I saw it before everyone else. I could see it in the every day.
I observed it even before I knew what it was – first in the bakery we went to every morning before classes to grab the croissants and Moroccan coffee we had shared for years. Yet today, the cashier rang up only one pastry.
“Don’t you want one?” I asked.
“Nope – I’m trying to be healthy, y’know? And they don’t have a sign.”
“Apparently NYC is going to ban trans-fats. Trans-fats are the ones that stay in your bodies permanently – your body can’t ever metabolize them. They stay in your cell membranes hardening your arteries until you die. All the food servers in NYC have to get rid of them by 2008, and the ones that have already need to put up signs to alert that they have.” She took a sip of the coffee
“I see.” I nodded, comprehending – the idea of fat staying in your body permanently was pretty creepy. I still ate the croissant though.
I noticed it when she stopped going to track.
“But I thought you loved to run!” I exclaimed.
“I’m taking up yoga. Junior year is so stressful – I need something to relax with. Besides, I’ve been running on hard surfaces for years and my shin-splints have been acting up – they’re no joke you know. They hurt, but it’s actually the muscle connecting the tibia and fibula – it gets inflamed. Bone splinters have nothing to do with it at all.”
For the moment, it satisfied me. Only later did I find out that her worried coach had confronted her – and asked her to leave the team.
I saw it when she was in the line at the cafeteria. She would berate the quality of Taylor Dining Hall and move onto the salad bar, barely dressing her naked plate with lettuce, carrots, celery and a touch of balsamic.
“Have you tried the new Asian ginger chicken salad?” I inquired.
“No, the last time I got chicken from that line I threw up. Besides, they use spinach. Did you know that half of all the restaurants in the country don’t wash their vegetables before they put them out? I hope this school washes their vegetables – the pesticides when left on can cause poisoning and crying fits.” She sprinkled a few sunflower seeds on the plate of emptiness.
“Interesting.” I responded, incredulous. The line was building up behind us so I let it go.
I couldn’t ignore it during her birthday dinner. Nibbling her way through three courses – she was careful. She thought I couldn’t see how much she talked to throw off how little she ate – thought that I wouldn’t notice her moving the food around her plate the entire evening.
The waiter brought out her slice of cheesecake.
“Oh! You shouldn’t have.”
She blew out the candle. The piece just sat there, untouched.
“Happy Birthday!” I said as I grabbed a fork and stabbed the cake viciously, bringing the mound of fats and sugar up to her lips. They wouldn’t part.
“Don’t you want any?”
“Oh no, I wish I had room but dinner was just so great! Besides, we’re going to be late for Oceans. Can you get it wrapped up to go?”
I grabbed her arm – so thin my fingers touched in a loose bracelet of a grip, rattling against her bony wrist like a heavy silver bangle.
“You’ve barely touched your plate all night!”
“Hon, I’m just trying to be careful! Spring Formal is next weekend and I want to make sure my dress fits perfectly.”
“Your pants are so baggy they’re beginning to fall off you.”
“Did you know that Marilyn Monroe was a size 16?”
Because I loved her, I let her go on in her inanity.
“Really?” I smiled gently.
“Well, it’s a bit misleading actually. Sizes change quickly in the industry -Today she’d be a size eight. The manufactures keep shrinking the sizing label on their clothes hoping that women will buy the pants they make because they fit into size four pants while in every other brand can only fit into a six.”
“But you aren’t eating!”
“Did you know the human body can go only three days without water, but it can survive for over a month without food?.”
“You haven’t been eating for the past three!”
“There was one guy who checked himself into the hospital for, like, a year and lived off of nothing but vitamins, water, and electrolytes. He went in almost 400 pounds and came out 163!”
“I’m worried about you.” I reached for her hand.
“I’m fine.” She let me take it, squeezing it gently.
“You’re too thin!”
“No I’m not.”
“I can feel every bone in your hand! You could barely walk up the stairs to our table without getting out of breath. It’s a moot point!”
She jerked her hand back. “Actually, a moot point is one which is arguable.”
“Fine, but your anorexia isn’t.
She got very still.
“Marissa?” I asked.
“John?” She replied.
“I can’t ignore this anymore – I can’t sit by and watch you do this to yourself. This pains me,” one last breath “…But unless you can tell me what’s going on, I’m leaving.” – I said this hoping that her love for me would override the cost of saying a few simple words – I said this believing that her love would make her stay.
“Don’t bother.” I had never heard such cold venom in her voice. “I’ll get up so you won’t have to.” She waltzed out with a glimmer of heels and a skirt flick.
Because I loved her I remained at the table, waiting for her love of me to conquer the gravity of her words. Because that was honestly what I believed she needed. And thus because I loved, her I wasn’t there to grab her arm when her heel caught on the stairs outside the restaurant – where she slipped and hit her head causing a concussion-induced coma which her weakened starved body could not come out of.
Because I loved her I am here, leaving her funeral a week later.
And yet it is as I turn to away from her gravestone the truth finally hits – the deep realization that, because I loved her, I should have known that loving her wasn’t enough.