After I thought I lost everything, I found I could lose just a little bit more.
It started with the dieting. A meal skipped in the morning, a lunch and dinner merged. Another lap around the park. Then another. I lost. Oh how I lost. And all along the way they kept goading me, kept saying, yes, yes, you look good, you could look better if you just lose a little more. Let go of your desires a little more.
Until the day they stopped. Until the day a stranger told me to eat a burger.
Eighty pounds. Eighty pounds I carved from my body through sheer cussedness and starvation. Maddening, backbreaking exercise. Salad after salad after juice cleanse after salad. I found out that the world still ran contrary to my desires, and with that, I lost the belief that there was SOMETHING I could do, SOMEHOW, to get the amount of approval I need from the people I need it from.
I gained the feeling that I was always cold. A constant, bone-deep chill.
Then Greg told me he was leaving. Not because he stopped loving me, but because he loved me too much, or some lazy, half-sincere blather like that.
I couldn’t blame him. I hadn’t eaten since May, and my behavior of late had been…shall we say, less than kind.
Then they fired me. Something about being difficult to work with, or inability to concentrate on the task at hand, or emotionally unstable….
Then my parents were swept away, and in their wake, I jutted from the earth like a concrete monolith. Far too singular. Far too still.
I lost the ability to define myself against their greater shadow. Absent of the dark, the light is rendered only beige.
The house and the car…I didn’t lose them so much as give them up. The payments. It wasn’t going to…I wasn’t…they kept calling so…
I lost my number. The number I used since I was a tender green shoot of overweight 14 year old.
And I lost consciousness here and there and there and here. Kept losing weight. Though by now it was more of a listless drift than a concerted effort.
I found out how easy it is for a regular member of middle class society to just slip through the cracks like that. How no one can see you flailing in your own head, and no one would be bothered to do something about it, even if they could see.
It reminds me of this thing that Greg told me back when we were still together.
I was lying in bed, flattened in the aftermath of one of those crying jags that comes out of nowhere, and paints the inside of your head the color of a hospital wall. Greg had pulled out a box to distract me from my inexplicable grief, and when I opened it, it had a ring in it. A pretty little ring with a black pearl at the center that sent the linoleum flat landscape away for the time being. I put it on, and he told me he bought it because he wanted to propose to me with it, but was afraid to because it wasn’t expensive, and it wasn’t a diamond. Then he grabbed my hand, and did it anyways.
After I’d said yes, and we were lying there, content and on and off glancing at each other when Greg suddenly said
“Did you know a pilot once ejected from a plane in a nose-dive, and after he jumped out of the plane, it landed safely on the airstrip?”
“No, I didn’t know that.”
“Yeah, the first thing he heard after he ejected was one of the other pilots saying ‘you better get back in'”
“How did the plane land by itself?”
“Something to do with the physics of ejecting the seat. When the pilot launched himself out, it pulled the plane out of the death spiral.”
“It’s this thing when you’re in a plane, and it’s going at constant speed. If you tilt just a little bit, your plane might start slowly spiraling toward the ground like an object swirling towards the drain. There’s no way to physically detect it. That’s why an artificial horizon is so important.”
It occurs to me that the source of all unhappiness might be found in the curious conundrum which arises when one attempts to be oneself, while the voices of others still somehow permeates the consciousness; so that any action is either in defiance of others or a reluctant compromise that makes no one happy.