May 6, 2013
Anthony always answered the door half-naked, with only a towel wrapped around his waist. His greasy hair and the smell of sweat and weed clung to his body like cologne, proving he hadn’t showered in days. He did it for efficiency. It was quicker to unwrap a towel than pull off his jeans and boxers. He pulled me into the apartment and slammed me up against the closed door. He liked it rough. I liked whatever he liked, although my body was starting to look like a prisoner of war. Ever since I stopped eating, the bruises littered my skin. He unzipped my jacket, ripped off my tank top and stared at my chest. “You were so much sexier with boobs.” I took hold of his hand and led him to his room, pretending it was a joke.
His towel had slipped off and he sat on the edge of his bed naked, unzipping my jeans. He liked me on top, “so you can prove how much you love me,” he once said. But after a while, when I couldn’t get him off like that, he’d pin me in missionary and take control. His hands outlined the crevices of my waist as I rode him. I was sharpened and hardened from losing weight. My waist was the only feminine part that hadn’t disappeared. He picked me up and threw me on top of the mattress. His hips crashed into mine and, without any fat for cushion, I squeezed my eyes shut to stop tears. With each pulse I was sure he’d shatter my hips and leave me lying alone on the bed, broken and useless. He finished with a grunt, pulled out and searched his room for something to wear. “Stop lying there and put your clothes back on. We’re going out, I’m starving.”
All of the customers were seated together in one section of the diner while a waiter stacked chairs on the empty tables. Anthony had torn open ketchup and mustard packets and mixed them on the menu, his pupils wide from the pills he swallowed before we left. He stared at me while his tongue glided around his creation, honing its edges. The cop in the booth across the room watched, mug halfway to his lips.
“Jesus, Anthony, will you cut it out?”
“I’m just trying to be sexy for you.”
“Yeah, well, it’s not working.”
He slapped the menu on the table, specks of red and yellow staining his wife-beater. “If you don’t love me anymore, you could just say it. I just feel like I’m putting in all the effort and you’re refusing every fucking romantic thing I do.”
I sighed and flipped my menu. “Do you know what you want?”
“Do you think they use organic eggs here?”
I told Anthony if he became a health freak he could protect himself from any sort of damage the drugs could be doing to his body. And I believed that, too. If I ate nothing but an apple every day, I was healthy. Anything more than that and I was sure I’d gain a pound, the pounds would add up, and one day I’d be considering a gastric bypass.
Anthony pried open one of the Smucker’s containers and spooned out the jelly. “Did you know Smucker’s is organic? The thing that sucks, though, is they only give out damn white bread in restaurants. What do they have against whole grain? Don’t they realize how bad white bread is for you?”
A waitress came over to our table, hands on her hips, glaring at Anthony. “Are you ready to order?” Her eyes darted over to a booth full of teenagers behind the cop, cheering on an arm wrestling match that had broken out between two of the boys.
Anthony smiled at her and said, “We’re ready. We were just wondering, though, do you guys use organic eggs?”
“Not that I’m aware of.”
“Fuck. I’ll just take a coffee.”
The waitress glanced from him to his menu before locking her eyes on me. “Can I get you anything?”
I looked down at the table. “Just a water, sorry.”
The teenagers yelled even louder as a girl kissed the winner on the cheek. Rubbing the back of his hand, the loser pretended it was an off-night, just some bad luck. The waitress shook her head and headed off towards the kitchen. She came back a few minutes later, slammed the water, coffee and bill on the table and walked across the dining room to a new group that had just settled in. Maybe they would buy something more than coffee.
Anthony put both elbows on the table and leaned in. “What a bitch, we won’t be tipping her. Did you even eat dinner?”
“No, I’m not hungry.” I crossed my arms, hoping that would make me look larger. I wished I hadn’t left my jacket in the car. With only a tank top on, I couldn’t hide my angular shoulders and my bones that barely passed for arms. I looked around the restaurant for a distraction, some way to shift the focus from my weight. The waiter had stacked all of the chairs on the tables and emerged from a hallway with a vacuum strapped on his back. He smiled at me while he untangled the cord that had wrapped itself into knots.
Anthony looked in his direction and gripped the edges of the table to pull himself out of his seat. Realizing the waiter wasn’t the problem, he loosened his grip and crumpled into the booth. “You could just tell me you don’t love me anymore.”
I stirred my straw in circles. “I was just trying to figure out what was on his back.”
The vacuum rumbled to life as the group of teenagers got up to leave. The winner and the girl who had kissed him, fingers interlaced, walked over to our table. They couldn’t have been older than sixteen.
“You deal around the high school, right?” the kid shouted at Anthony over the vacuum, “Do you have anything on you? Me and my girl are looking for something to do tonight.”
I kicked Anthony under the table, tilting my head over to the cop who was watching us again.
“Sorry, I forgot I’m fresh out.”
The kid and his girlfriend caught up with the rest of the group. He shook his head and the group’s spirit sank, heads low as they walked out of the diner.
Anthony grabbed the knife and held it in front of me. “You used to be an hourglass, but now you look more like a knife. You need to eat something. I’m ordering you waffles and we aren’t leaving until you finish them.”
“I’ll just throw them up later.”
He shook his head. It wasn’t worth arguing with me over food. I usually told him I wasn’t hungry, but sometimes I blamed him for not eating. I’d say I was too stressed out by his drug habit to have any sort of appetite. The week before I told him I was too broke to afford groceries. When we smoked weed and he ordered a pizza, I’d tell him I had reverse munchies. And, when none of that worked and he still pestered me to eat, I’d remind him he was a drug addict and, therefore, more damaged than me.
He slid out of the booth and dragged me out by the arm. “Let’s go. You got it, right?”
After paying, we headed out into the parking lot. Anthony had parked his car in the furthest corner of the lot, which was his way of guaranteeing I’d fuck him. We were more like friends with benefits than boyfriend and girlfriend. He was in it for the sex and I was in it because sex was the only time I ever felt wanted and pretty. I thought losing weight would make me feel pretty all the time, make me feel like a supermodel, but every time I stepped on the scale the number was too large and too ugly and I ended up calling Anthony. Moments of self-worth were better than perpetual misery, so I planned on keeping him around until I figured out what number meant I was attractive.
Climbing on top of him in the driver’s seat, I pulled off his shirt and he pulled off mine. His fingers traced the bumps and crevices of my ribs. Kissing my neck, he whispered, “You look more like an addict than I do.”
I pushed away and climbed into the passenger seat, hugging my knees to my chest. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You don’t have cleavage anymore, you have a rib cage.”
“All of my push-up bras are in the wash,” I lied. In the past few months, I had dropped from a C-cup to an A-cup, but he didn’t need to know that.
“If it makes you feel any better, you’d make a pretty sexy chemo patient.” Eyes closed, he moved towards me for a kiss. I turned away and his lips pressed against my cheek. His eyes glinted with anger that pierced through the dark. “You’re a scrawny cunt, you know that?”
“At least I’m not a drug addict.”
He looked like he was going to hit me and I wished he would so I had a real reason to be mad at him, something he couldn’t gaslight the next time I saw him. Instead, he clenched the steering wheel and said, “I don’t know why I date you anymore. I’d take the drugs over you any day.”
I pulled on my tank top and jacket and slammed the car door closed. The engine rumbled to life as I walked towards the street. He drove beside me, shouting out the open window, while I stared straight ahead and kept walking.
“Will you get in the fucking car, please?”
“No, I’m walking home.”
Anthony laughed and slammed his hands against the steering wheel. “Fine, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“I doubt it,” I shouted after him as he sped away. But he was right. I was trapped in a cycle and unable to break it. The next day, as always, I’d step off the scale and call him up, hoping he’d be enough to forget the number.
Carrie Ryan is a creative writing student at Cleveland State University. She is a musician and is set to release her EP “Here’s to the Nights” in June. She also manages her own music blog at carrieryanmusic.net. This is Carrie’s first publication.