There was a reason I was so obsessive about my weight. I had just shoved it under the floorboards of my mind, hoping to block out every fucked up piece of my life upon my move out west. But as easy...
The next handful of days were undeniably awkward. Brendon and I hardly exchanged words. I absorbed myself in packing and finishing my articles for Fantastic! /just to get away from the thought that maybe we were falling apart. The idea alone had the potential to throw me into depression so I skitted away from it whenever possible. In my spare time I continued running, I hung out with the other guys (hours of Mario Kart and burping contests were hardly the highlight of my life but hell, it was fun), drove them around, and worked with Davey and Maitland, not bothering to mention that anything shitty was going down on the home front. They didn't need to know, the fewer people involved the easier this could blow over. Because I was convinced that it /would blow over. I'd come back from New England in a week or two, the boys would come back from their promo tour two weeks later, we'd all get drunk off our asses and everything would be dazzling again.
My boyfriend just shook his head and went along with my behavior, probably too tired with fighting to want to go at it again before I left. I actually thought I'd get away with it too, that things might blow over before I even left. I was, however, very wrong. Brendon paid me my comeuppance as I walked out the door at 8 am to catch my Saturday morning flight when he hugged me goodbye for what felt like maybe five seconds. No kiss, no "I'll miss you, baby." or "Take care of yourself." or "Call me when you land or if you get busted by security for drugs." No love or concern or humor whatsoever, just tired eyes and a barely there embrace. I didn't have the time or the state of mind to say anything about it, so I kissed his cheek and turned to my awaiting cab.
The next thing I knew, I had way too much waiting time shoved in my lap just begging my mind to wander around in delusional, tragic circles. Waiting to get to the airport, waiting at the check-in line, waiting through security, waiting to board my flight, waiting to taxi and take off, waiting to touch down in O'Hare and start the whole process over again before finally arriving in Hell. That would be Logan Airport, where I would wait for a taxi just so I could wait some more as I was driven out to Martha's Vineyard. Gag me.
With no one to talk to my mind immediately started revving up into drift mode. What sad son-of-a-gun was crazy enough to put a ring on my sister's finger? Was she still just as I had left her? Snarky and selfish? Would things be weird between us? An image of Molly Ringwald trying to talk to her delusional, bride-to-be sister in /Sixteen Candles /tainted my mind and I was suddenly a little scared. My brain decided to usher me on from that disturbing thought.
What had my parents done to my room since I'd flown the nest? What would my parents think of everything I'd done to myself since I'd left? Upon becoming immersed in the Las Vegas scene I had quickly betrayed the wavy, dark strawberry blonde hair of the Lennox clan for every shade of brown-ish under the sun. I parted my hair on the side now and flirty bangs fell into my eyes. Speaking of my eyes, they'd made very good friends with the liner I made a regular habit of stealing from Brendon's stash. I still wore the same jeans, but now they were ripped at the knees, frayed on the bottoms and sported random graffiti, a product of Spencer's love affair with brightly colored sharpies and my own boredom. If my closet could talk it would have picked up a band shirt accent because half of my shirts now sported the logos of everyone from Joan Jett to Cute Is What We Aim For. The only shirts I refused to wear were Panic! shirts. That was just a little too weird for me. Besides, I felt I was supporting the artists plenty already, I did their effing laundry.
After all that thinking, my three hour flight actually went a lot quicker than I had imagined it was going to. Only now I was facing a four hour over lay in O'Hare. Thank the baby Jesus that I had friends in Chicago and would get a slight detour from all that disgusting waiting in the form of a trip to see my favorite vegan: Pete.
I'd weighed my options before leaving and quickly come to the conclusion that a four hour overlay in O'Hare was much better spent chilling with Pete than chilling with airport security. Calling him two days prior to my trip we'd agreed that I'd meet him at his parents' house (where he still lived) (God bless him) and he could show me the best place to get a good bite to eat. As I pulled up in a cab I couldn't help but chuckle under my breath. "Fall Out Boy" was in the front yard mowing the lawn.
"Like, oh my god! It's Pete from Fall Out Boy!" I exclaimed in as ditzy a voice as I could muster while stepping from the cab and paying my driver. The roar of his lawn mower died and he grinned at me from the middle of his yard. Patches of lawn were trimmed and yet larger patches remained overgrown as though he'd decided to just randomly go at his grass with the mower, no real logical plan of action in mind. Yup, sounded like Pete. "So, I like the chop job you're doing on your dad's lawn." I smirked, taking the liberty to walk across his grass so I could give my second-favorite bassist a hug.
"Hey, you see that?" he pointed to the other, perfectly trimmed lawns lining his street, "That is what conformity looks like. This my friend, is just cool."
"Actually Pete, I think /this/ is just /lazy/."
He gave me a playfully resentful look for about five seconds before breaking down in laughter, "Yah, yah you're right. Laziness, boredom and attention, the three pillars of man's behavior."
"Right on," I laughed softly. He could be such a philosophical little hippie sometimes. "So, I guess it's nice to know that rock stars still have to mow the lawn just like us lowly mortals."
"They also need to eat, so if you would please step off of my grass," he waved me away in girlish dramatics, "I need to finish this so we can go grab lunch."
Shaking my head at his antics, I did as I was told, going inside to wash my face and hands. We left not long afterwards, considering Pete changed about three times before we even walked out the front door. No wonder he had his own clothing line.
Twenty minutes on the metro later we were sitting in the Pick Me Up cafÃ©. It was a popular vegan hangout that Pete had been haunting since high school and at the moment, I was grateful. I'd skipped breakfast and the smell of compressed, multi-filtered, stale airplane air had me too sick on the flight to eat any commercialized junk they were serving on the way up to O'Hare. Needless to say, I was starving. I'd like a 20 oz. strawberry banana smoothie please, extra protein. Pete, of course, went for a salad the size of Montana.
"So how's Las Vegas treating you? Well I hope, they say the customer service is choice." he smirked as we took our seats.
"Always." I smiled back, "The only really shitty part is the music scene. I've tried to get into it Pete, honestly, but sometimes I wish Panic! had its origins in Chicago."
He chuckled, "I don't blame you, it's all the same techno, metal shit down in Hell's Valley. Though, don't think it's too much better around here, it's getting even harder to find talent in this junkyard of a city."
He'd never admit it, but Peter Wentz had a secret love affair going on with the Chicago scene. It was too much a part of who he was for him not to see it as a first love. Though everyone knows, it's your first love who hurts you the most.
Suddenly my straw was making that annoying, hollow kind of sound that resounds when there's nothing left on the other end.
"Wow...you like demolished that drink." Pete blinked at me in disbelief. I felt my cheeks go raw with heat, feeling like a pig.
"Yah, I guess I was just kind of hungry."
I felt his eyes lace with sympathy as they surveyed my condition. "You /look/ hungry. Are you alright? Come to think of it, you /are /looking thinner...You're not like sick are you? That's not why you're visiting your parents, right? To make chill with them before you, ya know kick the bucket"-
I rolled my eyes, "What? No!" the laughter that followed couldn't be helped. It's not my fault he's such a dork.
"Ok, good. Because that would be bad for Brendon's health, if you, ya know, died."
"Yah, well, I'm not planning on keeling over anytime soon, so rest assured your brainchild isn't going to fall apart." Eck, that came out a bit harsher than I'd meant it to.
His shoulders sank and he sighed, "Bailey, I was just kidding. I didn't mean it like...look, I was just kidding."
I just nodded. Cue awkward silence...
"It would really fuck him up though, if anything ever happened to you. You get that, right? I mean I'm not trying to be a jerk or say you don't care about him. It's just...I dunno, people get into ruts and they do really stupid, selfish things and don't think about how it's going to affect everyone else around them. Just keep that in mind, okay? Take it as a life lesson."
I smirked, playing with my straw "You should know better than anyone, life lessons can only be earned the hard way."
His smile returned and he shrugged, "Can't blame me for trying. It's hard hanging out with you little kids, man, watching you all make the same mistakes I did."
"Yah, but I gotta say, you're pretty cool for an old guy."
"Damn straight. Pretty soon I'm gunna be the only pimp you know who's trading out his cane for a walker." It was a good thing I'd finished my drink or I just might have choked on it then.
"That won't be from old age though, that's gunna be from all the 12 year old fans attacking you." I just stuck my tongue out as he flipped me off.
Lunch was wrapped up within the hour, as I had to get back to the airport within an hour of my flight and it took 30 mins. just to fight downtown traffic to reach O'Hare. Then there was security. By the way, if you were unaware, O'Hare International is a huge hub for business flights and connecting stops. Imagine security in any normal big city, then multiply it by 718736. Add about 9836896 suits all trying to catch that last minute flight to Tokyo to secure business deals and you have the official Chicago Airport experience.
As I boarded my flight I couldn't help but smile to myself. Remembering Pete's words "Come to think of it, you /are looking thinner..." It was good to know someone else was noticing. Like maybe that size 4 really was possible. However, my smile faded when the advice that had followed surfaced on the lily-pad-pond of my thoughts. /"People get into ruts and they do really stupid, selfish things...Just keep that in mind, okay?"
Maybe he had a point...though by that time though I was a little too tired to care. I'd figure everything out once I got settled back home. Not Las Vegas home. Martha's vineyard home. Mom and dad home. Fake smiles and never ending tension home. Maybe I was gunna have to come up with another word...home just wasn't cutting it. Gah, neither were these airplane seats. Uncomfortably adjusting and readjusting, my fatigue set in and I fell asleep never the less.
Nine hours cross country and it was back to organized-by-color linen closets and second story windows. I felt like I'd just walked into an IZOD commercial. My mother was a mess of dropped hints that she wanted to take me shopping for new (different) clothes and bitching about Bridezilla (That'd be my sister). Becky had never gotten along great with...well, anyone really. She considered herself a cut above the rest and most people were glad to leave her there. Well, most girls anyways. Honestly I wasn't surprised at all when I met her fiancÃ©, Erik. Chiseled, blonde and rich, the poor boy was totally whipped. Case in point?
Exhibit A: "Erik, carry my poor sister's luggage to her room. She's had a long flight."
Exhibit B: "Are you guys going for a big wedding or small?"
"Oh, it was so funny, Erik wanted this small ceremony out on a hill somewhere." she laughed, "/Please/, we've already booked the cathedral on Prince Avenue. I bought 300 invitations...but I'm thinking we're definitely going to need 200 more."
Exhibit C: "Where are you guys going for your honeymoon?"
"Erik wanted to wine and dine me around Venice, but I convinced him to charter a yacht for a week in Monaco."
I think it's obvious who wears the pants in the relationship.
Maybe it was my own naivetÃ©, but after my mom and sister had welcomed me back by indulging me with their own lives, I was expecting something better from my brother. In fact I was half expecting him to save me from the wedding plans my sister had sat me down to go over, (if she honestly thought I was wearing one of /those /bridesmaid dresses, she had another thing coming). In any case, I certainly wasn't expecting a "Are you doing alright in Las Vegas? You look like you've put on weight." after pulling back from the hug I'd thrown at him upon his entrance of the kitchen.
"Yah..." my smile was faltering, like a T.V. losing reception in the middle of a soap opera, "I guess the freshman fifteen isn't just a myth, huh?"
Fuck me sideways, folks. Just when I thought I was getting somewhere with this whole weight loss thing, just when I thought I was giving it my all...
Not long after I decided that I couldn't stomach any more floral centerpiece designs and cited the excuse that my jet-lag had just kicked in and I needed a nap. Up the stairs, down the hallway, past the bathroom...ahhh! My bed room was just as I left it. My eyes fluttered closed after I threw my purse down and leapt onto my mattress (flipping mid-air to land belly side up). Wow, with my eyes closed like this I could actually pretend I was back in the L.V. Spence raiding my fridge, Brendon and Ryan wrestling over the t.v. remote, Brent punching the shit out of my poor keyboard as he killed something. Yep, life was grand.
And then I remembered why I'd come upstairs in the first place. My brother's comment. My day dream evaporated out of reach and my eyes opened as I curled over on my side. Memories came flying back and spilled out in salt water form via my eyes.
There was a reason I was so obsessive about my weight. I had just shoved it under the floorboards of my mind, hoping to block out every fucked up piece of my life upon my move out west. I'd wanted those cobwebs gone, that dust lifted. I had wanted to start fresh, pretend I came from normal stock and had always had a happy, content family. But as easy as it had been to dye my hair and liberate my closet, I couldn't escape my past. No one can. It's the reason you're where you're at right this very moment.
When I'd met Brendon I must have been a size 6, which on my body frame, looked about a size 4 or 5. I can't take the blame for my hips, I was just born that way. I'd been 17 then and in a completely different mind set. I'd learned early in life how important outside image was from my parents. It was your V.I.P. pass to life. It was how people judged you and for some reason (one which, come to think of it, I can't even recall or come up with...) the way people judged us mattered a great deal. But my sister took this a step further. To her it wasn't about manners or dressing to impress. It was simply to be drop dead gorgeous 100% of the time. All she expected from herself was perfection, no more and no less. Having no other role model I instinctively (even if a bit subconsciously) followed in her footsteps, adopted her rules, practically grew an allergy to anything remotely un-anesthetically pleasing. It gave me a way to take my mind's limelight off of what was going on with my parents and concentrate solely on myself. /Me/, what /I /was feeling, what /I/ needed, what /I/ wanted. But as destructively therapeutic as it started, my coping methods snowballed into an all out complex. All I could ever think about was exercising and how clear my skin was, what I had eaten that day, did I need to go tanning, did my clothes match, and how every other girl I saw seemed so perfect and what I would give for her life. I could spent hours mourning over having chosen the wrong purse for an outfit souly because of how it might affect other people's judgments on me. I could hide out in mall bathrooms for eons applying and reapplying my make-up, because it never looked just right. I was spinning out of control like a penny in one of those black hole mock ups they have at museums and malls. And the best part was, no one noticed, no one cared. This was uptown, everyone was /supposed/ to be perfect. Who did I think I was expecting attention for my efforts?
Again, that's when my desert oasis came in to play. When I met my boys they had packed such an emotional punch that suddenly it wasn't just about image any more. It wasn't insecurities crawling out of every pore, keeping me numb on the outside while internally I was forever in a frenzy about what other people were thinking of me. It calmed me down like a cigarette, made me take a step back and breathe.
And then I'd been ripped out of that dream, right back into a world consumed by curves and calorie-counting. Cue my fervent need to talk to Brendon nearly every night for a year. I needed him to ground me, to remind me that I was up to par, to keep me surfaced and breathing. To let me know there /was/ a world outside of my island hometown and I /could/ reach it. That was why Las Vegas became my immediate goal, that was why I fell in love with it, that was why I had been so eager to leave Martha's Vineyard behind.
It was also the reason that once I'd reached my goal I had, what I would call, rebounded. I reveled in lazing around and getting drunk every chance I got. When the boys worked late, we met up for dinner in greasy diners and between work, play and college ordering take-out was a must at least three times a week. We partied, we clubbed and for the first time I was comfortable in my own skin. But the price added up to Bailey in a size 9.
I guess I didn't really notice at first, either that or I was scared of being sucked back into my black hole of an image complex. Until the night Brendon and I were going to go out for dinner. Seeing myself in that tight satin shirt had triggered all those buried emotions and obsessions back into existence, sling-shotting me back into my crazed state of mind. And now that I was back in the environment that had caused that complex in the first place, I was going to have to fight like hell to stay sane.