inspired by but not based on a true story
When I was in the sixth grade, age eleven, at a short height of 4’7”, I weighed 180 lbs. I was taunted and beat every day of school for the whole year. By the time I turned thirteen, I was tired of being the short, fat, and nerdy girl. I wanted to be skinny, pretty, desirable, basically I wanted to be the “it” girl. I first tried a healthy diet, along with the rest of my family, but it didn’t work for me. So I decided to try a new kind of diet. I would eat one day, but for the next week after that I wouldn’t eat. On the days that I would eat, I’d eat a lot. And when I say a lot, I mean it; like this one time I ate four double cheeseburgers and two large fries from McDonald’s. Of course after I ate it, I threw all of it back up. I had lost forty pounds over two months. Soon I lost forty more and was down to a hundred pounds. My parents were oblivious to how I was losing all this weight. They simply thought it was because of the fact that they made our family go on a healthy “challenge”, as they called it, and my body reacted greatly. I, however, knew otherwise.
I am now 5’1”, with long black hair, blue eyes, a somewhat pale complexion, average sized breasts, and I weigh eighty-five pounds. I am a sophomore at University Prep. School; but don’t let the school’s name fool you. Yes it’s a prep school, but it’s just as vicious as a regular high school. Its social divisions are no different; we have the preps; the jocks; the “mean girls”; the emos, punks, rocks, and Goths; the nerds; the sluts; and the outcasts. I am in none of these divisions; I am a loner. There’s nobody I’d really call my “friend”. I mean, I talk to people, but I hang with no one. I go around school unnoticed. I am nowhere near being the “it” girl, but at least I’m not taunted. So, now that you know a little about me, here’s my story. It starts on the third week of school; Monday, August 20, 2008.
“Welcome ladies and Gentleman! We are pleased to introduce this year’s Miss USA, Melanie Gibson!!!” The announcer yells out.
“Why thank you Henry. It is an honor for me to have been given such an opportunity. I will be an excellent role model for everyone. Thank you!”
As I say my thanks one last time, I make my way to the back where I greeted by James McAvoy!
“You did a wonderful job! I love you!” He leans down to-
“Mel! Mel! Mel!!!” Nick shakes me to wake me up. Nick is nineteen; he graduated from U.P.S. last year and to my parents’ disapproval, decided to take a year or two off.
“It’s time to get up. School’s in an hour.”
“Great.” I reply sarcastically as I sit up and rub my eyes. Another year of being a no one. I get ready just like I normally do. Brush my teeth, wash my face, put on deodorant, change into a plaid knee length skirt, a white button down shirt with a plaid tie, black flats, and apply black eyeliner and a little lip gloss. I keep my hair down, straight, and have my bangs cover my left eye. I look in the mirror and feel disgusted at what I see. Now, I don’t expect you to understand, but when I look in the mirror, I see the 140 pound eleven year old girl. I head out of my room and the stairs. I see my brother just waiting there for me.
“I thought I’d take you out to breakfast this morning seeing as how you have a half hour before school starts.” Nick says heading for the door.
“It’s okay. I’m not really hungry.” Which is true, I’m not hungry. My stomach has gotten used to being empty, that it believes it’s full.
“It’s like you’re never hungry.” He says half-jokingly.
“I told you, I eat at school, and then I have a big lunch.” I lie.
“Well, then you don’t have to eat, but I’m going to. So come on, let’s go.”
“Ugh.” My brother always does this. He’ll ask me if I want something to eat, I’ll tell him no, he’ll say that he’s going to get him something so I have to go with him, and when we get to our usually restaurant, IHop, he orders me food. I’ll eat it, then make and excuse to go to the bathroom and I’ll throw it up. I think he does this, because I think he knows about my “problem”, but he never says anything about it.
“Are you coming?” He says over his shoulder.
“Yeah.” I reply before following him out to his car. We start driving, only we’re not heading to IHop. “Nick, where are we going?”
“You’re taking the day off.”
“There’s someone I want you to meet.”
“Well, I can meet her after school.”
“One, it’s not a girl, two, no you can’t.”
“Who is he and why I am I meeting him?”
“His name is Jeremy Sherwood, he’s a second year psychiatry student at USC and is currently interning at Villa Psychiatry Services. You’re meeting him, because I know about your problem, and I want you to get help. Mom and Dad don’t know, only I do. Melanie, you’re my baby sister, I don’t want to see you whither away. Maybe he can help.”
“I-don’t-need-help.” I say between clenched teeth.
“Yes you do. Look, all I want you to do is meet him. After that, whether you see him again, a real doctor, or neither is completely up to you. I will keep my word, and not tell Mom and Dad, just listen to him, okay? ”
“If I meet him and listen to what he says, you won’t tell anyone?”
“Not a soul.”
“Fine.” With that, we ride the rest of the way in silence. How can he do this to me? Nothing can help me, because I don’t need any help. I’m fine. We pull up to a big building with six stories. He parks the car and we both get out. We enter the office door and Nick asks for Mr. Sherwood. I guess I address him as Mr. Sherwood. We are led into an office where a man is sitting at a desk. He has brown slicked back hair and hazel eyes. He is has a blue suit on with a black tie. He stands up as we walk all the way in. He is a good 6’1” maybe 6’2”.
“Jeremy, hi.” My brother greets the man.
“Hey. So, I take it this is your sister.” He says while turning his gaze on me.
“Jeremy, this is Melanie.”
Jeremy sticks out his hand, and out of politeness, I shake it. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Melanie.”
Wish I could say the same. “Same here, Mr. Sherwood.” I lie.
“Call me Jeremy.”
“Um, okay, Jeremy.”
“Well, I’ll let you two talk. I’ll be back in an hour.” Nick says as he opens the door and walks out.
“Please have a seat.” He says as he closes the door and sits down in his chair behind the desk.
“Okay.” I take the seat across from his.
“I know you don’t want to be here, but just hear me out.”
“You’re right; I don’t want to be here.” I say bluntly.
“A straight-forward answer. I like that.”
“Can we get just get to the point of this meeting?”
“Okay. Your brother asked me to talk to you about a problem you’re having. I believe it’s an eating disorder.”
I don’t know what to say. I’ve always known I have an eating disorder, but hearing it out loud, it sounds so strange. So I just sit there, staring, searching for something to say.
“You don’t have to say anything.” He lets me know, clearly reading my face. “Nick told me it started when you were thirteen. Is this correct?”
So Nick’s known all along. “Yeah.” I manage to say.
“But it started earlier than that. Didn’t it? You were hurt, left with no other option”
How the hell does he know that? “Does it matter?”
“I want to help you Melanie, but you have to let me. Talk to me about it. Whatever you say is between you and me; and you and me only.”
“Why would you want to help me?”
“Because from what I’ve heard about you, you deserve to have someone to lean on. Now please, trust me, tell me about your pain.”
I look him in the eyes, their loving and compassionate. I can’t believe I’m about to tell some stranger how I feel. So, I take a deep breath before I say, “I was eleven and I weighed 180 pounds. Every day of sixth grade, people would taunt me, beat me, and molest me. And I couldn’t do a damn thing about it.”
“It wasn’t your fault.”
“Wasn’t it? I let myself become that obese. I gave them the right to hurt me.” Tears start forming in my eyes.
“No one has the right to hurt you. Not one single person. You did not let yourself become obese; your parents did.”
“I could have refused eating all that food.”
“You were a kid, Melanie. You didn’t know better.”
“Yeah, well I do now.”
“When did you start refusing to eat?”
“I was thirteen and a regular, healthy diet wouldn’t work for me. So I made my own diet that did work.”
“Tell me about this ‘diet.’”
“I’d eat a lot one day, throw it up, and for the next week I wouldn’t eat.”
“You lost a lot of weight.” He says this as a statement, not a question.
“Now I can’t stop.” I cry this out in between sobs. I thought he would simply hand me a tissue, but he comes over to me and pulls me to my feet so he can hug me. He protectively wraps his arms around me while I cry into his chest. I feel my heart breaking as the tears keep coming.
“Shhh. It’s okay.” He whispers. “Everything is going to be okay.”
“How do you know?” I lift my head from his chest.
“Because I’m here for you.” He pulls me back into a hug, not as tight, but enough so I can get myself together.
We stand like this for five minutes. My tears finally stop and the redness starts to go away. I pull away from him wiping my eyes one last time. “Thank you.” It comes out as a whisper. Like on cue, Nick comes into the office.
“Are you ready Melanie?” Nick asks softly.
“How about Friday around, four, you come by and we’ll talk some more.” Jeremy suggests looking toward Nick.
“She’ll be here.” Nick replies when he looks at my eyes. I guess he could tell I was crying. Jeremy hands me a card with his intern office number and cell number. We say our goodbyes then head out to the car.
“So, how’d it go?” He asks once were driving on the road.
“I talked to him and he listened.”
“How do you feel?”
“I’m glad you talked to him.”
“Are you going to tell Mom and Dad?”
“No. When you’re ready to tell them, you can. But I won’t say anything.”
“Thank you.” It is quiet for about two minutes. “How have you known for so long?”
“About ten minutes after you would eat, you’d go to the bathroom. When I noticed this pattern, I put my ear to the door and heard you throwing up.”
“You never confronted me about it, or told our parents. Why?”
“Understand, I’ve always cared. I’ve always worried about you. But I didn’t want to push you away. I didn’t want you to resent me and not come to me. So I waited until now, when I knew you were ready to deal with your problems.”
“Thank you.” He just smiles. “So, how are you going to explain why I stayed home today?”
“I’m going to tell them that I wanted to spend time with my sister; which is the truth.”
We get home minutes later. I change out of my uniform and put on a pair of skinny jeans, a black tank, and red Vans. I re-do my make-up, so it looks like I haven’t been crying. All I think about is Jeremy. “I’m here for you.” The way he said this replays itself in my head. Why would he want to be there for me? What can he possibly see in me?