They stared at her every day, a small cloud of whispers trailing behind whereever she went; the sudden gasps of strangers as she passed them by. She was a quiet girl."The typical outcast", some may say. She rarely spoke in class, and when she did, her frail voice waivered across the room, a tiny hummingbird looking for an escape. There wouldn't have been anything perculiar or shocking about her, were it not for how incredibly small she was. She was of average height actually, however the tiny frame of her body made her almost dissapear beneath her clothes, her stick legs wavering, struggling to support the rest of her withered body.
It was undeniable; June had a problem. In fact, June was terribly sick; her disease painfully visible to the rest of the world. She wasn't proud, she didn't desire or enjoy the attention, yet it was there. Unescapable and uncompromizing, the eyes of people bore into her, questioning the possibility of her very existence. Wondering how she was still able to remain alive.
June had begun to wonder the same for quite some time now. She was dying; she was not disillusioned about that. What seemed curious, comical almost, is how long her dying body had managed to remain alive. How she could feel it fighting even now, when most of her senses had become numb; when she had become used to the pain continuously pulsating through each vein.
During certain moments of clarity, when she would somehow manage to remove the fog clogging her brain, June travelled back in time. There is always a moment. She kept reminding herself. There is always a defining moment in time when one decides to kill herself, and June did not want to forget hers. Her moment had become her safety point; when she felt reality slipping away, when she no longer knew what anything was, she returned to her moment. She wanted to keep remembering that at a point she was real; she was a human being with normal needs and desires. Most of all; she was alive.
June's eating was always questionable. Friends faintly suspected something there; an unhappiness towards her averagely-shaped body, perhaps. Or the common desire to be "just a bit thinner." Society could do that to anyone. Anyway, June's eating had never really been a serious problem; unbeknownst to anyone but herself, she would go on impromptu fasts, in the quest for something she knew too little about. She was not aware of the disorder developing in her. All she knew was that she was suddenly unable to recognize the person in the mirror and that she felt suffocated under the layers of thick fat she never remembered existing before. The first few "beginning stage" months were the time of trial-and-error. She would refuse food for a few days only to indulge on insane amounts later. The guilt preceeding each binge would send her to the bathroom, where in a daze, she vomited everything out. She stared at her reflection in the mirror above the sink; her swollen, red face and waterring eyes. June knew something had gone terribly wrong. She was afraid of who she had become; she had wanted to go back to being the girl she used to know, however in the process, had managed to lose herself completely.
But the beginning stages were not the real danger. She still looked healthy and aside from a few skipped "social meals", her friends had no idea. Even if they did, they never gave it too much thought; surely only weird people you read about in Health Class actually develop those eating disorders. But everyone is a little unhappy about their body. Whatever June was doing, she would get over. Life would go on. Obla-di, Obla-da.
June's plans were slightly different. Her moment came; quite unexpected, definitely unplanned, and a bit of a shocker. However, as soon as it did, she knew it and she knew there was no turning back. A day she never forgot; a day which would managed to haunt her even now. Strangely, there was a grotesque appeal about it. June secretly enjoyed reminising about it; she looked foward to the sickening feeling she got whenever the image surfaced in her mind.
April. The specific date was long forgotten just like everything else that seemed of no importance now, June was failing at remembering the simple facts. Her brain could not retain any more information and it had begun to leak out a lot of what it had already stored. That was the only thing June found herself regretting; the fact that by the end, she would also lose her ability to think.
For now, until she would forget, it was April. A beautiful spring day. If she tried hard, June could remember just how beautiful the day was. The details were fuzzy but the picture nevertheless remained. She concentrated hard as she recalled the way the warm sunrays hit the surface of the lagoon creating a soft shimmer, mesmerizing passer-by. People didn't lie when they said Santa Barbara was a beautiful place for vacationing. She remembered looking out the window toward the vastness of the crystal blue ocean; the line of the horizon stretching out like a thin piece of string. As thin as she would be some day. She tried not to remain on that thought for too long; everything reminded her of her uncontrollable, bizzare desire to waste away. In an attempt to divert her thoughts, she imagined where the ocean would lead her. She pictured a big city in China or Japan. A happy family, taking a stroll through the park with their young children. Their loud laughter echoing through the busy streets.
The phone startled her, breaking apart the pleasant day-dream. She wearily made her way toward the other side of the room and picked it up. Her mother's voice greeted her. It was bad news, she knew it.
"Mom? Is there anything wrong?"
"Actually..." her voice broke off. June heard soft sobbing. The forced supression of tears; "June, it's about your dad. He's...June, he's dead." Uncontrollable sobbing was the last thing June heard before she dropped the receiver. Every time she returned to this moment, it replayed in her head like a movie. She never thought she'd be the actress standing motionless in the middle of the room, mouth gaping wide open, eyes filled with fear, confusion, sadness; all wrapped in one.
June didn't cry. She didn't go to the funeral. She didn't talk to anyone else about it. She knew that none of that mattered; her tears were meaningless. They could not possibly express what she felt or make any of it go away. The truth was, of course, that June loved her father. It was the typical father-daughter bond; the walks to the park, happy laughter as he swung her high on the swings, the incredibly interesting bed-time stories and the good-night kisses. Their wonderful relationship was one she had always cherished; her father was the person she looked up to. He was the cliche; the prototype of the Perfect Dad.
June's theory was that when an intensely strong emotion takes over, everything is nullified. It's a start-from-scratch, point zero for all emotions. You forget what it's like to feel because you've felt something so strong, it was too much to handle. It's a strange level of insanity. That's how she liked to think of what happened to her. After her father's death, all emotions seemed insignificant. All matters in life were pointless. It was too hard to think about them, to apply an approporate emotion to them, or to even want to deal with any of them. She became a shell; void of all emotions, absent of desires, and uncaring for whatever the world threw at her. And she stopped eating.
She had honestly not done it on purpose. She didn't even think about it until about a week into her unintentional fast. "Hey June, want a bite?" her friend had asked during lunch. June's mind came back to earth, her eyes focusing on the world around her; specifically the sandwich in her friend's hand. She incrediously stared at it, as if it was the first time she had ever layed eyes upon a sandwich. "June?" Her friend eyed her, a puzzled look on his face. "Oh, no thanks. I'm not hungry." she managed to say, still transfixed on the simple, amazing, incedible realization which had occured moments earlier; She was not hungry.
Days passed. June immerced herself in her work. She painted for days, not leaving her studio. She began skipping classes, drinking coffee to stay awake, and smoking cigarettes to keep focused. Three weeks after the first week, the same friend paid her a visit. His knock on the door startled her; she was in the middle of painting the gray of a person's eye.
"Mike! Um...hey. Come in!" She forced a smile and akwardly looked around at the mess in her apartment. She had not expected anyone to visit her and didn't know how to properly greet him. Mike didn't move for a while; standing at the door she scrutinized her visibly thinner body. The dark circles under her eyes and her disshelved hair. She was still beautiful. Beautiful but slowly dying. He didn't know what to do.
"June, I'm sorry I surprised you. I hadn't seen you in a while and everyone is wondering what you've been up to...are you okay?"
She turned toward him, forcing a smile; "Of course! I'm fine. I'm sorry, I've just been painting a lot. I'll come out in the sunshine more often, I promise. I need to get this painting done, and I'll socialize again." June avoided his gaze; she did not want to see the recognition in his eyes; he knew she was lying.
Mike had known June since their freshman year in college. They had both taken a Philosophy class together; June, not understanding a word of Schopnehaueer's arguments, had sought help from the nice guy next to her, unintentionally starting a great friendship. For the next two years, Mike had been doing all he could to discreetly let June know that he was in love with her. Coincidentally, June was trying just the same and it was clear that both were abysmally terrible at it. Today was not the day for him to find out, June was certain of it. She knew how she looked; she had seen the shock in his eyes when he first saw her. Furthermore, she couldn't do this to him; she couldn't get him involved in something that went deeper than what he knew. June rushed to the kitchen, feeling Mark's dark blue eyes boring into her back; "I'll make you some coffe!" she yelled from behind the counter, "Make yourself at home; sit on the couch!" Mark didn't listen. He walked to the kitchen, standing right behind June as she fumbled with opening the box of coffee. Her thin and ghost-like fingers trembed uncontrollably. She could feel his soft breathing on her neck and smelled the scent of his perfume. He slowly whispered; "June, please tell me what's wrong."
She turned around hoping to be able to squeeze away from the confrontation; by accident her eyes locked with his. The next thing she felt were the heavy, thick tears rolling down her face and the softness of his shirt as she burried herself in it.
Mike spent the night with June, holding her close to him as she slept; a peaceful, heavy sleep she hadn't had for weeks. He could feel the quick beating of her frail and tired heart. The sharp bones as they stuck out underneath her skin.
After that day, June decided it would be best if she attempted to socialize. She started going to her classes and reunited with her old friends all of whom were shocked to see the physical state she was in. Of course, no one directly said anything; they gave each other quick nervous glances, and akwardly smiled at her whenever she would catch them in the act. Slowly, they began to distance themselves from her. Her appearance scared them and at a loss for what to do, they abandoned her. Not that June really cared; she had long ago forgotten about her friendships, and lost the desire to be with other people. The surprise visit from Mike only reassured her that she should distance herself from others as much as she could. She couldn't stand seeing the pain, confusion, and hopelessness in their eyes as they looked at her, unable to focus on what she was telling them. Seeing only the frail skeleton she had become.
It didn't occur to her that she was killing herself until a two months into it. She had been surviving off of gum, coffee, cigarettes, and a small apple for the past month. She didn't know how much she weighed, but could see her clothes getting bigger and bigger. Her hair falling out. The sunken cheeks and protruding eyes. Once again, she could not recognize the girl in the mirror. Her body had given up the fight; its protests left unheard and ignored. Any physical movement was too painful now and she tried to stay as immobile as she could for most of the time. She stopped going to classes, stopped talking to people, stopped painting. Nothing mattered and every action took too long to execute. She didn't know what she was doing nor did she know why. Her brain was slowly dying as well; thoughts were harder to produce and there wasn't too much she felt like thinking about anyway.
It was a windy day, dark clouds scattered across the sky. The smell of upcoming rain lingered in the air. June inhaled it slowly as she walked towards her apartment; she thought of it as food. The food she hadn't had for ages, an unfamiliar substance she had lost all desire to have. As she opened the door to her apartment, she felt a sudden stabbing pain in her chest. She ignored it; she was used to the random pains; the protests of her body gave her, desperate for attention. She went over to the kitchen to make herself a cup of coffee; the only thing her body could manage to digest. As she poured it into a giant white mug, the pain returned, stronger now; she felt as if a dagger had stabbed her heart. Suddenly, she realized she couldn't breathe. Her lungs felt heavy and small, entrapped in her ribcage. She felt like a fish out of water. Grasping for air, she groped her way across the kitchen to the living room. The lightheadedness followed quickly. June was terrified at the realization that she was dying. She didn't expect it to happen now. Somehow, she had always pictured something dramatic and tragic. Most of all, she wasn't ready for it. She had left too many things unsaid to the ones she loved. For a moment before unconsciousness hit she remembered the day Mike had visited her. He was the only one who had cared; the only one who did not turn away from her in disgust when she needed a friend most. She remembered the concern in his eyes; the love inside, reserved just for her. It had been so easy to open up to him and she knew it was mainly because she saw a familiarity in his eyes; those same eyes had looked over her when she was a little girl. The same blue eyes had once belonged to her father.
June wished she could go back and somehow fix everything; at the last moments of her life she realized the eating disorder had not solved her problems. She had not been happier as she wasted away. Instead, the people whom she loved had distanced themselves from her, not knowing what to do to help. She missed Mike more than anything. She wanted him to visit her again and hold her as he did that one night.
The last thing her mind managed to conjure up was a faint image of the endless horizon stretching out like a thin piece of sting. She slowly closed her eyes swimming towards the vastness of the blue ocean.