“Weight Loss” by Colleen Morrissey

She’s been losing weight. She’s worked hard. It’s mostly been through exercise, since she knew she could never stop eating what she likes. She was always a blueberry girl, ovoid and squishy. She had a good personality and laughed very loudly because that’s what you’re expected to do when you’re fat.

Mostly, it has been good. She will feel her hardening thigh muscle and think, yes, that’s good. But sometimes–increasingly now–she will jolt while she gropes her own calf. It is something like regret. Panic. No, there’s not a word for the unheimlich spiral she gets when she feels her side and remembers how her hand didn’t used to rest flat there. She’s lost weight. Instead of remaining intact but changing, thin slices of her are getting shaved away, going nowhere, unable to be retrieved.

When she gets congratulated on her weight loss now, she half-wants to shake people and ask for it back. She looks good. Now her body is good. And that makes her think about bad bodies, and what makes them bad. What makes them bad is that the body is for other people, and they will say to her and show her that it is bad. It colors every single interaction and every single emergence from her doorway. She is the Christmas ham sitting with the other hams in the deep, boxy freezer. There are so many picky shoppers, clutching coupons and assessing her with squeezes.

When she inhales, she can feel her own ribcage. She never used to be able to before. Her hipbones now, too, are making themselves known. When she lies down, they rise up like two horns on a bull. It doesn’t surprise her that many people maintain thick padding between themselves and their own skeletons. What does surprise her is how nobody talks about how scary it is through such a thin layer to touch your own bones.

It is loss. Sliver after sliver peeled off of her, tugged with both hands by those Christmas shoppers, down to the ground, then rolled up and tucked into a purse or a pocket. What she loses goes to them. Her clothes, her makeup, her tone of voice, her behavior as she walks down the street alone go to them too. She asks herself if she’s ever done an honest thing in her life. If she were truly free, wouldn’t she walk about naked, legs sunflower-stem-hairy, singing like a child?  She’s not even sure if that is a true picture of what she would do, since perhaps it is only what others have metaphorised to her about what it means to be free.

She’s bought more clothes in the last year than she has in the five before it. Things stop fitting her after only a few months. She can’t talk about this problem to anyone because it is an obnoxious problem to speak aloud, a problem that shouldn’t be a problem. But the happiness of no longer being afraid of florescent lighting is compromised by continually losing use of new-bought clothes. She puts on her new white jeans and realizes she can remove them without unbuttoning or unzipping them–No, I like you, don’t do this to me.

This mindfulness is not freedom. Everything that passes her lips contains a multitude. Every morsel has its own tally and its own baker’s dozen questions–whole grain or whole wheat, olive or canola, is this hunger?  I hate corporate farms and I hate diners and I hate my tongue and I hate my ancestors and I hate the width of this country and I hate my taste for variety and I hate the women who went to church with my grandma and I hate my canine teeth for giving me this bankrupting awareness.

Some time ago, after the first fifteen pounds, she had strange stomach cramps that her cheerful doctor couldn’t diagnose, and for five days she didn’t feel hunger. She forgot what it was. She couldn’t believe she would miss it. All she knew was that terrible cramping, spiking like a shot through her abdomen when she moved, like that sensation had replaced hunger. She wondered if and hoped it wouldn’t be like that forever.

When her hunger came back, she welcomed it like a favorite niece. She spoke to her stomach with encouragement as it contracted and growled. Sometimes, still, she worries her hunger will leave her again. She never wants to lose the desire to eat.

Now she quests about her body with her hands. Its juxtapositions nonplus her, bone-hardness beside spongy-soft deposits. She can watch her calves bulge in the mirror, but her breasts have shrunk–her supposed-to fat, her good fat. Her good fat has eaten itself while the bad fat remains in a saturnine loop.

But she’s still losing. She keeps going.

Do you have a goal? someone asked her, and she was confused because her stopping point, though never spoken, has always been until it’s better. Just yesterday, a friend pushed some salt-soaked dry good onto her to make up for what has been lost from her body, and as the friend held out the cardboard container to her, she shook her head and said, You look good.

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