Placebo

I am fat. The only trace of fat on this team of rail-thin teenagers who refuse to admit that they are skinny. They pinch the nonexistent flaps of skin that run across their stomachs and proclaim themselves bloated, ugly, fat. And then in the same breath, they turn to me and tell me to shut up, tell me I'm beautiful, striking, skinny. I am none of these things, and I am certainly not skinny. Even they, practiced liars as they are, can't hide it from me; I see their eyes flash with doubt and I hear the slight quaver in their voices, and I know the truth. I don't blame them, I guess. They just don't want to see me get hurt. After all, they if anyone know the incomparable power of the words you're fat, the way they bring you down slowly and eat you up from the inside out. Two simple words. That's all it takes to completely destroy someone. But once in a while it would be nice to hear the truth.

The only source I can really trust is the mirror—the one that presents me with the truth about the way I look. Maybe that's why my dreams with been infused with mirrors of late. Maybe that's why I wake up cold with sweat at night, and even the most normal mirrors call out to me like the ones in my dreams. Kara, you're fat. The truth is busting out.

One lap down. So how come they can't see it? I'm getting tired of their resistance, to be honest. If they supported me instead of denying my problems, maybe we could fix them. But they always prefer denial. They prefer to pretend I'm skinny. Some friends.

"She's lost so much weight lately…It can't be healthy, it just can't. There's no way." The wind swallows up her words but I get the gist of it. They're talking about me. They're always talking about me, playing all sorts of mind-games, pretending they don't know I can hear them whisper as I run past. It's their way of trying to plant this idea in my mind that I'm skinny, maybe even too skinny, but it's all a mockery. As if anyone except the determinedly naïve believe that such a thing as too skinny even exists.

They whisper that 85 pounds is unacceptable, scary even, for a girl who's 5'4"—but we all know that weight is just a meaningless number, worthless in regards to gauging one's physical appearance. I don't look skinny, so logically, I must be fat, 85 pounds and all. It doesn't sound like a lot, but it sure does add up. Smart though they are, they're slow to grasp this concept. They insist that I'm skinny. Anorexic, even. Well I'm not! So what if I skip a few meals now and then? You're telling me they don't? Look at me now. If I ate at every mealtime I'd probably be wider than I am tall! It's not my fault my body can only process like 500 calories a day—the rest turns to fat and gathers on the most unappealing areas of my body—my hips, my thighs, my stomach. I'd rather not have such slow metabolism, but there, I do—it's just a fact, something that I need to deal with and work around. Like Alyssa, who has to wear sunscreen all the time even when its winter because her skin is so fair. Or like Sierra, who has a kind of oily complexion and has to put on all sorts of cream to prevent pimples and such. And no one gives them a hard time about it. It's just their bodies. Well this is mine, and I'm adapting. I've never been anorexic, just like I've never been skinny, and damn the people who tell me otherwise. Damn them to hell. Two laps down, ten to go. Better make it twelve, I want to eat a little later. Shameful little indulgence, but if I'm going to eat I might as well work now.

"It's been so tense over there since Mrs. Ryder's heart attack. They're so focused on what she eats that I doubt they notice what Kara eats…if she eats at all." How the hell would they know? The doctors told us she has to watch what she eats very carefully, and my sister and I were explicitly warned not to upset her. Every time I walk through that door it's like walking on eggshells, too scared to make the wrong move, to upset her, to live with that for the rest of my life. How could they know what that's like?It's not like I've been sending my friends freaking postcards from the dinner table, for Pete's sake. They can't. No one can. Hell, I'm fat. And they should stop talking about what they don't understand.

There are no lies between me and the mirror, just pure hatred and honesty. Maybe hatred is what you need to see things as they are, or if not hatred than at the least emotional detachment. Who knows—maybe these people who tell me I'm skinny don't even think that they're lying. Sure, I weigh a couple of pounds less than I used to—but it's not like it makes any difference, or like anyone would ever notice without whipping out a scale. My friends only know what I weigh because I told them, if I hadn't they'd have made nothing of it. Probably wouldn't even have noticed. Christ, I shouldn't have told them. But I guess it's too late now, anyway. Love has this funny way of distorting perceptions, sort of like that placebo effect we learned in science, that makes reality what you want to see or think you should see. So I guess it's their senses, really, that do the lying, and not them per se, those love-tinted lenses that block out the essence of me as I am, only to replace me with some figment of the imagination, some skinny but altogether imaginary figure that takes on my persona. Three laps down now. Keep pushing.

"We should tell someone…getting serious." Yeah right, so serious. Tell that to the mirror, who hasn't changed his mind just yet. Better yet, they can take it up with my stomach, which has a mouth of its own and can answer them just fine. Oh. Was that my stomach just now? What time is it? 3:15, it's been over 48 hours. Good. Those damned calories should burn in hell. Too bad it never makes any difference.

Keep driving the pace. Track is hell, no doubt about it, but I need the exercise. Things would be different if Coach Reed didn't hate me so damn much. I'm good at soccer, better than half the idiots he tried out. Stupid bastard just didn't like me. I was captain last year, and I wasn't even a senior. But I won't be his damned puppet. I think for myself and if he doesn't like that, then tough. But what do I care what he thinks…soccer team sucks this year, anyway. And that was all before I got fat. Trust Coach Reed to be the only one to see it. He hates me, so it was no problem for him. Fat like my mother. Obese. If I don't watch it, I could be her. Keep running, keep sweating. Keep burning those calories….Lap 5…

Eyes weigh about a ton, keep 'em open. I won't be her. I can't…Lap 7…That's it, legs are getting good and tired—maybe in five or six laps that yogurt will be history. That's funny, track's rushing up to meet me, stomach's retching…nothing there to vomit up…damn rubber fumes choking me…hate this track…it's red, not black…isn't it? I can't be her…I won't be her…Stay with it, Kara. Keep your cool, Kara…

What'd I miss? Oh no. Oh no, oh no, oh no…why couldn't they have called Dad, Ella, somebody else? Anybody else! Why her? At least we're in the hospital if something goes wrong…stop crying! Stop talking, you stupid man! I'm fine! Fine! FINE!

Here he goes again—mumbling something about how the body can't function without a certain number of calories per day and how after a while it just shuts down and blah, blah, blah. Mom's nudging me like it's important. I wonder if they can here my heart beating so damn loud. Look at my hands—pale, white, shaking. From what, fear? What do I have to be afraid of? I've got enough blubber to feed an army. And what does it matter what anybody says, anyway? They're all liars. I know the truth, and the mirror knows it, and together we are all that matters. I am fat.