Dear World, well it would seem that you never really know anyone that well, do you? They don’t know me, and I don’t know them. He can fuck off. He has the nerve to shout at me and make me feel bad! I am not the one dealing drugs for my brother. I am just trying to be a decent human being, who does not run away from things the whole time. How easy would it have been to avoid Marianne and refuse to see or speak to her again? How easy it would be to vilify her and fear her, and bitch about her to the Stick Insects. Harder to listen to her, to try to understand her, to try to be a friend. Fucking Joe, I think, I rage as I head home alone, wobbling all over the pavement at one point and shouting at myself inwardly, for fucks sake walk straight, you are not that drunk!
It’s not the drink, my nagging little friend in my brain tells me smugly. It’s the lack of food. You used to be able to drink way more than that and still walk straight!
Yeah, so fucking what? Who bloody cares? Not me.
Why am I so angry with him? Why am I so angry?
I realise how relieved I had been to hear him say the deliveries were over, that he had stood up for himself and said no for once. I had felt so proud of him. His courage, his nerve, had forced me out of my bed. That was it. I had done it for him. I had started to feel like a miserable self-pitying puke lying there like that, when he had bigger stuff to deal with. Oh Joe, I think desperately, why did you cave in again? Because it’s not just one more time, and we both know that surely? One more time leads to one more time. One more time leads to a lifetime of being Leon’s errand boy, Leon’s scapegoat. One more time leads to other favours, other crimes, can’t he see that? Is that what he wants? To be like them? I kick at the dead grass on our front lawn. Damn it!
Why do people let you down so much, I wonder? One minute you feel so proud of them, so inspired by them, and the next minute they reveal their true weakness in spectacular style. They just crumble. I am thinking of mum and Les, and dad and his shitty sneaky little life, and me. Me.
Me. Christ, I am letting everyone down every day, and here I go again. I start to feel incredibly nauseous as I approach the front door. My headache has accelerated into a mind spin of pain. I gag, then swallow, gag then swallow. I watch my own hand reach out for the doorknob. I feel the metal in my grip, and then I am falling forward, I am tumbling in, I am sinking down. What a shock.
I come around to my mum panicking like a madwoman. She is practically slapping my face, trying to wake me up. When she sees my eyes open, she looks visibly relieved and starts to try to pull me in through the door, so that she can close it. I can manage a crawl, to help her, but my head feels like play dough and every movement is a little kids fists pummelling and twisting it. I wonder where Les is. I hope he didn’t see me go down.
“Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ that is it!” my mother is shrieking at me. She manages to get my feet past the door, shoves them up towards my arse, and then finally slams the door shut. I guess she didn’t want to let the neighbours see me like that. Fair enough. “What the hell is wrong with you, as if I don’t know?” she continues to squawk, as I heave myself into a sitting position in the hallway, with my back against the wall.
“Why are you asking if you already know?” I wonder out loud. She looks apoplectic now. She kneels next to me, hands splayed on her denim skirt, cheeks flushed with rage, and eyes brimming with tears.
“Don’t you dare start being cheeky!” she cries at me. “You’ve been out drinking haven’t you? Look at the state of you. Right that is it, I warned you. I am not wasting another second of my breath trying to get through to you.” She stands up abruptly and heads for the table in the hall, where the phone is. I watch her angrily snatch it up and start to dial.
“Mum they won’t be open now,” I say quietly from the floor. She slams the phone back down and kicks the wall. “Mum calm down. I’m okay.”
“I’m phoning the doctor first thing in the morning!” she turns on me, waving a finger my way. “I am not taking no for an answer! I will drag you there if I have to!”
“It’s fine, it’s fine,” I tell her, and climb slowly to my feet. “I’ll go. I’ve had enough of my head hurting anyway.”
This seems to both surprise and placate her. She still looks like she would like to kill me, so I head for the stairs, and she does not try to stop me. “I’ll go to bed,” I say meekly over my shoulder. I feel like such an idiot, if I am honest.
“First thing in the morning,” she repeats to me. “I’ll knock on your door. I mean it Lou. I cannot cope with this worry any more.”
“I said fine,” I say, and go into my room and close the door. I hit the bed and don’t get any time to think about any of it. I am asleep within seconds.
As promised mum wakes me up and hauls me to the doctors the next morning. We walk there in silence, and we occupy the waiting room in silence. I try to busy myself with a magazine, but they only seem to cater for the very young, (toddler bricks and baby books) or the very old (fishing and home makeover magazines.) I give up and just sit and wait with my hands in my lap, trying not to look at my mum. When my name is called, I go in alone, though I have a horrible feeling that my mother has already briefed the doctor. She has that sympathetic yet patronising sort of smile ready for me. The sort that says oh silly little you, what have you been doing to yourself eh? I find myself slumped in a blue plastic chair, waiting to be grilled.
Doctor Fielding is plump and grey-haired and has been my doctor since I was born. I almost expect her to say ‘my haven’t you grown?’ when she opens her mouth, but instead she looks over her glasses at me with concern. “Now then Louise, your mum tells me she is very worried about you. She says you’ve been on a diet, is that right?”
“Yes,” I nod at her politely. She has that elder lady quality about her. She also sounds rather posh, and I am tempted to call her maam or something.
“So how much weight do you think you have lost?”
“I think it’s about two stone,” I say with a guilty shrug. I can’t help it. She is peering at me over her glasses; she is making me feel like I have done something wrong.
“Shall we get you on the scales and see what you weigh now then?” she asks brightly, speaking to me as if I am five.
She nods over to the big weighing scales parked next to the door. I slip off my shoes and climb on. I feel awful. I feel so small and stupid and childlike. Doctor Fielding has a look, writes a note and then motions for me to stand against the door where there is a chart to measure height. Again, she makes a note and then nods for me to return to my chair. “Okay,” she says breezily, glancing down at her notes, before reaching for her keyboard and tapping out a few keys. “At five foot two, we would expect you to weigh somewhere in the region of seven stone, eleven pounds and nine stone, eleven pounds, and be healthy.”
“I was about ten and a half stone once!” I say quickly, and she looks at me with a patient smile.
“Well, you weigh seven stone two today Louise. And that is too low.” She gives me that smile again. The one she presented when she called me from the waiting room. She looks sympathetic and patronising at the same time.
“Oh,” I say.
“Your mum is right to be concerned. That is not enough for your height, or your age. Don’t forget you may still have more growing to do!”
“Yes, and losing weight by cutting calories and increasing exercise is all very fine, but you have to be sensible about it. Do you eat breakfast?”
“Yes.” This is a half lie. I eat breakfast sometimes.
“What do you normally have?”
“Apples,” I shrug, gazing around the room and wondering how much longer she is going to keep me here. “Yoghurts, that kind of thing.”
She is looking at her computer screen. “And what about lunch?”
“Um, I don’t know…just whatever. Toast or something.” I shrug again.
“Your mum seems to think you are skipping meals a lot, is that true?”
Ah here we go, I think. Now she’s getting to it. Now she’s going to stop skirting around the issue. I think carefully for a moment as she looks back at me, one hand paused above the keyboard, and the other in her lap. I wonder whether I ought to lie, and see if she buys it. What can she do? Get out a lie detector or something? How does she know what I do or don’t eat? How does anyone? I also wonder if I should tell her the truth, and see what she does with that. I am curious. So I nod at her hesitantly and she instantly frowns at me. “You seem like a smart young lady,” she says. “You must know skipping meals is not a healthy thing to do.” I just shrug at her. I don’t know what else she expects me to say. She starts rifling through a bunch of leaflets she has already on her desk.
“Can I have something for my headaches?” I ask her then. I don’t want anyone to forget about my headaches.
“You’re getting headaches and passing out because you are not consuming enough calories, Louise,” she tells me rather sharply, and fixes me with a disapproving glare. “You don’t need anything prescribed for your headaches. You just need to eat three sensible, healthy meals a day.”
“Oh,” I say, and look at my hands.
“Are you worried about putting on weight?”
“Louise, I want you to take these leaflets and these diet sheets with you. They document what a young girl your age should be consuming in terms of calories, and nutrition. You do realise that if you continue the way you are, your periods may stop? Your hair may fall out? You may have to stay in hospital?”
I just stare at her in confusion and feel tears threatening to come. Hospital? I know she is probably trying to scare me, but for fucks sake! I swallow, and try to hold myself together in front of her. I feel angry with her then. How dare she try to freak me out and scare me?
“You need to put on at least nine pounds for me to be less worried,” she goes on, and she is not even looking at me now, she is looking at the screen and typing again. “So I am going to leave those with you, and make an appointment for you to come back in two weeks, so we can see how you are getting on. How does that sound to you?”
I stare at her. I want to say that sounds fucking horrible you mean old witch. That sounds like fucking torture! That sounds like I have no fucking choice and makes me want to kick you in the eye! I scrape back my chair and stand up nodding, so that she doesn’t see the tears in my eyes. They are tears of rage, I swear to you World. She pokes the leaflets at me so I take them. She scribbles on an appointment card and gives me that as well. “You are not unlike a lot of other young girls I see in here,” Doctor Fielding sees fit to tell me then. “We understand the pressures to lose weight, and look a certain way. But there is healthy, and there is dangerous, and I am afraid you are heading for the dangerous side Louise. I don’t want to see you get thinner and thinner and end up in hospital. You don’t really want that to happen either do you?” I shake my head. I cannot speak. “It’s a slippery road, you see,” she goes on. “You know I am talking about anorexia, don’t you? This is how it starts. People try to lose weight, and when they do they get hooked on it. They can’t stop. Eventually they are not even in control anymore, the disease is. I don’t need to tell you it’s a killer, do I?” I shake my head again, staring desperately at the door. “Can you send your mum in please?” she asks me. “I need to talk to her as well. I am going to suggest you arrange to see a counsellor as well.”
“A counsellor. Eating problems are not simply physical problems Louise. They are emotional, and psychological ones. A counsellor or therapist can help you understand why you feel the need to starve yourself.”
I am staring at her open-mouthed. I am gawping at her. “Because I was fat!” I try to tell her, panicking. “That’s why I started it! I won’t do it anymore. I’ll put nine pounds on, I will!”
“Louise, it is very worrying to see how quickly you have lost this much weight,” she says this from her chair, her plump hands folded neatly on her lap. “I am concerned that you have already slipped quite far into a possible eating disorder.”
I am outraged. I am gob smacked. “Seriously?”
“Yes,” she nods twice. “I am very serious. Now send in your mother for me please.”
I don’t have any other choice. I have to go back into the waiting room and tell my mum it’s her turn. She just barges past me with this tight look on her face. She makes me feel like I have done all of this on purpose just to wind her up, just to give her some more grey hairs, or something. I sit back down and twist my hands together in my lap, and think about running out and running off, hiding somewhere, disappearing. There is a little kid on the floor, a little boy playing with the bricks. He is banging on brick on top of another, again and again and again. His mother is watching him with quiet adoration, and gives me a wet smile when I look up and glare at her. I feel like saying, you would have got a clip round the ear for that in your day. But I don’t. I get up and walk outside and wait for my mum.
When she comes out, she is by no means impressed. I was right about feeling she is angry with me about all of this. It is as if she thinks I have led myself down this road deliberately to hurt her, to make her worry. “She thinks you have an eating disorder,” she snaps this at me as we start to walk home. She is walking fast in her little black-heeled shoes. I am trying to keep up, clutching the stupid leaflets in one hand.
“She didn’t say that,” I attempt to correct her. “She said possible. Like borderline.”
“That’s not what she said to me!”
I think I don’t want to have this conversation with you. I don’t want you anywhere near me in fact. “She’s going to arrange a counsellor,” she goes on, and I feel my chest tighten involuntarily. I want to scream. “She thinks you need to talk to someone about your weight loss issues.”
“I don’t have weight loss issues!” I yell at her.
She wipes a tear from her eye. I don’t care. “She says you are very underweight for your height.”
“I know! I know all that! She wants nine pounds! She can have bloody nine pounds!” I am aware I am shouting and waving my hands about, but I can’t seem to stop. “I’ll give her bloody nine pounds!” I shout. “When we get in, just you wait, I’ll show you! How much crap have you got in there? Crisps? Chocolate? Doughnuts? Give them to me; I’ll eat them all! I’ll get her bloody nine pounds in no time!”
“I’ll even round it up! I’ll make it ten pounds!”
“Lou, listen to me, stop that shouting, you have to realise how serious this is, how worried we all are! We are just trying to do what is best for you!”
“Don’t worry,” I sneer at her. I hate her. “Don’t you worry mum, I don’t want you to worry so I’ll eat all that shit and put on bloody ten fat pounds all right? I’ll do better than that if it makes you happy! I’ll stop jogging and I’ll sit in front of the TV all day and do nothing but eat! I’ll get really fat again! Fat as a whale! How would you all like that then? You would all love that, wouldn’t you? None of you cared when I was a big fat pig did you? None of you worried then!”
I run off. I run off before I can see her tears or hear her whimper of a voice, or listen to another word she can say. I run off because all of it is true. They are right, and I am right. I run off. I just keep running.