expressed concern as he counts the bones of your spine with his fingertips again.

And if you ever need to be reminded why you left yourself behind and became something less like a ghost and more like a real person with all the solidity that involves, you look in his eyes and convince yourself to accept the beauty reflected in his smile that no mirror ever allowed you to feel.

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