On Sunday mornings my mother found peace amidst her three young children by the grace of an exceptional line-up of cartoons. Levi, Bekki and I would sit in front of the TV, each with our favorite cereal box close by. I ate two big bowls of Lucky Charms, because Levi ate two big bowls of Wheaties. For dinner I ate a whole steak, corn on the cob, and three scoops of mint chocolate chip ice cream, because this is what my sporty siblings devoured. Soon my father would kick me off the back of his Japanese roadster, not because he wanted to, but because he had to. My neck was thick and my pug nose resembled a pig nose between two full cheeks. I remember being keenly aware of the sound my corduroys made as the fabric rubbed between my thighs. I noticed Nikki didn’t make that sounds when she walked.
As puberty kicked in and I shot up and thinned out, I was intrigued by my new body. Hip bones protruded, my neck bones were accentuated and ribs stacked up between two small breasts. Intrigue turned to infatuation and then obsession when I discovered the name for my form on MTV, “heroine chic”. Perversely, the thinner I got the more I detested any remnant of the chubby kid I used to be, mostly the roll of fat which persisted just below my belly button. Sitting on the toilet I would push my abdominal out, disgusted that my pubic hair could be hidden by this flesh.
I stopped eating as much as possible, opting for water with bland special-K cereal instead of creamy, but calorie ridden milk. A friend’s mother had not seen me for a half year and stared, blank and cold, as I smiled at her in the library. This instigated a game I played. Who could I shock? Who would be concerned and who would be impressed? Depending on how I was feeling about myself that day I either resented or reveled in their reactions.
When Levi and then Bekki both moved away to college my obsession intensified and I found myself sensing the Black Hole’s presence again. The house was too large for just one child. I had always hung around both of their sporting events, annoyed at being dragged from gym to field to practice. Now I felt the same toward the untended hours that gaped before me each day. I didn't know how to be me, in the absence of them. I didn’t know how to act, without something to react against.
During Bekki and Levi’s games, I began to make things to pass the time. The bleachers were my craft table. With the years my small creations grew more elaborate, filling a large drafter’s desk my parents had bought me. After puberty, I began to approach my body like art. I could sculpt, edit, and aggrandize it. I chiseled away at it like stone, avoiding veins only because I knew they would fracture the form.
When I got my driver’s license the first thing I did was get a gym membership. Each morning at five I rushed to a former warehouse charged with the stench of sweat and rubber. House music reverberated off the metal weight sets, softly clinking the pins which held pounds in place. At that early hour I was one of very few females. Surrounded by bulky men admiring and distracted by their own bodies as they flexed, I sucked in their testosterone. Just being in their presence made me feel strong. I had found a crowd as in control of their own form as me. In those mirrors and under the fluorescent lights we were peers, pulsating together with sound, blood, and isolated movements.
Returning home I squeezed into tight denim and spandex anything. My mother was appalled as I dressed deliberately to show off my body. She said I was exhibiting everything. She said that I would give guys the wrong impression. My favorite clothing, bought with tips from my diner job, disappeared when i did not do my own laundry. How was it my fault what guys thought? Why couldn’t I do with my body what I wanted and why was she so upset by exactly that which made me feel strong? Our fights were often punctuated with, “because I said so!” as a baggy shirt was thrust into my hands.
That autumn we were experiencing an Indian Summer. Just sitting in class everyone dripped with sweat. After school I joined in cross country because Nikki did too. The first day of practice I opted for a black Adidas sports bra and didn’t even think about putting a shirt on. I had worked all summer on my abs. Not yet a six pack like my gym idols, but I had a four pack and looked nothing like the soft bodied girls who ran beside me. I liked that, because I didn’t feel like them either.
The next day there was an announcement that the team was required to wear shirts. Another incarnation of my mother’s opinion now controlled me beyond Old Smoke Road. I considered wearing a white shirt with no bra, just to make a point, but I didn't have the courage. During our hill training, I attacked the two tiered, steep slope. The forms of the boys team were revealed as they ran along the top ridge. First heads, tanned necks, and finally bare chests. A rage exploded in me as I tackled the summit. I wanted to chisel away at them, at what they could be and were allowed the space to be. I wanted to chisel right through their veins.