Tomorrow

Tomorrow

5184 3456 Suzanne Rhee

Skinny. I want my bones to shine sharply under my skin. I want people to wonder how my tiny legs hold me up without snapping. I want extra small clothes to hang off me like bags.

Slim sounds too soft. I want angles.

Every night finds me performing the same ritual. I lie in the dark, in the safety of blindness, and run my fingers over my legs, searching for loose flesh that jiggles when I walk, when I run, when I skate, searching for areas to target for improvement.

(I can’t look at something like that without wanting to cry and hurt myself and wish I were forty pounds lighter or dead.)

My hand finds the area on my inner thigh riddled with stretch marks. The urge to throw up overtakes me even though it’s been hours since I’ve eaten. Regret weighs more than flesh.

Tomorrow will be better.
I will skip breakfast.
I will run an extra mile.
I will not open the pantry after dark.

It is summer. I am at my friend’s pool party for her fifteenth birthday.

I sit with classmates in the corner slab of concrete reserved for food and drinks. The girls are still desperately skinny, blonde, tan. I hide my pale stomach behind a tankini. I sit carefully to avoid revealing my inner thighs and the bright red marks slashed across them.

I noticed the marks a few weeks ago. I was not sure where they came from, but none of the other girls had them. They look like cutter’s marks. I am afraid that my classmates will think I hurt myself. I am afraid the tanned, beautiful boys with their lopsided grins and white teeth will not find me beautiful.

I spend the rest of the day walking with a towel wrapped around my waist. I do not go back in the pool. I do not eat the cake.

Tomorrow will be better.
I will only eat egg whites.
I will ice skate for four hours.
I will not open the pantry after dark.

I am at the ice skating rink for a party. The cloudy city sky, pierced with high-rise buildings, heavy and gray. I absorb its gloom. It is November. My friend is eighteen today.

(I lied to my parents about this party. I told them there would be pizza.)

I skate until I’m numb and call my parents at six o’clock to pick me up at a downtown coffee house. The oppressive sky has turned a cold blue in the twilight. I climb into their new car and knock my ice skate blades against the red paint, leaving a white scratch on the body.

They ask me questions. I give one-word answers.

I am physically present but lost in my own mind, staring out, drifting free, floating away from the world. I am lightheaded. I am lightweight. I am lighter than air. The bathroom scale will not disappoint me tonight.

I will not eat dinner.
I will not eat dinner.
I will not eat dinner.
I will not eat dinner.
I cannot disappoint the scale tonight.

I strip to nothing. Shirt, pants, bra, underwear, double layer of socks: all pile on top of the heat register. When I step on the scale, I make sure I am completely empty. I cannot even allow air to fill my lungs.

I lean past the revolting flesh to catch an anxious glance of the numbers that flash below.

121.5

I have lost thirteen pounds.

As reward, I allow myself to defrost from my afternoon on the rink under the steam of the shower.

Tomorrow will be better.
I will work in the library during lunch.
I will do exercises in my room until one in the morning.
I will not open the pantry after dark.

I am in tenth grade.

The English teacher recites his lesson on the power of word choice. I have heard this lesson for years. Some of my classmates—the tanned boys with white teeth and lopsided grins—still do not understand it.

“Different words have different connotations. Would you rather have somebody call you slim or skinny?”

Skinny. I want my bones to shine sharply under my skin. I want people to wonder how my tiny legs hold me up without snapping. I want extra small clothes to hang off me like bags.

Slim sounds too soft. I want angles.

Tomorrow will be better.
I will write down everything I eat.
I will jump rope for forty-five minutes.
I will not open the pantry after dark.

Thanksgiving nightmare: I pace nervously as Aunt Barb melts an entire stick of butter and lets it pool in the mashed potatoes like liquid poison. My cousins make fun of me for taking “rabbit food.”

I add a slice of bread to placate them.

It is too much.

While the cousins laugh with holiday cheer and play Apples to Apples, I lean against the counter and nurse a cup of black instant coffee. I feel no cheer.

Don’t throw up.
I cannot ruin this gathering.
My family is counting on me to be better.
It was only a slice of bread.
Don’t throw up.

Tomorrow will be better.
I will only eat six hundred calories.
I will go to a friend’s house so I do not snack.
I will not open the pantry after dark.

133.5.

Fuck.

I have let myself get fat. I see only one option: punishment is in order.

The pink lines on my thighs have paled to blend with my flesh: wriggling worms crawling across my skin. Cutter scars. They look more ghastly, more repulsive than ever.

The razor waits for me in the shower caddy.

I reopen the scars with slow, careful slices. I seethe at the pain, clean the blood, dress the wounds. Every time my thighs rub together, their sharp sting reminds me not to eat.

Tomorrow will be better.
I will get help.
I will keep my deepest secrets close to my heat.
I will not open the pantry after dark.

I stand, shivering and humiliated, in the nurse’s office while wearing nothing but a bra and underwear. This is a bi-weekly occurrence in my final year of high school. The old woman scrutinizes every inch of my skin.

I want to cover my soft stomach. I want to hide my legs.
Please, I have not cut in three months.
I have not restricted in almost a year.
I am better.

The nurse is skeptical. Her eyes analyze every roll, wrinkle, and scar. I want to be dead.

“Everything looks fine for now. You’re free to go.” I scramble to redress. If I hurry, I can still catch my friends in the cafeteria.

Will they notice if I only eat a salad?


 

Suzanne Rhee

Suzanne has been published in local and national magazines, newspapers, and her school’s literary magazine, Parnassus. She seeks to honor God through creating good art. She has a passion for coffee, books, and walks. Her love for prose and drawing meet in graphic novels, and she hopes to write one someday soon. She hopes to make art that evokes emotion and promotes restoration.

All posts by Suzanne Rhee

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