There was a disassociation between my body and my mind. My body begged for sustenance, but my mind refused. And I stood on the outskirts, watching it all play out.
Alice was driving her two sons, Gustavo and Enrique, and Anthony and I to Carl’s Jr. in her blue Astro Chevrolet van. On the weekends Alice spoiled everyone in the house with what I called outside food. I was certain that it was partly due to her wanting to catch a break from cooking. She ran a daycare and cooked for all her children, including her own children and us. And she sometimes cooked for the meetings she attended for Princess House, being president and the best paid of a whole team of women it was expected.
Alice was a woman that did it all, and I admired her hustle. Women like her always fascinated me. The way she braved through the Second Shift after long hours of work and still added to her workload when she read through and responded to business emails an hour before her bedtime. It was like she could never bite more than she could chew.
The afterglow lit up the sky in a mixture of yellow and orange and red hues. Dusk was approaching and I’d only had one depressing meal all day.
I watched Gustavo’s reflection, sitting in the passenger seat, from the back of the van through the car door window. He was the handsomest man around— even more than the one that drowned. I had recently come out as gay to Alice so it felt less wrong to look at him the way I did. But whenever he caught me looking at him I felt humiliated all over again, and it always took me back to the note. It was the kind of humiliation that keeps you from looking at a person’s face when you’ve had a wet dream about them. So I only looked at him when I knew he couldn’t catch me. A few weeks prior, like a student passing a surreptitious note in class, I handed him a short, explicit memo in a folded paper that read:
I want to suck your cock. Circle yes or no.
I don’t know why I did it. I was sixteen-years-old and knew nothing of sex besides what I’d seen on screen. But I knew men loved it and all I wanted was to please Gustavo. I had seen it be done before in pornography when I was ten.
I ordered a Famous Star combo simply for the sake of ordering something, even though all I had to eat that morning was my palm-sized bowl of whole-grain cereal, which by then was broken down and quickly stored away into fat. My body knew it would be thrown back out if it didn’t act quickly. It was a smart move on my body’s part because it would be long before it got anything else to gnaw on. My stomach had been growling since about twelve p.m. But it was another thing I was accustomed to.
The cereal never made me full. But it somewhat made me feel less mean to myself if I kept myself from complete deprivation, and by natural consequence, from passing out, or worse—death. I couldn’t get as skinny as I wanted if I was dead. So a bowl of cereal was the only meal I allowed to stay in my stomach. The small meals made me feel more dainty and petite.
Hoping that Alice, Gustavo, Enrique, and Anthony would finish their meals and we could up and leave before I ate any more of my meal–and I could throw most of it away and not have to regurgitate much later—I took bird-like bites and chewed at the pace of a sloth. Instead of drinking the large Coke, I asked for a complimentary cup of water and left my drink on the center of the table..
The car ride back home from Carl’s Jr. I already knew was going to be dreadfully long. I wanted to rid myself of the bits and pieces of hamburger and fries. But Alice decided to go look at the houses up on a hill-y side of Montebello because we made it tradition to go house-watching and because I told her I always envisioned myself in one of those homes, where architecture just yelled expensive, with their tall glass doors and flashy foreign cars that lacked a single speck of dust– as if they had never been moved or even touched. Dollhouses are what they were. And I dreamed of having one of my own.
After an hour of driving and stopping to admire rich people’s homes, I finally got out of the car and speed-walked and pee-danced to the front door. I rushed to the restroom, bumping through Alice, Gustavo, Enrique, and my brother like a quarterback. I was desperate and would do anything to keep the slender figure I was slowly coming into.
At first, Alice skeptically applauded my weight loss, until she heard me puke the little I had eaten at Carl’s Jr. and her suspicion turned to cold hard truth.
“Eso no esta bien,” Alice said.
“¿Que?” I said, walking out of the restroom.
I played dumb.
Her glare was vicious enough to scare a TERF. But as soon as her mean stare faded all there was left on her face was disillusionment.
I felt disgusted with myself.
“Le voy a tener que decir a Aurora,” Alice said. “Necesitas ayuda.”
I was furious with myself and felt enormously stupid. I was always so careful not to make any noise. Controlling the volume of my coughs and gags was hard—at first. But at that point, I was a pro. If I heard footsteps approaching, I’d stand very still, my finger resting in my mouth, waiting for the footsteps to cease, then I’d stick my middle finger down my throat as far as I could until I felt the chewed-up food rising up my esophagus.
I wasn’t furious that I had been caught purging—I was furious that I would have to fully digest the food that went into my mouth that day.
Image by Daria Hurst from Pixabay – very small bowl of dry cereal on a white plank background
6 thoughts on “Purge by Athena Vasquez”
The pressure to be thin fills graves and is something that (despite all the empty talk to the contrary by advertising) drives a body conscious society. Well done. Also a pointed view into growing sexuality and foster care.
You controlled the pace of this all the way through.
Tone was excellent and due to it, this made the character more visible.
Very well done!
I echo what Hugh says. You used what words were necessary to convey the plot and the nature of the characters. I always enjoy testing my Spanish. I got about half without running to a translator. Frankly, that more than normal for me. The reason was because this story was so well written.
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As bad as puberty and teen years are, to add different sexuality is especially difficile. Recuerdo un poco de espagnol. So much different and yet the same as my teen years.
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A lot of depth and complexity in this story which you bring in via the details – details that give the story authenticity and truth. This is a very honest and bold piece that works so well.
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Intriguing and clear look at bulimia, always trying to hide it from others, etc. the opening paragraph says it all, the disconnection of body and mind, perceived by the “holy ghost” of meta consciousness, the observer overseeing it all. That consciousness… with its observer insights, is telling the story.