Otherness

The words came slowly. So slowly that they got stuck in his throat multiple times. It shouldn’t be so hard to say it, he kept thinking. It didn’t make sense. The body doesn’t work that way. There’s no mechanism for keeping words inside because they’re painful. The vocal chords work on command and don’t go on strike because of what they’re forced to say. The difficulty lay in the mind, in the heart, in whatever otherness lay deep in his chest and swelled painfully.
He couldn’t say it. He could. He couldn’t. He had to. He wouldn’t. It was too hard.
“I…”
But one word wasn’t enough.
“I think… I think I-”
Three words in the first sentence of a long paragraph that he’d practiced in his mind over and over again. Maybe it was all wrong, really. Maybe, in the end, when it came right down to it, he’d been kidding himself. He could never do this sort of thing. He didn’t know how. Other people did it every day, sure, but they must have something that he didn’t, something sick and unhealthy, or maybe he was the unhealthy one.
“I…”
He tried again, but it wasn’t working. It wasn’t happening. He was going to give up. He had to give up. There weren’t many choices left, if any. A part of him sighed in relief, admitting defeat. He’d known all along he couldn’t do it. Why had he tried at all? There was absolutely no point.
At the moment of giving up the otherness that weighed him down panicked, suffocating. In a gush of air and a burst of passion, it shoved the words out of his mouth.
“I think I don’t love you anymore.”
He stared at the face across from him, watched as it crumpled slowly, and could almost see the otherness that lay in the chest that belonged to that face. That otherness, which moments before had been cushioned comfortably in the knowledge of safety, was crying out in pain, its shrieks not heard but felt. Even as he felt every conscious part of his mind collapse in on itself in the shock and horror of what he’d said, the otherness in him breathed two words into him, words that only years later he’d be able to appreciate and agree with: “About time.”

A Painful Confession

Well, the time has come to write this post. I’ve put it off for a few days, but I’d better not put it off anymore. Here goes.

As some of you know, I’m nineteen years old and I started Sarah Lawrence College in August, 2009. I just came back a couple weeks from my first semester there. I was supposed to have flown back to New York to begin my next semester at the end of January. BUT, and this is where the confession comes in… I’m not. I’m taking a medical leave of absence during the spring semester.

The reason is that I’ve been struggling with an eating disorder for a year and a half now. I began to diet and exercise in the summer of 2008, and became obsessed and consumed by the process of restricting meals, exercising and losing weight. I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t think I could legitimately say that I had any sort of eating disorder, and I still always felt that I looked bad. My boyfriend of two and a half years now urged me to begin therapy, and so I confided in my mother and began seeing a psychologist. Next, I began to see a dietitian. All this was happening while I was in the process of applying to colleges, getting in, flying out to see them and making my choice of where to attend. By August of 2009, I’d gained enough perspective and weight so that my therapist and my mother both felt secure enough to send me to college.

Even though I set up a similar support network in the USA, I still relapsed badly and lost a lot of weight, reaching the lowest weight I’d ever gotten to and endangering my health. Because of this, I’ve been strongly advised to take a leave of absence and focus on getting better, physically, as well as emotionally.

People have very fixed and prejudiced views about young women who have eating disorders – we’re all privileged and bored, shallow and reaching for fashion. This is really not what it’s about. Sure, yes, it starts from the superficial goal of losing a few pounds, but it goes to somewhere completely different emotionally, until there’s an irrational monster in our minds telling us that we must lose weight, while our logic and intellect tell us that this is wrong. Thus, an endless and extremely painful battle of wills seems to dominate our minds at all times.

Believe me, I know that looks aren’t everything in life. In fact, I look at other women around me and I see the beauty in them no matter what their size and shape. I truly don’t look at weight and judge people by it – but I judge myself by it, even though I know I shouldn’t. I know that I’m too thin. I know that I’m in danger. But still the voice in my head criticizes every mouthful of food I consume.

To sum up, what this means is that I’ll be flying New York next week on Monday to move my things out of my dorm room and put them in storage. I’ll be coming back the Saturday of that week, and then will be living in Israel with my mom for the next eight months. The goal, of course, is to return to Sarah Lawrence come August, 2010. My hope is that I’ll manage to achieve this. Meanwhile, I’ll keep writing, I’ll keep posting, and hopefully I’ll be able to use these months for something worthwhile, like maybe actually finishing one of my writing-projects.

Monica Loved Max

Many stories begin with the words “it all began when…” Many stories are unrealistic by their nature, but that line is one of the worst ones to begin a story with. Nothing begins at a certain moment. Very rarely can we see the point in time when a transition begins, when a story starts in our lives. Looking back, we can never pinpoint the moment the tides changed in our favor or the exact time we fell in love or the precise instant when we changed.

No, most often, we realize as we look back that something has been changing or happening for quite  a while.

So it is for me. I don’t know when I realized I was in love with Max, nor do I remember when exactly I fell in love with him in the first place. I remember when we met, I remember how we got to know each other and I remember being more and more drawn to him. Then, somehow, sometime, I realized I was in love with him.

“Mon’,” he’d say. “Why are you looking at me like that?” He was so clueless. He never understood the looks I gave him, the looks with which I was trying to fathom if in his gaze was an emotion anything like mine.

It was never a subject between us – the emotions we felt for each other. right from the beginning of our friendship we acted as if nothing could or would ever happen between us. We confided all and beyond in each other, told each other the absolute raw truths about our opinions and feelings for others and we quickly knew each other better than anyone else knew us.

But I loved him. Somehow, hearing about his liaisons with other women, about his love and respect for his father and his opinions on how children should be raised – it all made me love him. He, the person he was, made me love him.

He never got to know it, though. I never worked up the nerve to break that unspoken rule of pure friendship between us, and then he decided one day to explore more of the world. The last time I heard from him he was going to take vows of silence and join a monastery so he could understand the practice of religion in such places and write an essay about it.

So while I can’t say when it all began with Max, I can definitely say that it all ended when he hugged me goodbye, kissed my forehead and smiled at me at the airport. It’s sad, though, how easy it is to pack years of equal friendship and one sided love into a few short and simple sentences. You’d think it wouldn’t be possible to fit a world of emotion into the short statement: I loved Max, and he was my best friend until one day he left. But you can.

Move [Part V]

Something was different. Marianne knew it the moment she woke up, because she woke up naturally, for once. There was no rattle of the dumbwaiter; there was no muffled crackle of the speaker. She sat up on her mattress, crossed her legs, and rubbed her eyes. She looked around the room, and immediately saw a difference. A difference so staggering that she felt her stomach clench – whether with fear or excitement, she didn’t know.There was someone in the room with her. Someone was sitting on a simple, steel chair that was right against the opposite wall. Marianne gaped. She took the person sitting there in, inch by inch, while they scrutinized her right back.

The person sitting in the chair was a woman. She had very high cheekbones that were prominently displayed over the black doctor’s mask that was hiding the rest of her lower face. A pair of eyes, the iris’s so darkly brown they appeared black from afar, were above the cheekbones, perfectly framing a slightly long, very straight nose. The woman’s hair was rather surprising – she was a redhead. Though her hair was swept back in a tight bun, it seemed like it wanted to break out and spring back into its normal state of bouncy curliness.

The woman crossed her legs and placed her white hands upon her knee. She then spoke, and Marianne knew instantly that it was this woman’s voice that pierced her through every day, the voice that emerged from the crackly speaker. It was deep, for a woman, and slightly rough, but there was a musical tone to it as well, as if this woman could sing jazz easily.

“Well,” she said. “It’s nice to finally be able to greet you in person, Marianne.”

Marianne didn’t know what to say, so she continued to stare at the woman. She wondered if the woman expected her to be pleased to see a human face, perhaps even be grateful for it. She got her answer in a moment though, when the woman spoke again.

“I’m sure you hate me, Marianne. That’s alright, I don’t really care one way or another,” the woman’s eyes crinkled as she spoke, as if she were smiling beneath the mask. “I am glad, however, of how obedient you’ve been since those first few days when things were… shall we say, difficult. You’ve become a model subject. Your progress is impressive, I must say. It is time, therefore, to get you out of this room and into the next stage of our facilities. I think you will find them more comfortable than these rooms.”

The woman stood up, and moved the chair to one side. The panel of steel wall behind her instantly slid open. She beckoned to Marianne, and gestured toward the open doorway, which seemed to lead into a hallway made of some more steel.

“Well…?” she said. “I hope you’re not going to make this difficult.” A threatening note was evident in her voice as she continued with “You know what happens then, don’t you, Marianne?”

Marianne got to her feet. She strode through the door, shivering slightly at the thought of what would happen if she struggled now. She really, truly didn’t want to know.

Rosy Thoughts [Part III]

Rosy was staring out her window when she heard footsteps in the hallway. She leaped back into bed, covered herself with the thin summer blanket, and closed her eyes, trying to breathe naturally as she did so. She had been out of bed and standing, staring out of the window, for the past hour – she was quite sick of lying down all day and it made her muscles hurt. That didn’t mean, however, that she was ready for her parents to know that yet.

Matt opened the door slowly, and, upon seeing Rosy’s slightly flushed face, he deduced that she was awake and only pretending to be asleep at the moment. Nevertheless, he walked slowly into the room, shut the door quietly, and sat down gently on the bed, as if trying not to startle her out of sleep.

As he ran one large, rough hand over her brow, Rosy opened her eyes slowly, trying to seem groggy. She looked at him for a moment, and then turned her head from his face. She couldn’t stand when he looked at her like that, his face suffused with love. If he loved her so much, she thought, he’d make everything work out with Mama.

Rosy’s reasonable side immediately flared up at this thought, and began chiding her – “your parents DO love you – you know the divorce has nothing to do with you really!” – but before her thoughts could get into a serious flurry, she turned her head back to Matt’s face.

“What?” She asked sullenly.

“Are you feeling any better, Rose-Bud?” Matt asked quietly.

“No.”

“Are you feeling very rotten?”

“Yes.”

“I’m so sorry, Rosy,” Matt whispered. The door creaked open once more, and he looked around to see Laura peeking in. She entered the room and came and sat down on the other side of Rosy, perching on the little room that was left there for her.

Rosy looked from one parent to the other before fixing her gaze on the ceiling. She hadn’t seen her parents together in the room since the day she had entered her bed and refused to leave it. She had forgotten, somehow, how nice their faces looked, close together like this.

Matt and Laura exchanged a weighted glance, both of them steeling themselves for the conversation to come. Their eyes seemed to be conversing: -You with me? –Yes, we’ll do this together. –For our girl. –For our Rosy.

“Rosy,” Laura began with a barely concealed sigh. “You know Papa and I are getting divorced – you’ve heard us talking about it. We should have had a conversation about this earlier.”

Rosy continued to stare at the ceiling.

“Honey, we never meant to put you in such distress,” continued Matt. “We want you to understand that this has nothing to do with you. Mama and I love you very much, and we’ll both always be in your life. We’d never leave you – neither of us – and no matter what happens, we’re always going to make sure you know we’re both here for you.”

Rosy was fighting the urge to roll her eyes. She could almost hear her parents practicing this – this – this horrid TV-mom-and-dad talk. She wasn’t stupid, she knew all this. She knew her parents loved her, at least in some distant, rational part of her brain. The rational part also knew that she was probably getting one of the best divorces there could be – neither of her parents had some other creepy person on the side, and neither of them was going to move to Alaska and start a band. She knew her life would be pretty normal even after the divorce, and she knew also that she would be alright with this in time.

But Rosy’s rationality didn’t seem to alleviate the pain in her chest and the tears that prickled in her eyes as her parents kept on talking about how much they loved her, how much they were worrying about her, and how much they hoped she could forgive them.

As Rosy screwed up her eyes and felt the tears streaming out from under her closed eyelids, she felt something shift inside her mind. As her parents both showered her with kisses and held her hands and wept a little bit with her, she could feel her irrational thinking begin changing its views. It seemed as if more and more of her mind began to agree with what her small, rational space had been saying all along, that “They love me, they do love me, it’s going to be alright because they love me.”

Rosy stayed in bed for another day after the conversation. After that day, though, she got up, she hugged her parents, and she went to school. She felt rotten still, and would keep feeling horrible all through her mother’s moving into an apartment building down the street, all through the faux-cheery shopping trip for furniture for the new room for Rosy in her mother’s small apartment, all through the year or so it took for her to get used to spending half a week in one place and the other half in another. Eventually, though, as Rosy passed into her teens with two smashing birthday parties, one in each of her homes, she grew used to it. She knew she would, but that didn’t make it any less pleasant to wake up one morning and realize that she was content, finally.

Repeat

Get cover note, then notarized copy, then graduation certificate, then transcript (“Ninth, tenth, eleventh, twlefth- ok.”), then letter (“This one is two letters… This is also with councillor recommendation.”), then graduation from honors program, then essays if needed, then stick it all in an envelope. Then repeat. And again, and again, and again.

Endless repeat of the same thing, endlessly dreary, endlessly pointless feeling. Only it was all done with a smile on my lips and a song in my heart, because I was almost done, so close to the ending of this long, intense, difficult, stressful period of applications to colleges. And now it’s done.

I cannot muster the strength to think about it anymore tonight. As it is, I feel my dreams will be full of addressing envelopes and struggeling with online applications. It doesn’t matter, though. It’s all behind me now. Tomrrow the applications will be sent and I won’t have to think about them until I begin to get my rejection and/or acceptance letters. I’ve done the best I could, and now, with a sigh of relief so loud and strong that I believe my screen was a bit buffeted, I shall climb into bed, read a book, and fall into an exhausted, pleased sleep.