T says that it takes seven minutes for the urge to pass. Seven minutes. I look at the clock, 9:14 and I think all I have to do is make it to 9:21 and I will be ok. Like a computer, my mind starts to analyze the possibilities, every stream, every branch to look for an opportunity. I could go for a run but it would take me more than seven minutes to get ready and the wet heavy fog that is pervading the city today is not what I want to run in. I could run but it is late at night and if I get attacked then my love would know and I would have to go to the hospital and People would know, and that cannot be. A minute ticks by, and the anxiety in my stomach grows. I can feel every bite, every calorie, every fat gram that I ate in my perfectly reasonable and healthy meal but to my haunted stomach, it does not feel reasonable or healthy. It feels foreign and the urge rises up within me and I need to find other options.
I could work. Work is good, work is distracting, but I didn’t bring home what I really need to work on. I could have put the documents on a thumb drive if I had been smart enough, but I hadn’t anticipated this and for that I am very foolish. Six minutes. Six minutes? I thought more time would have passed. I am becoming increasingly anxious, and begin pacing about the room.
It occurs to me while I am increasing my pacing that I should buy a treadmill, that having the ability to run in my living room is a brilliant idea, that I could run away the calories that I’d just eaten and I would feel lighter and freer. Instead I lay on the floor and begin doing crunches. Twenty. Fifty. Seventy-five. When I was in college and Mother would call to lecture me on my poor choices, I would listen to her on my Bluetooth headset while muting the volume and doing endless crunches. It was as if every squeeze of my abs squeezed the image of her out of my head. One hundred twenty, one hundred fifty. I lay on the floor exhausted by the effort and yet angry at my inability to keep going. I am an athlete, I run marathons, I should be able to do more than 150 crunches.
I eye the clock. Two minutes left. I wonder idly if the clock is wrong, if it is lying to me because surely it took longer than four minutes to do that many crunches. I am good at crunches, but not that good. I want so badly to be good at everything – at life, at love, and at being healthy. But more than anything I want to be thin, and I know the next two minutes will be agonizing. I run through the remaining possibilities in my head – crossword puzzle (I can’t concentrate right now), read a book (but all I’ll think about is my stomach), take a bath (and see my fat thighs?), clean the house (it is immaculate)… and I cannot think of anything else. I’m out of options, The clock ticks forward to 9:22 and it is then that I realize that T lied. The urge is still there, and I’ve wasted seven, no eight minutes letting the food digest.
Resignedly, I gather my supplies as I think about how close I made it. Surely waiting and trying not to purge must count for something? And of course, No One will know what I am going to do, what I am. I am an exceptional liar, but more than that I have been hiding my life away from Everyone for a very long time. I walk into the bathroom and open the toilet lid, my special toothbrush gripped tightly in my hand. I use a toothbrush because that way I don’t scrape my teeth on my hands, and it is cleaner, and at this point my gag reflex is so good it just takes two or three jabs and it’s all gone. A few moments, not longer than seven minutes, and it is all gone. The constant prattle in my head about how it is not enough, how I am not smart and pretty and thin enough, how it is never enough has quieted for a moment. It is a moment that I savor because I know that tomorrow I will really try to make it to ten minutes, and then maybe T was right. Maybe this is my last time.
I wash my face and rinse my mouth and I can feel the adrenaline coursing through me. My eyes are shiny and my cheeks flushed, and I look like I have just had amazing sex, and in a way it was like amazing sex. I am empty, I am clean, and I am free. And No One will know. I swish my antibacterial, GMO-free, alcohol-free mouthwash in my clean mouth and then hear a dreaded ring of my phone. If only that ring had come a few minutes ago, perhaps I would have made it through the secret time window that T promised. I know by the ringtone that it is my love, and my eyes flicker briefly to the image staring back at me in the bathroom mirror. I see fear in my eyes. Not fear of him, nor of falling for him. Fear that he will see through my carefully-constructed image, fear that he will see the crumbling facade, fear that he will figure it out, and fear that he will leave me. I am not enough, I will never be enough, and he will see. He will see how weak I am and he will turn away from me. He will be disgusted at what I have done because it is not clean, it is repulsive and dirty and he is a good and clean man.