SLAVE LABOR Chapter 8

30 03 2011

 

 

SLAVE LABOR

 

I’m finally allowed to go to work at Dr. Herman’s Design Studio. Out of 80 patients he picks 3 or 4 at a time – the ones who are not outright crazy and can be trusted to take the train and subway and find his place. The ones who don’t talk too loudly to themselves and know how to put their clothes on outside out.

His studio is a state-sponsored and -financed work-rehabilitation program and we get about 40 dollars a week, for 40 hors of work. My father says that prisoners get more, but I’m excited. I’m bored at the hospital. Random sex and killer food binges are driving me to be willing to do just about anything. At this point, I’d be happy to clean Elephant shit at the zoo for 10 cents a week.

On my first day, I wake up at 5am and together with the four other chosen patients, we catch a train and then two buses to get to the studio at 7am. It is winter in Austria. Cold I’m not used to anymore after three years in California. I’m shivering on the train, surrounded by the tiredness and resignation of people who have to be at work at 7 am.

The studio is a tiny room with sewing machines and an extra, much larger room with mirrors. In the corner, next to the bathroom, is a coffee maker that gurgles and spouts burnt poison.

Veronica and Petra are pretty, but exhausted looking women in their thirties, burdened by their responsibilities to not only teach us patients how to sew, but also to make Dr. Herman’s samples look like they came from a Couture Salon in Paris.

That’s what his brochure says: Peter Herman, Paris – Vienna. On the cover of this is an emaciated and very pale model wearing a leather corset. I don’t notice this right away, but something about this picture feels unsettling and wrong. I look closer. The ghost-like model presses a very newborn, very tiny baby to her bony chest. It is quite jarring. I am used to seeing healthy and round babies on healthy and round breasts, not this. But I have to admit, that it looks fascinating and I always admired strange advertising.

When we finally settle in, our snow covered coats spread out in the overheated kitchenette, Veronica approaches me. “Hi. Good morning. Let me show you how to sew a single straight seam on this piece of paper”

“On paper? I know how to sew. I went to Fashion School in America!” I laugh.

“Ya, whatever. But now you are here and for now you’re gonna do this my way, ok?” she sighs.

“Fine” I snap “Gimme that paper and lets get started”

After a few minutes, she walks over from the pattern table she cuts fabrics on and inspects my perfectly straight seams.

“You’re right. You know a little bit. Lets get on to fabrics” she admits and hands me a strip of muslin. I smile and sew straight lines again.

“Look, I really want to learn how to do the real thing. I can do it.” I plead.

The other patients – three guys I know vaguely from the clubs I used to hang out at and a drab, depressed and tired women in her forties with acne scars and a lazy flab-belly glare at me.

“Cut it out, princess”, the gray skinned junkie whispers at me “Don’t raise the bar, I’m not gonna work harder cause you make it look like it’s easy”

“That’s right”, the coked out former DJ hisses. “We have a good deal here, they don’t expect much from us and you better not fuck it up for us” He pushes his red plastic glasses up on his head and leans back.

“Fuck yourself. If I have to be here for 40 hours, I might as well do something. I don’t know about you, but my time goes by way faster that way.”

He gets up with a cigarette between his lips. “Suit yourself, ass kisser bitch. It’s smoke break for me”

They all file out and I’m left with Veronica and Petra.

“I don’t take it personally any more. It’s ok”, Petra says into my direction. “He pays me well enough to put up with people like you. I mean, not you so much, but them.”

 

While everybody else is outside smoking in the snow, I

watch Petra as she fits a black leather jacket that looks like a Thierry Mugler piece from his last collection. I really want to be able to do something like this myself.

For the first time in weeks, I don’t think about heroin, food, sex or speed.

After a few more test-seams, Veronica almost smiles at me. She hands me an expensive looking piece of cut silk fabric. “Sew those side seams together and let me check it”.

A few minutes later, I hand her the garment. I act all humble and as if I’m surprised myself that I was able to do it, flawlessly and in record time.

It’s not exactly respect, but she definitely changes her opinion of me as a hopeless drug-addict lazy and incompetent jackass patient. She allows me to cut the sleeve of a jacket and shows me how to set it into the armhole.

I’ve done all this before, for my bunny rabbit so this is easy compared to the miniature creations I’ve spent my speed-fueled nights in Los Angeles with. I know better not to mention this.

“You really are good” she wonders. “We never get anybody to work here who can do this”

“I said I was in Fashion School” I reply.

“So, what happened? Why are you here?”

“Drugs. I got strung out. Arrested. That’s why I’m here. But I’m planning to go back as soon as they let me back in” She looks at me with suspicion, no doubt expecting me to crack and show my real crazy self. That’s what she’s used to. But I’m not giving up. By the time lunch break comes around, I’ve sewn the whole lining of a jacket.

 

Dr. Herman steps in dressed in another stylish leather outfit and a white shirt that looks so cool, that I want to steal it. Veronica pulls him into the fitting-room and when they come back out, he stops by my sewing machine and inspects my work.

“Good going, Monah. You seem to have a talent for this. If you keep it up, I might even let you assist me on Fashion Week.” He pats my shoulder and moves on.

I feel kind of happy. Not about his patronizing praise, but because I know that he is right.

On the way home, in the crowded train, my fellow patients ignore me. I don’t care. This is for me. They can hate me all they want. I’m going to survive and succeed. I’m going to catch up and learn everything that I should and could have learned in Fashion School – if I had managed to show up. The grandiose doctor and his slave camp (that I’m sure is not quite legal), Veronica and Petra are going to be my ticket out of this mess. I can’t wait for the next day.





SHOWROOM OF PERFECTION – US Postal Service Kindness – Chapter 7

28 03 2011

US POSTAL SERVICE KINDNESS

When I get my next paycheck, I change the Austrian Schillings into Dollars. I write a note to my Meth-dealer with exact instructions on how to send me 40 dollars worth of speed inside a skin cream that is not available in Austria. I have it all figured out.
I get stamps and just to make sure, I get three times as many stamps as I’d need.
Almost done. But wait! What’s the guys address? I know how to get there; take the 10 to San Gabriel Blvd, make a left, a right and another left. What’s the name of his street? I lie down and breathe deeply, hypnotizing myself into the memory of the street sign. Rosemead? No. Garfield. Maybe. Alhambra? That’s it. Alhambra Blvd. I’m a winner, nobody can remember stuff like me. The street number? No idea. His last name? Hmmmm.
Fuck it. I sent an envelope with 40$ in cash to Richard, Alhambra Blvd in San Gabriel, CA, USA and then I wait. A week goes by and another one. But the hope gives me strength and I eat much less. I feel giddy with excitement. Another weeks passes and finally – be still my heart – I get mail from the USA.
I rip it open. Inside is my pleading letter to Richard. But it has been opened. By the US-Postal Service! There is a note attached, that’s says: “We apologize. We tried. But we could not locate the person you are trying to contact.”
Inside, wrapped into my pathetic envelope are the 40 Dollars.





SHOWROOM OF PERFECTION – Food Trance – Chapter 6

28 03 2011

FOOD TRANCE

I’m on another fast, this time on vegetable juice, broth and water. The relentless hunger occupies my brain, my mind, my every thought, but I am equally relentless in my determination to lose weight. And to withdraw from food as I have from heroin – I figure, eventually, the craving will stop. Hey, it worked with drugs.
A few of the therapists in the ward are on it too – they all have some kind of insanity with food and dieting too. Of course they would, they are all ex-druggies like me. My social worker is on a watermelon–only-diet and we all encourage each other.
After a few days, I’m high on starving. My clothes feel loser. I’m lightheaded and inspired, very awake and proud of myself. On day five, the hunger is gone. Food looks strange and I cannot imagine ever eating again.
And there is that arrogant and I’m so much-better-than-you-all-you- poor eaters- feeling that I love so much. I watch a fat women eat a bratwurst out of a paper tray in the subway and I feel sorry contempt for her. She obviously has no self-discipline and control over herself.
I, however, I am in charge.
I’m taking care of my problem. I’m in control of my body and my mind and this weight will be gone in no time. I’m high and mighty and I feel good, more than good. I will never be fat again.

I get off the subway and step into a Health food store to get vitamins and a seaweed bath. I look forward to my bath that will remove the toxins released from the fast.
Inside the Health-food store, I smell Valerian and Eucalyptus and happily roam the aisles. The self-serve bins are filled with nuts and organic cookies of all kinds. I turn my head away and rush by those bins.
Then something in my brain circuit misfires and I rip a bag from a roll. I fill it with oatmeal cookies. Then I stuff a few other bags with nuts and a few organic bagels. I start to chomp down on the cookies before I get to the check out counter. I’ve never tasted something that delicious. I wander through the store, cramming those cookies into my hungry mouth and grab a few protein bars.

The Alterna Girl – skinny, of course – points to a sign that says “Please pay for your purchases before you sample them”
I’m way beyond sampling. This doesn’t apply to me.
Crumbs fall on my fur collar and get stuck there, but I don’t care. There is no word in German for “Binge”. I call those episodes “Fress-attacke”, in lieu of a better word. “Fressen” is what animals do. When I was a child, my anorexic mother would cook a crock-pot of unidentifiable items once a week and that was what we got. We warmed this gruel up every day and she was freed of her feeding- responsibilities.
When I complained, she replied, “Food is for stupid people, just like religion and if you weren’t so dull and stupid, you would not have to eat”
She called this weekly cookout the “Children Fresser Feeding” and when she served it, she smilingly encouraged us to “Friss and get on with your life. Rush! ”.
“Read Shakespeare and Nietzsche and you will understand”, she snapped when we demanded real food like bread and butter and maybe cheese.
One night, my dad finally lost it and slammed his bowl with grey and overcooked gruel that looked like it would be at home in a pig trough in her face. Then he got up and told us to get our shoes and coats to go to a restaurant. My mother sat there, silent tears running down her haggard face and I felt so bad for her that I stayed.
I went into the garden and collected a few hundred ants from the compost heap and let them lose in my father’s bed. A few hours later, they came back; my little sister and brother bowled over wit stomach pain. They’ve had their fill of “Schweins Braten” and Fries and my dad was bragging of their ability to clean their plates.
A few years later, my sister became a bulimic before anyone knew what that was.
I’m in full “Fress Attack” now and am utterly powerless to stop. My bill comes to more than a week of “Earnings” from Dr. Herman’s Sweatshop, but I don’t care. I have to keep stuffing food in my mouth, chew and swallow, chew and swallow and no power or determination can stop me now. Because I know that as soon as I stop, the shame and guilt and remorse will engulf me like a toxic cloud. As my stomach expands, the cloud comes closer. Then I’m in it.
I have to sit down on a park bench because I can’t breathe. I’m so stuffed and it hurts so badly, I start to cry. An hour before, I was light as a bird and now I’m a rolled up baby elephant. I have to loosen my buttons. I stare at the few leftovers in my bags and slam them in the trash, disgusted with myself, humiliated and totally hopeless.
This isn’t going to work without drugs.





SHOWROOM OF PERFECTION – The Party – Chapter 5

24 03 2011

THE PARTY
Palias Auersberg is beautiful, out of this world magical. Renate is right. As soon as we step in the candle lit salon, I feel regal and magnificent. Women and Guys I’ve only seen in Newspapers gather around us. Renate is the “It-Girl” in Vienna and everybody wants to be her friend. Just as I start to feel like a fifth wheel, somebody touches my arm.
“Hello, may I ask you to dance?” a guy I recognize as a famous photographer sidles up to me. “You look amazing. What’s your name?” he asks.
I let him take my arm and Renate winks at me. At the dance floor, he holds on to me and we waltz a bit. He lets go and flirts with me when I dance next to him, freestyle.
“You’re a hell of a dancer” he whispers, grabs me again and twirls me around. I get dizzy, even though I’m stone cold sober and stumble. He catches me and presses his body into me. Is this an errection I feel? It is and he pulls me closer. I haven’t had sex in months – the Mullet guy doesn’t count – and I respond with a warm wave hat crawls up my legs and spreads through my stomach. We kiss and make out and I am aware of the people looking at us. I’m a bit of an exhibitionist, I guess.
Renate interrupts our love-session. “Monah, I want you to meet Erica Pluhar. Excuse me” she says to the photographer, “I need to borrow your dance partner for a while” and walks me over to the legend of my childhood. Erica is the most beautiful woman, right after Elisabeth Taylor and Romy Schneider.
“I am so delighted to meet you.” She breathes in her velvety smokers voice. “I’ve admired your outfit since you walked in and I would be so honored if you would consider to create something for me”
Her humble charm makes me feel like I’m the star and I admire this ability to make a fat and insecure mental hospital inmate as if I was really important to her. As if she had waited all her life to get a chance to talk to me, not the other way around. I manage to keep a straight face and not to blush too much.
“Sure. It would love to.” I say with fake confidence.
“Here is my card. Please call me at your convenience. I look forward to hear from you very soon. I have an event coming up that intimidates me a bit. But with your magic, I’m sure I’d be able to handle myself with grace.”
Erica Pluhar intimidated? No way. No fcucking way. I must be dreaming and any moment now, I will wake up on my lumpy mattress in the hospital.
A tall blond woman that I don’t recognize at first chimes in. “I hope your schedule isn’t too busy to take mercy on me too. I ‘d love a creation like that. Where is your studio? I could come by any time, the sooner the better.”
Jesus, it’s the major’s wife. I’m on my game, just for once.
“I’m in the process of setting up a studio. I have just returned from a two year stay in Los Angeles and haven’t settled down yet.” I lie.
“Really? Los Angeles. You’re a true citizen of the world, are you?” she smiles “I might know of a perfect place to set up shop for you. First district, right next to St. Stephen’s cathedral. Call me first thing tomorrow! Promise?”
“I will, yes, of course, that would be wonderful” I mumble and tuck her card into my purse.
I spend the rest of the party dancing and telling celebrities about my years in LA. I leave out the junkie-days, the Dominion, the jails and the deportation. The photographer slips me his card and watches with ill hidden jealousy as I am passed around as a design wonder from America. I want him and I know I will see him soon.
Renate and me ride back to her luxury pad in Hietzing. We fall asleep in a deep embrace that could be girlfriends spending the night because it is late. Or it could be girlfriends falling in love.





SHOWROOM OF PERFECTION – The Journalist – Chapter 4

24 03 2011

THE JOURNALIST

I am on the subway in my new jacket when someone taps me on my shoulder.
“Excuse me, where did you get this jacket?”
I whip around and stare at a gorgeous women with long black hair – of course she is skinny and tall – white skin and sparkly Charlotte Rampling eyes. She is the kind of women my father pursues and worships.
“I made it myself,” I mumble.
“No way. You did? I’ve never seen anything so unique and beautiful.” She beams at me.
“It’s no big deal. I’m a designer,” I say.
“Can I buy you some coffee or a drink? I really wanna talk to you!”
“I’m supposed to be back at the hospital in an hour”
“Hospital? Girl you get more interesting by the minute” she laughs.
“Yeah. Long story. Kinda embarrassing” I say.
“I’m a journalist, Renate Possarnig and I really want to talk to you. Lets get out at the next station and talk for a few minutes. Come on. You’ll make it back in time, I promise”
We get off the train and sit down in a Viennese Coffee House, the kind one can stay all day with one cup of coffee and read papers and talk.
So starts my friendship with Austria’s number one journalist. I don’t know it yet. But my life is about to change drastically.
We hit it off immediately. She wants to know everything and I’m all too happy to talk.
She tells me that she just published a book about Kaddafi.
“He fascinated me for years. So I went there, flirted with him, became his girlfriend, one of many, of course and lived with him for a year. Then I wrote the book. It’s considered scandalous and I’m involved in a few nasty lawsuits over it.”
Just my kind of women. She invites me to a party at one of the Palais – Palais Auersberg – and when she tells me who will be there, I’m impressed. I can’t believe that she wants me to be part of this. Me, the fat and insecure, depressed and humiliated resident of the State Mental Hospital.
And there is, of course, the question of going out anywhere. I’m only allowed to leave the hospital grounds for work.
She asks me about Dr. Herman. When I tell her about our slave labor and that he pays 50 cents an hour, she laughs.
“I can see my next expose for “Profile”. They’d jump on a story like that. The addiction doctor and his Sweatshop. Hahahah.”
At work the next day, I catch Dr. Herman who drops by to check on his samples.
“I met this journalist and she wants me to go to a party with her. Andree Heller, Erika Pluhar, Anton Proksch and the major of Vienna all will be there. Wouldn’t this be a fantastic chance to promote your collection?”
He looks skeptical. I blather on.
“Look, Renate Possarnig is my friend and she invited me. You’ve heard of her, haven’t you?”
Of course he has. He would sell his first-born to have access to Austria’s cultural and political celebrities. That’s why he uses government money to have a collection that might or might not make him a well-known name.
“How do you know her?” he asks.
“Oh, my dad. You know. He knows a few people” I lie. No way can I tell him that my own designs, my own work have opened this door. He’s jealous on a good day and vindictive by nature.
“Ok, Monah. I’ll give you permission to go. But you have to wear one of my designs and be back by midnight”
“Actually, she asked me to spend the night. She plans to write an article about you, the incredible work you do to help hopeless addicts to get back on their feet. We have a lot to talk about.”
He swallows this hook. I can go.
He personally checks on my outfit – a sexy corset with a pencil skirt and a leather trench coat. I look hot, even though I’m fat. Clothes can really transform one – exactly the reason why I’m so obsessed with it.
When I get to Renate’s house, I change into my own clothes. “You look hot, really juicy” Renate comments while she puts on black eyeliner. “I know you have a thing with your weight – I can tell from the way you move and talk – but really, that’s all in your own head. This is Austria. Guys like a little meat on their women.”
“Oh, well, thanks. That’s very helpful,” I pout.
“Jesus, Monah! If you just changed your stupid ideas about models and that everybody should look like one, seriously, you would blow everybody away. There’s something so sexy and mysterious about you and the curves you sport, you could be a star. I’m not kidding, I’m not flattering you, why should I?”
I don’t buy it.
“Why the fuck do you think I want to take you to a party that everybody and their grandmother would pay to be able to go to? Why? Because I’m proud to show you off. I’m proud to bring you with me. Get this in your stubborn head, ok?”
She snatches a Polaroid camera from a drawer and starts to shoot pictures of me.
“Here. Look at this. I mean, really look at yourself and forget magazines. You are hot; you are seriously talented and interesting. Look!”
The pictures she shows me are kinda hot. I mean, if this wasn’t me, but another women in a black mermaid dress with lace-up boots and a cool red leather jacket, I would say, yes, that’s some kind of fashion icon, a sexy and classy chick with her own style. But it is I. No way around it.
“Renate, I really appreciate your pep=talk. But you don’t understand. I used to be a third of my weight and I just can’t accept that I am like this now”
She grabs her jacket and keys.
“Well, babe, you better get used to it, because we are leaving now. My chauffeur is downstairs and off we go”





Showroom of Perfection DAY ONE Chapter 35

22 03 2011

DAY ONE  APRIL 29TH, 2007

Aroona races in her black SUV (I never bothered to look at the make of it), honking and swerving, flying over man-sized pot holes and chasing skinny cows out of our way. She slides into the International slice of airport and screeches to a halt. As soon as I open the door of her air-conditioned monstrosity, the 120-degree heat engulfs me like a hungry mouth. We drag my suitcases to the entrance of I-Don’t now what Airline and the door swooshes shut behind us.

It is much cooler in here, of course.

“Be safe, my love”, she coos, before she turns around. I get into a line of hundreds of sweating travelers, snaking in roped up lines up to security.

“Please don’t leave yet,” I beg, terrified of spending my first minute in this country without her experienced protection.

“You’ll be fine, babe. Just drink water and relax”, she says, clearly wanting to leave.

We’ve spent 14 days together. In her SUV and in her factory. The only times I’ve been by myself were inside the hermetically sealed room of the hotel. Everything else, I experienced through the tinted windows of her car. Safe. Safe enough to take pictures of beggars and cows and rikshas and wondering people in colorful robes and saris.

We’ve been to clubs and restaurants in ice-box like malls where the electricity goes out twice an hour. I’ve learned that my blackberry is a lighting device and that the electricity always comes on again.

“Remember the big ball you will have to push uphill once you get back”, she giggles, but we both know that this is not a joke.

I stand in line in a strange country and I’m in a cold sweat panik. I will miss my flight. There is no way to get through security in less then 20 minutes. I pull out my i-pod and check for the movies I planned to watch during the 20 hour flight. My i-pod is dead. I shake it. I unplug it. Damn technology. I stuff it back into my purse.

A black eyed security guard who looks like Omar Sharif points to me. He smiles. I smile back. He points to the top of the line and winks me over. He’s going to rape me. He’s gong to throw me into a New Dheli prison and I will never see my daughter again.

But he makes his way over to me and pulls me out of the line and leads me to the security check point.

“Have a nice travel”, he grins and I’m in. I get on the flight.

The stewardess brings me a tray with food. I am hungry and I bite into the sandwich. I always liked airplane food. I eat the sandwich and open the container with the dessert. But, damn, this is the strangest sensation, I realize I’m not hungry anymore.

The dessert, some sweet Indian riceball floating in honey syrup calls out to me. But it has no power over me. What the hell is happening to me? I push it away. The stewardess comes by again and I ask her to take my tray. I lean back and drink a mini bottle of water. I am about to get up. But I don’t. I just sit there and feel the sandwich in my stomach.

It wants to come out. My body is not used to keeping food inside. I feel dizzy and nauseous. I get up and make my way to the bathroom. I sit down and pee. I wash my hands and return to my seat. That sandwich stays inside me. My stomach revolts and cramps. I lean back and close my eyes. I fall asleep.

When we get to Chicago, I am hungry again. It’s been 16 hours since the sandwich. I buy another one and a container with yoghurt to calm my belly. I eat it and get on the plane to LA.

By the time I get there, I feel so sick that throwing up seems the only way to feel normal again. I lean against the door of the bathroom stall and force myself to breathe slowly and even and I calm down enough to get my lagguage and make it to the limousine (courtesy of my “husband”) that is waiting for me.

Back home, in my shitty South Pasadena rental with the cottage cheese ceilings and the nasty white carpet floor, I unpack and call Philippe. I take a shower.

 

 

 

 

Philippe and William yell at each other when I unlock the door to our design-loft. They stop only long enough to watch me dragging in the suitcases from the lobby, then they go right back to their fight. William is drunk.

I hang my samples on the grid and William smiles. He touches my face and drooles “That’s my girl. That’s what we needed. I love you”

Philippe pushes William into the wall and wrinkles his nose.

“That’s it?” he asks, “That’s all you have to show for? This is very disappointing”. He digs in his nose and pulls out a brown bugger and flips it in the direction of the floor, but it gets stuck on his grimy orthopedically correct office chair.

William takes another swig from his kosher wine bottle and sobs: “See what you have done to me? To my family? To Philippe? You have ruined our lives.”

I am used to those scenes and until now, I would go downstairs, stuff my face with 7/11 muffins and Mars bars, throw it all up and deal with it. But now? No way.

“You know what?” I say calmly “I don’t want to work with you anymore. You owe me a lot of money that I’ll never see. So I’m gonna take those samples and that’s just it”

“Don’t you dare to leave us” William shouts. “Don’t you dare walk out with this stuff. It’s not yours. We paid for your trip”

“Don’t worry, William, she’s not gonna leave. She loves us. We are family, aren’t we, Monah? We are family!” Philippe smiles at me “This stuff is good, real good, let me take it over to the showroom right now.”

“No” I say as I take my Indian creations off the hangers and fold them into a neat pile. There is a black Barney’s bag on my desk, almost large enough to fit everything into it.

“I am done with you. You can take me to court if you think you have a chance. Good by”

As soon as I’m I my car, I start to shake. I can’t believe I’ve grown a spine. I pull out of the garage and drive home.





Showroom of Perfection IN THE PSYCH-WARD Chapter 2

22 03 2011

 

IN THE PSYCH WARD

It’s my 29th birthday. Not exactly a party this time. This birthday is spent in detox. When this is halfway over, I mean, I can talk and walk – somewhat, my dad picks me up to take me to rehab.

I don’t pay much attention as to where we are going. But then we stop in front of a gate.

The Austrian State Mental Institution, the “Steinhof”. It’s a protected landmark building, historical and famous for its’ art-deco design. It is magnificent and breathtaking in its beauty, but on the other side, it’s not a place one wants to be. What a waste of beauty.

“What are we doing here” I jump up in my seat and bang my head on the windshield.

“Steinhof has a Drug-Ward and the psychiatrist who directs this part of the ward, runs a work-rehabilitation program that involves sewing. Here is your chance to learn something after all” My dad tries to find something encouraging to say. ”I hear, they even pay”.

He’s right, of course. After fucking up so badly in LA, flunking out of school to work at Lady Velvet’s Dominion and turning into a totally out of control heroin and meth-addict, I still want to be a designer. I mean, when I was so whacked out on speed, I’d stay up all night sewing intricate dresses for my bunny-rabbit. Then I forced it to wear my creations. It didn’t like it, but what does a bunny know about fashion? Nothing.

I force a smile for my dad. “Thank you for finding this. I’ll make up for the shit I did, I promise”

But when we drive up through the historical park and get to the Drug Ward my heart sinks. Tattooed, bored and gloomy prison-types and hooker-girls linger outside smoking. The atmosphere is hostile.

For the first time I’m back in Vienna, I lose it and cry. All through the detox, I kept up an almost happy mood. I was so relieved that I did not have to score, get busted, and hustle for money. But I haven’t started to think about the “Now What?”

I don’t want to be here.  I’m scared.

My dad is choked up too. He’s taking his daughter, his former Ingenious A-student with her own TV-Show, a girl with talent and huge promises just a few years ago, to a psych ward.

This place looks like a low security prison, not a rehab.

The patients eye me with suspicion and curiosity as we step out of the car.

“Who does she think she is? Princess Daddy?” I overhear a stringy haired plump girl in way too small shorts. She whispers to a wiry guy with a mullet and a “Don’t fuck with me” glare. He checks me out and decides that I’ll be his dessert.

My dad is a prominent politician and because his picture is in the papers all the time, they already hate me.

I jump back into his car and sob.

“Please, please take me somewhere else. Anywhere. Even if they shave my head. I’ll let them have my hair”

“I’m so sorry, Monah. That place cannot take you because of your ex-husband. That criminal you just had to marry. He works there as a counselor now.”

“No way, he isn’t. Him? A counselor? Oh God.”

“Yes him, I checked it out. Do you think I want you to be here? I looked everywhere.  This is the only place that will take you because they have to,” my dad sighs, “ you made your bed, now lie in it and make the best of it.”

I know. One has only so many chances and I’ve blown almost all of them. This is my last one.

Inside, a chubby, no, quite overweight, no, actually really fat man in black leather pants, long black hair (dyed, for sure) and a black leather shirt waddles up to us, his hand out stretched.

He has the look of a gone-to-fat rock star and he sure looked hot, a long time ago. Fat bulges out of his way too tight outfit and there is some grease and mustard stuck in his beard.

He greets us with nervous admiration for my celebrity dad and badly hidden contempt for me. In this hospital, he doesn’t get to treat daughters of politicians every day.

“Welcome at Pavilion Eight.” He beams “your daughter will get what she needs. Don’t you worry about a thing. I will make sure she is safe and protected. Now dad, say good by and leave us to care for her”

His words sound slimy and patronizing. For the first time in my life, I watch my dad be silent. He always knows what to say. He’s Mr. Charm and Funny, at all times. He turns around without saying good buy.

“Did you see that dude crying? What a moron”, a bald weightlifter in a wife beater that shows his sweaty armpits, giggles.

A very pretty, but somewhat lived-in girl with curly black hair and green eye shadow swats him on his hairless head “He’s that guy from the socialist party. I just saw him in the paper last Sunday. Have some respect” then she giggles too.

“Hi, I’m Susan, your Social worker” a dumpy dike in a purple overall steps up to me and snaps up my suitcase. “Gotta check that out, before I’ll let you loose in here”. She reminds me of all the women at the Anti-Nuclear- Protests who cut their hair off, became feminists and looked down on girls like me. Girls in Satin disco pants and long hair.

Of course, she has issues with my supplements and my many beauty supplies. “That’s all bullshit. You don’t need this.” She snarls as she stuffs my expensive grooming products into a trash bag. “This shit holds you down. You got to learn to be a worthwhile human being without this dreck that the cosmetic industry wants you to think you need to be human. Pretty is way overrated”

Whatever. I was not planning to woo the mental ward population with powder and lipstick. She lets me keep a toothbrush, soap, my journal, a few books and a change of underwear. Then she shows me to my room.

“Hey, flower, great to have you as a roomy” a bizarrely skinny man with glasses that are held together by a wad of gum and tape grins. He sits on his bed, cross-legged and has a bunch of tools and electric parts spread out in front of him.

“I have a man as a roommate?”

“We don’t separate people by their gender. You got to learn to get along.” The social worker says before her beeper goes off “Gotta run. Make yourself comfortable”.

“Hi.” I say icily. “I need privacy, I hope you get that, ok?”

“Sure, baby. I’ll leave you alone. No reason to mark your territory. I’m nice. And I’m gay by the way, in case you haven’t noticed”

He offers me a box with greasy looking crackers.

“No, thanks” I look away.

“Suit yourself” he laughs, “lemme know when your mind changes. It will. Everybody gets fat here.”

“Well. Not me” I stick my few belongings into a shoddy and peeling nightstand and lay down on the bed. I try to read, but can’t connect the letters and words. My brain has not started to work yet.

Without books I’m on my own. On my own means restless, pissed, irritated. It means I think about why I’m in this godforsaken country I never liked. I want to be in America. I want to be with my three boyfriends. I want to shoot speed and heroin and dance at the “Dirtbox”. What am I doing here?

Downstairs in the dining hall, Mullet-Man makes a go for me. I ignore him. I check out the girls who check me out. They are all fat. They are stuffed into their way too small junkie-clothes.

I push my food around on the plate. I’m hungry. I’m so hungry, I could eat ten of those plates but I don’t.

Back in my room, I try to sleep. Hunger and withdrawal gnaw at me like a rabid rat in a cage. A few hours pass and I sleep a little, but when I wake up at three am, I know there is no way I can make it through this night.

I sneak downstairs into the kitchen for a bite, just one bite, so I can sleep a little.

I grab a box of cereal and a spoon and before I can even think, “Stop”, the box is empty.

There is a huge bag with hazelnuts and another one with raisins. I load up a bowl and sit down. I eat all of it and I am still hungry.

“Fuck it” I mumble, “I’ll eat nothing tomorrow all day to make up for this” and eat another box with cereal. It feels so good to eat, so fucking good and I want to go on forever. But now my stomach is so full that I cannot stuff another bite down.

“You’re a fucking loser. Out of control and I hate you. Why don’t you go shoot yourself? You’re never gonna get clean and be normal. You’ll be that girl with the pretty face if only she could lose that weight”. That hamster wheel in my brain is racing and gaining speed.

“Shut up” I say loudly into the vast kitchen “Shut up and give me some peace”

My stomach feels like I have bricks inside me. This is how the wolf in “Red Riding Hood” must have felt like. I tip toe into my room, crawl back under the covers and fall asleep.

Dr. Herman wakes me up. “Time for your Physical!” he radiates with purpose. “Before we let you loose on the male population, we like to know if you have AIDS. Let’s go.”

After taking blood, he asks me to step on the scale. Oh God. He checks his files and beams at me:

“You already gained 12 kilos since you got back from America. That’s a great step forward.”

I am horrified. He doesn’t notice this at all.

“What about the sewing studio you run? I really want to work. I’m serious”

“You are not ready to work yet. You’re weak as a kitten. Lets talk about it in two months. Don’t worry, you’re doing great” he shakes my hand as he pushes me out of his office.

I eat nothing all day, smoke cigarettes and run up and down the stairs. When I’m at number 84, my social worker stops and watches me for a while. Then she interrupts the only thing that keeps me from ripping my skin off.

“You have to calm down. Exercise is ok, but what you are doing is excessive.”

“You don’t understand, lady” I snap “I need to lose a lot of weight and then some, so leave me alone. Thank You for your fucking concern, but this is none of your business”.

She doesn’t move. Unbelievable.

“It’s not going to work like this,” she says with a hint of kindness in her voice “ Part of your recovery is about acceptance”

“Acceptance?” I mock “Acceptance of being fat? I will NEVER accept such a thing” and I go back huffing up and down the stairs. “Don’t you have an exercise room? I mean”- looking her plump body up and down “ it wouldn’t exactly kill you either. Just saying.”

“You have to stop right now!” She screams. So what? The day that I can be told by a fat social worker to stop exercising is not on my calendar. But it is on hers.

“You either stop right now or your visiting privileges will be withdrawn.”

Now, that’s an issue. My former dealer, Regina van Thom, a performance artist who had a crush on me before America, is on her way with heroin. Hidden in a box of candies.

“Alright then, if it means so much to you, I’ll stop”. I glare at her fat ass and creep back up into my room.

I can’t stand how I feel with this weigh on me. I stick my finger down my throat and retch. Nothing comes out. I do it again. And again and again. Fuck, this doesn’t work. How come my sister and so many of my girlfriends do this and I can’t? I try all afternoon. With my toothbrush and even a feather a la Rome, that I find on the windowsill. I’m the only want to be bulimic who can’t manage to barf.  Another failure. I’m a loser. I can’t even do this.

Regina shows up and I quiver with anticipation. She looks stern. Loaded with pinned eyes, but I know that self-righteous look on her. This can’t be good. And it isn’t.

“I’m sorry, Monah, but I don’t feel it’s the right thing to do. To bring you drugs to rehab.” She says as soon as we sit down. “You went way too far with this. I don’t want your death on my shoulders”

“Jesus, Regina. I’m already through detox. What’s the big deal?” I’m really disappointed.

We don’t have much to say to each other. When we were roommates, we shot heroin together and drank a lot of Opium Tea. We also did some performance art together, but without drugs, it is awkward and empty. We have no connection at all.

“Besides, you are loaded yourself. Get off your high horse.” I say.

“I have it under control. I’m not the one in the psych ward.”

We smoke a cigarette together and I am glad when she leaves.

Back inside, I stuff the pockets of my shirt with Granola and retreat to my bed. Eating makes it possible for my brain to read. I devour the chips my roommate left behind and a paperback I bought at the airport in NY. The story of the Mama’s and Papa’s, a total drug story if there ever was one. I drift off, stuffed and hopeless into a sweaty nap.

When I get up, I eat some more; whatever I can get my hands on. I’ll go on a diet tomorrow.

I’m in a mental ward and food is the only thing that gives me pleasure.

One boring afternoon, instead of binging, I fuck Mullet Man because he seems mean, but in bed he turns out to be a timid pussycat and I am bored. I flee his room and eat some more.

A month later, none of my clothes fit. I mean, I can’t even pull my jeans up over my fat thighs. My arms are flabby sausages, my face is a bloated full moon and I resort to sweatpants from the donations closet. I don’t care anymore.

They weigh me again. 140 pounds. 55 pounds more than when I left LA. This is outrageous. I am devastated. I crawl under my covers and cry.

The next day, I start a fast. No food at all. I last for five days, exhilarated and determined. I am hungry, but I can take that. Besides, I’m better than everybody. Look at my discipline, you fat cow, I think while I buy a bottle of water. I walk on water. I’m holy and perfect.

I go out for a walk and feel so good, I actually smile. There is a bakery by the entrance of the hospital. I buy a paper bag full of goodies and eat all of it while I’m walking out the door. I am in a trance. When I get to another store, I buy bags of chocolate, cookies and bread and I eat and eat and eat. My stomach is going to explode and no way can I eat another bite. I crash.

Holy Shit. What have I done? What has just happened? I find a dirty toilet in the subway station and stick my finger down my throat. I gag and snot and tears drop into the toilet, but the food is stuck. No matter what I do, no mater how hard I try, I can’t get it out. I’m a loser, a fucking worthless loser who can’t even vomit.

After a few months of the same scenario; starving for a few days just to end up in an even bigger binge, my weight is 190 pounds.

Dr Herman is pleased “You are ready to work in my studio. Be there tomorrow at 7 am.”

Finally. This will take my mind of food.








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