Truth No. 7: “If Someone Were To Harm My Family, I’d Eat Them:
Might Go to Jail for 500 Years, But I’d Eat Them“
-Johnny Depp (Touche, Depp, Touche)
It’s December 28, 2013- 3 weeks into rehab- and you’re sitting on your knees in front of the mirror trying to push an old earring through your lobe when your roommate opens the door.
Damn, you mutter- feeling the back of your ear start to bleed.
You don’t understand how after 15 years- your.ears.still.bleed.
Hey, she says- tossing her binder on the bed. You missed group?
You push it again- one final time- rubbing the lobe with your fingers.
My grandparents are coming, you say- looking back at her through the mirror.
Now? she says- climbing into her bed for her daily nap.
You nod, standing up- checking yourself in the mirror- smoothing down your black pencil skirt over your thighs.
You’ll wonder if they’ll notice- your grandparents.
Wonder if they’ll exchange looks when you can’t see- and when they go to leave-
Get back in the car and talk quietly about how unfortunate it is that you ”let yourself go.”
You’ll understand if they do, you think- feeling your waist take up the material of your skirt.
Feeling your backside rub up against it.
Imagining your stomach expand.
This used to be big-
You used to take breaks during work-
Slip into the hallway bathroom- when no one was in there
Untuck your shirt from your skirt- lift it above your ribs in the mirror-
To make sure they were still there. That your meal hadn’t taken your ribs away from you- your beautiful bones.
You are proud of this, you thought on those days- when you’d eaten one less almond than before.
You’d turn in the mirror in front of the bathroom stalls – feel the skirt slide down your waist- to your hips.
Stare at your back end- drop your shirt and reach out and up your back to feel your shoulder blades unveil- like goosebumps on your skin.
How you enjoyed cupping them- holding those blades in your palms. Your chest out- standing with your feet shoulder length apart.
You were beautiful then- And you felt it.
You were hungry then- But you’d grown used to it.
You were hurting then- Thinking to yourself ”This is how it will always be.”
And you’re remembering that now- staring into your rehab bedroom mirror-
When you hear a giggle behind you.
Your outfit, she says- pulling the comforter to her chest.
Dude, It’s my grandparents- I can’t be schlepping around them in a beanie.
You shake your head. I just can’t-
She rolls her eyes. I’d love to see your closet. I bet you have everything separated into categories, don’t you?- Just like oh here’s clothes for my grandparents- here’s my work clothes- here’s my wannabe hipster clothes- here’s my preppy Texas clothes.
You can’t help but snort- balancing with your hand on the bed and zipping up the back of your brown leather boot.
I didn’t even know you had those, she says. And what the hell is with your hair?
What- you say, turning back in the mirror. It’s a bun- you exclaim. It’s a work bun.
You look like my grandmother.
Exactly, you say- pointing a finger at her.
Have fun Pollyanna- she says as you shut the door to your room.
You walk down to the community room now- 10 minutes before they arrive.
You pass the nurses station on the way- feel Nurse Sheila eye you from her stoop.
Hello, Ms. Hall- she says.
You think she looks like your mother – You’re missing your mother.
Been missing them since you watched security escort the families off when visiting hours were over at Christmas.
You wave to her and walk past- choosing not to stop until a voice bellows from behind you.
Christ, you hear a girl giggle from behind you.
No, you say immediately No. No. No. You whip around as Lilly kicks open the door of the hallway phone booth.
Her hair- you notice immediately- looks like a birds nest from being leaned against the inside wall- she’s holding the cord of a phone in her hand- her eyes dancing around you.
Brilliant, she smirks. Who’s coming today- Mom? Aunt? Great-Grandmother? Godparent?
Can I meet them?
Please, she says- and talks into the phone. Tell Lindsey she has to introduce me to her grandparents.
You’d scare them, you say. Who is that?
You roll your eyes. Tell her I said what’s up.
Lindsey says what’s up, she says into the receiver. Yeah, I’ll tell her. She looks like fucking Cindy Whoo-Hoo.
Cindy Lou-Who, you idiot. We just watched that.
She smiles. Grace says Hi.
Tell her I hope she’s doing well- And it’s not the same without her.
You walk into the community room- leaving Lilly to talk to her new girlfriend.
A very Orange-Is-The-New-Black situation if ever there was one.
You notice Jacy and Olivia sitting on the couch as the door closes.
Yo, you say, walking over.
Don’t you look mighty Southern, Olivia says, grinning. Are your parents coming back?
Grandparents, you say. My parents left already.
I think you look pretty Linds.
You do look pretty, Olivia agrees. It’s just funny.
I know, you say- falling into the couch. But alas, we all make sacrifices.
Yeah, Oliva says- shuffling a deck of cards. But your family adores you. I dunno why you don’t just wear whatever you want.
You shrug- I don’t know. It’s complicated.
But the truth is- you just don’t know.
You only know how to be one way or the other.
This person or that.
You didn’t want your grandparents coming- It’s hard enough with your immediate family.
Scared that when they sit there across from you-
All your brother can think about is how different he wants his life to be from yours.
It’s 4:05 now, and you’re pacing around the room feeling like a loon.
Sit down, Jacy says.
It’s gonna be so awkward, you say- for the 15th time.
You groan- waltzing around the room some more.
Linds- A counselor says- peeking her head through the door. You got visitors.
Good luck, the room shouts unanimously- likely all wishing you would get the hell out and stop mulling on about your grandparents.
You step into the hallway, with the bland walls and the cubbies that keep each patients mail.
You’re walking down it now- seeing the security guard at the end-
Imagining your grandparents discomfort- their quiet way of looking past you- to the wall with the painting-
The first one you noticed when you arrived. “4916 days is Enough.”
“This is rehab,” they’ll think- as a girl with a feeding tube walks past- pushing her IV.
You just want your Mom and Dad, you think.
Nervous- stomach jumping
Smoothing your hair back- Trying to catch your reflection in the mirror.
You’re looking ahead- nearing the end of the hall- spotting a boy leaned over, signing the visitor sheet.
Someone’s brother- you think- noticing his cap.
His cotton loose pullover.
A pain in your heart you have-
When you see his Nike tennis shoes, and the brown hair poking out from his cap- around his ears.
He looks familiar.
Michael? you wonder – afraid to say it- because you don’t think it’s true.
You follow him with your eyes when he turns.
Trailing him- noticing his jeans- a tear in the back pocket.
Don’t do this, you think. But it’s too late- and you know it-
Can’t we ever just will something into being?
You know it’s silly- but what if?
What if? You think- And you turn the corner-
To a boy smiling at you, standing above-
Who you sat on when you were 12- wrestling the remote from his hands
A boy you collected Beanie Babies with- telling him which ones to buy
A boy you made drive the toy car- and you stood on the back, his little legs pushing-
Go faster, you’d say- jumping. Pedal harder- And he would.
He’s smiling at you now -this boy.
A man- really- who looks like a boy, because he has always been yours.
“Surprise,” your dad and brother say- reaching for you.
And you’re laughing in the lobby-
The staff laughing in the lobby
Your brother and dad laughing-
Laughing because sometimes things happen the way you want them to
And it’s a feeling that can’t be explained-
Because it’s always gone too fast.
Can’t believe y’all, you say later- when the moment has passed- and you’re walking out to the healing garden. (The name really is that cheesy)
We got you- didn’t we? Your dad says, smugly. Holding your red binder in his hands.
He always holds your things for you- like he did when you were little- and you held out your gum in the car “Here somebody,” you’d say “I’m done.”
And he’d take it- mock rolling his eyes at you- but he always took it.
Were Grandma and Grandpa ever coming? You wonder.
They wanted to, he says. But we figured it’d be kinda hard on you so I told them you needed your space.
The Florida sun’s hitting the tops of your heads.
Thank you, you say. It’s chilly today, isn’t it? Michael’s beside you with his phone in his hand.
Yeah, he agrees- opening the weather app from his home screen.
What I wouldn’t give for a phone, you muse.
I bet you’re dying, he grins.
My phone bill’s not, your dad laughs.
You nudge your dad with your elbow. So how’d yall end up staying?
It was random, your dad says- entering the garden behind you. We were on our way to the airport and I just kinda had this moment where I was like HEY, why not? It’s Christmas break- no one’s working- Michael’s outta school. Let’s just stay.
You smile- looking at Michael. You didn’t have party plans?
I do, he says- Just not till New Years.
Ah yes- I see, you say.
And you? He smirks. Gonna toast it with some apple juice?
You grin- slap him over the head as the three of you sit down on some chairs in the garden.
Your dad rocking in the patio chair- Your brother eyeing you over.
Feeling calm- Feeling oddly at ease.
You have this memory of when you were little- You don’t know why but you do.
Of Michael when he would get in trouble-
“No, Michael,” your mom would scold.
And he’d freeze in the kitchen-
Standing stone-like with his eyes facing forward.
You’d giggle then- doing your homework at the table.
Your multiplication tables spread out before you.
Egging him on.
“Michael,” your mom warned.
He’s gonna do it, you’d say- gearing up.
Dropping your pencil on the table.
Michael, she’d say again- turning the faucet off with her elbow.
But it’s too late.
Face-first, down he goes onto the wood flooring-
You sitting at the table howling.
He doesn’t even try to stop himself, you’d squeal.
For the love of God, she mumbled, walking over and picking him up off the floor from his armpits. Are you okay? She’d ask- his hand rubbing his forehead. Michael, did you hurt yourself?
Okay, she’d say. What did we say about falling on the floor? It hurts you.
You’re still laughing.
He knows, you said- picking up your pencil before it rolls off the table. He’s just dumb.
Do your homework, she’d instruct, picking him up.
He’d stick his tongue out at you from behind her head as she walked with him.
Dummy, you’d mouth.
Right now- sitting in the corny healing garden-
With your grandma bun – And your uncomfortable skirt
You’re staring at him in the chair beside you- his Wranglers running past his ankles grazing his Nikes.
I like the beard, you say- noticing the speckling of hair on his chin.
He snorts, feeling it with his index and thumb. Been growing it out.
I dig it, dude. It’s like you just hit puberty.
That’s what I said, your dad agrees.
How’s Sanibel? You ask. I bet Mom was jealous- She have to work or something?
Yeah, Michael says. But it was good. Fished some- ordered out from Matzalunas, he pauses. Twice.
Dad have a coupon?
Hey, he interjects. It was about to expire.
Michael catches your eye. Dad and his coupons.
Well, Thank God they don’t have coupons here.
Dad makes a face. Judging by Christmas lunch, I don’t think I’d use them here.
Awful, isn’t it?
Michael shakes his head. I mean you’d think for anorexia rehab, they’d feed you better shit.
Your dad can’t help but agree.
Don’t wanna hear it, you moan. I have to eat 100% of every one of those God awful meals.
Is it always that bland?
Come now, your dad says. There’s no way.
It’s true, you argue. We have the same variation of the menu every week. It’s like we’re in the Penn.
The Penn? Michael says- flatly. As in prison?
Right, he says. Well that might be a little dramatic.
You don’t even know, you say- knowing he’s right. We have to be in bed at like 10.
And if I know you, your dad says. I’m sure you’re following that- and every other- rule splendidly.
Pretty well, you say- ignoring his sarcasm. I mean there’s not a whole lotta stuff to do around here.
Like prison? Michael jokes.
I bet you miss running, he says.
I do, you admit. Miss the power of it more than anything.
Yeah, your dad says- scanning you with his eyes as though you’re going to combust in front of him. How are you doing with that?
I hate it sometimes, you admit. I feel disgusting.
You find it hard to look at Michael when you say this.
For years, you’d waltzed into the game room while he was playing video games-
a towel loosely tucked around you- your hair wet.
Am I fat? You’d ask, twirling around.
Jesus, he’d say- trying to look around you to his game.
I’m serious. I think I’ve gotten fatter since the last time you saw me.
You’re not- he’d say, barely looking at you.
Will you tell me when you start noticing?
He’d shake his head then- halfway listening. You’re not fat. You look the same.
You gaze at him now- wonder if he thinks about that-
That while you were pretending to be vain-
What you were really doing was begging for something to make you feel better-
Even if it was just your 14-year old brother in the game room.
You’re looking at him now- and you’re watching the hair on his arms move with the breeze.
The way he sits in the chair beside you.
His legs outstretched- Arms defined.
You know he didn’t have to be here today.
He’s 20, and he wants to be 20- Because you reflect on what you were doing at 20-
And know it would not have been hanging out at your sister’s rehab during Christmas break.
You really do just love him, you think- as you have loved him always, but sometimes forget.
You missed it – missed reminding yourself to remember what it feels like to have something this close to you.
Whatever this is between the two of you-
Cemented love, you think- how you forget sometimes- that this is the desired kind.
And so you talk to your brother today-
And you look at him closer.
You thank him later- walking up to the path from the garden- the hour coming to a head.
You’re standing on the path now, leading from the building to the parking lot- the security guard nearby-
It hurts you think- and it hurts you more for them every time you feel as though they are ripped away from you-
Your mother holding your face on Christmas and not being able to take you with her.
How painful that must be, you wondered that night. To know your child’s hurting- has been hurting- and to have to leave them anyway- standing in the middle of a gravel path-
Name tag hanging from around your neck.
How conflicting it must feel.
But, here you are- doing it again – pulling your brother close.
Feeling his arms around your waist.
Thank you, you whisper again, and you wish you could say more.
Of course, he says – Bet it’s lonely in there.
Sometimes, you admit. But it’s safe.
And you hope he understands what you mean.
You hand your binder to him to say goodbye to your dad. Hold this, you say.
And you turn to your dad- thanking him for staying. Thanking him for being there regardless what you’ve done-
Standing there holding your dad- feeling him coddle you like you know he did that time you were 9 months old and fell off the bed.
They joke about it at Christmas sometimes, about how your dad used to freak out when he held you. Assume the worst when you bumped your head or burped too much spittle.
You’re thinking that right now- feeling his hug- how nice that is to feel.
You’re not thinking about what he’s thinking of your weight as he feels your skin on his-
You’re not wondering if he’s embarrassed by where you are.
Right now- he’s just your dad.
And your brother’s just your brother.
And your family stayed for you.
You say goodbye again- Michael passing you back the binder.
You watch their backs turn to you- your funny little family.
With their funny little preppy polos. And their funny little khakis.
Your dad’s hand on your brother’s shoulder.
You realize it’s days like today-
That are the piece of recovery you hope to hold onto.
And hold onto for always-
Even in the moments it feels hazy.
Later on- night comes, as it does once you’ve changed from your skirt to your sweatpants- your bun to your beanie- and you sit down for dinner in the cafeteria, surrounded by the women.
Women who keep their children’s photos in their name tag holders- women who hold pictures of their husbands in their hands when they eat- women who look for every other reason to help themselves when they don’t have enough love to do it on their own.
And you’re sitting there that night- your heart feeling sad and feeling full- when you open your red binder for a sheet of paper.
You’ve been slacking on your food journals you think- and hoping that no one will notice-
When you feel a white envelope fall out from the bottom- sweeping down alongside your chair.
Lindsey- you read- when you’ve picked it up, And somehow, you know who it’s from:
I know I’m not known as the most expressive person in this family, so I imagine this letter is going to come as a bit of a surprise. However, in an effort to please you, I thought I’d take a step away from my unemotional exterior and delve into my multi-faceted, truly emotional interior…
Ok, I’ll try and lay off the sarcasm from this moment forward.
First off, in writing this, I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me over the years. I look back and don’t know how I would have grown up without you helping me along the way and more importantly, being the older child who was the test subject for mom and dad’s punishments. (I think after your thousandth grounding from AIM they realized that they didn’t have to be as harsh on me. So…. Thanks sis!) I never got grounded because of you!
But in all seriousness, I know that I can count on you for anything. Whether it be my “interesting” social life or just how to tell Mom and Dad that I’ve fucked up, I know you’re going to give me the right advice. (Well, at least, some advice) For that, I want to re-thank you. I know many of my friends aren’t as close to their brothers and sisters as we are, and I can’t tell you how much it means that we stay this way.
As I sit here writing this, our family is finishing up with the yearly venture to Kansas City. It’s hard to explain but this trip was different without you. You’re the one in our family who always knows how to make everyone laugh and how to entertain us with one of your stories. I know that your humorous stories may seem kind of petty, but I think everyone would agree with me when I say that it tends to be the highlight of our dinners.
Of course, this year your name came up a lot. As you would expect, our family is worried about how you are doing. However nerve-racking and uncomfortable that makes you, you gotta admit that it’s kind of awesome that our family loves and cares this much about you.
Furthermore, I think everyone in the family would agree with me in saying that your situation definitely came as a surprise. You are one of, if not the most vivacious and outgoing person I have ever met.
Hearing that you’re struggling internally, and have been for some time, seems almost impossible to me and to everyone else. Of course we all face inner demons at some point in our lives, however I think it came as a surprise that these demons could afflict someone like you.
I know no matter how many times I tell you that you’re beautiful, or that you are, IN FACT, skinny that it’s not going to matter. But believe me when I tell you that I’ve never met a single person who didn’t think you were (much to the demise of many of your exes).
Lastly Lindsey, I just want to tell you how privileged I am to be your brother. I know that you have deemed me as the “golden child” in this family, but the truth is I’ve always felt you were the stronger sibling, and now I believe that even more.
Obviously, you hid your eating disorder from us for a long time, but when confronted, you admitted that you needed help and were willing to do whatever it took to get better. I know many would say that was the rational and easy choice, but I see it differently.
You didn’t hide and run from your problems. Instead, you faced them straight on. That’s one of the bravest moves you can make and I know there is no way I could have handled the situation as gracefully as you did. Well, really, I don’t even know if I could have even had the strength to admit I had a problem in the first place. You’re impressive, and I really mean that.
I know that I can be distant and often appear unemotional, but hearing that you’re going through all this makes me sick. I know it sounds cliché for me to say this, but if I could trade places with you I would. I hate you having to deal with this shit and having to overcome anything. However, it does comfort me to know that you are not only going to overcome it, but become an even stronger person than you already are.
Please, all I want you to know, whether it’s now, tomorrow, 5 years, or 50 years from now, is that I am always going to be there for you if you need someone. Lindsey I can’t wait to see you when you’re recovered and are happier than you’ve ever been.
Love you always,
You finish reading-
Make a promise-
The cafeteria begins to clear, and your friends pack up to head to After-Meal.
You comin? Lil asks.
You nod. Tucking that letter in the crevice of your binder.
In the bottom of your junky purse-
On your desk at the computer you’re writing this off of.
You promise yourself that night that when the next time your family comes-
You’ll waltz down to meet them- A beanie on your head – A sweatshirt tied around your waist-
The letter in your pocket so you have the reminder of what it is that matters.
You love your family- you think-
As you think now, finishing this-
You know they love you-
And sometimes, it takes scraping the bottom of the barrel to remember how.
This is Rehab: Truth 7