Which is part of what the behavior was all about: food itself became a terrible, powerful symbol — of how much I wanted on the one hand, and how terrified I was that I'd never get enough on the other. Controlling food became a way of both expressing that conflict and denying it. At the time, I was furious at the important people in my life — at the boyfriend I felt had abandoned me; at my parents, whom I saw as passive and remote; at my sister who had moved away — but I couldn't express the anger so I wore it instead: see what you've turned me into, see how desperate and unhappy I am? I was terrified of people, of being disappointed; on a deeper level, I was terrified of appetites in general — emotional and sexual, as well as physical. So I resolved to suppress them instead, squelch them, will them away. If you don't have any needs, they can't go unmet.
* * *
One night I came home and found my roommates in the kitchen with a friend. They were sitting at the table drinking beer, sending out for Chinese food, and they were all laughing. I felt incredibly wistful for a second, watching them there. It was such a relaxed, normal picture, and I was so far removed from it.
But it didn't matter. The rule was not to give in, not to give in, not to give in. It was the way I organized my life, the way I defined myself. So I went out running instead.
I remember how it felt, to run. My whole body ached. I felt all drawn tight, as if my ribs and the bones in my knees were literally pressing against my skin. I was also exhausted. At one point I tripped and just caught myself from falling on the pavement. I still have an image of how that looked and felt — three great, awkward, loping steps; arms outstretched and groping for balance; eyes wild. I panicked, and for a second I saw myself as wildly out of control, flailing in the dark, alone. I pulled myself together and kept running, but in that one moment, I realized how much I wanted to be there in the kitchen, eating Chinese food and drinking beer with my friends.
But I didn't join them. I came back, pretended I had stomach cramps (sometimes it was a headache), and disappeared into my room. On a ledge outside my window, for just that kind of situation, I kept a baggie with the cube of cheese and the apple in it. That way, I could retrieve and eat my food in secret.
Times like that I knew how lonely I was, and how fucked up my life was, but I couldn't do anything about it.
* * *
About once every two or three weeks, something would come up — a party at work, someone's birthday, a family visit — and I would eat. I planned for those times with a vengeance, cutting out the cube of cheese at night for days beforehand, calculating calories, imagining what would be served and how much I'd let myself eat. I often cooked, too, making something I'd fantasized about from my recipe file.