The Kindness of a real big Heart “Showrooms of Perfection”

28 07 2011

Kindness of a real big heart (that saves my life)


I had just gotten into recovery of the most awful addiction I can think of (and I’ve had quite a few others, so I know): 19 years of non-stop bulimia.

19 years of binging and purging, day after day. A good day would be three times, but most days, I threw up five to 15 times. Even when I was not binging and just eating a perfectly healthy and low-calorie, vegan and balanced meal, the feeling of food in my stomach was unbearable and I had to get rid of it.

Every restaurant I went to, the first thing I did, was make a beeline to the restrooms and check out if the doors locked and the flushing worked. Only then did I order and eat. Most of he time, I managed to eat like a normal person, ordering what everybody else ordered and eat just that. But when anybody left food on their plate, I wanted to snatch it and stuff myself. I could not understand, how one could leave food on their plate – what a waste! I always cleaned my plates down to the last morsel and as soon as there was nothing else to munch on, I’d sneak off to the bathroom.

I could vomit without a noise. Even with somebody in the stall next to me, I flushed to scramble the sound of splashing, bend over and let it all come out. I had this insane believe, that since it was so easy, I was meant to do that. No big deal. No retching and burping, just a little splash and it was all over, all gone.

If the toilet looked like it might not be able to handle such overload, I’d just throw up in the wastebasket. Still today, more than four years later, I wonder how to make amends to the poor fuck who had to handle the garbage bags. I imagined a tired overworked janitor, lifting the bag out of the basket, ready to go home after a 12 hour shift of cleaning toilets and tables, getting splashed by a totally unexpected exploding and leaking bag of vomit.

Afterwards, I’d feel such relief, such a surge of adrenaline and dopamine, that I could return to the table and rejoin the conversation, high and happy, with much more enthusiasm than before my visit to the ladies room. Of course, this high never lasted. All too soon, I’d find myself hungry, shaky and desperately looking for the next food-fix. I’d suggest “Hey, what about dessert?” and greedily grabbing the dessert menu.

“How can you eat a whole meal and still have room for dessert?”

“Oh, I’m just blessed with a real good metabolism.  Look at my mom and my dad! That’s where I got it from” I’d lie with practiced lightness in my voice. The people who had met my parents nodded their heads.

“Your parents are really in great shape. Man, you are lucky! I wish I could eat like you and be as skinny as you. I guess it’s all genetic after all”

What I failed to disclose, was that both my parents were anorexic, obsessed with exercise and diets and that I grew up despising overweight people, as if they were the source of all evil in the world.

And of course, I never, ever let on how panicked and terrified I was to gain weight and join the group of humans that had obviously no self-control and dignity and no right to take up so much space in the world.

During dinner, when I had to live with my father and my overweight stepmother when I was a teenager, my dad told me that he had gotten into a shuffle in the subway. He was full of pride when he relayed his triumph:

“I was pissed that there was standing room only and when I saw this fat cow taking up two seats, I asked her politely if she had paid for two tickets. Of course she snapped at me, how to mind my own business, but I got right into her face and ordered her to get up and make room for others who had paid their fair share. Half the wagon got into it and agreed with me. She heaved herself out of he seat and out at the next station. Everybody was laughing. What a hoot that was and best of all, I got a seat!” he boasted.

Not funny, you asshole.  I kept that thought to myself and pushed the food on my plate around, high on diet pills, supplied by my grandmother, who was always on a diet.

Finally, alone at home, I did not have to keep the show of being a normal eater going. I prepared and ate such enormous amounts of food, plates and pots lined up in front of me before I sat down to read fashion-and literary magazines, and book after book; well written, convincing, intellectual and smart books and articles about politics, global warming, conspiracy theories and manifestos that would scare me to tears without the buffer of food between me and the information I was able to inhale and comprehend. I was able to focus and read difficult to understand information because I was stuffing my face with my drug that kept me emotionally just removed enough, to read on for hours.

I was very well read and informed during those years and could join just about every conversation. People thought about me as smart and intelligent and were in awe of the amount of knowledge I could provide during every discussion.

During those reading-and food sessions, I had to get up every twenty minutes or so to rid myself of the food I shoveled into me without tasting anything. Then I would go back to my books and magazines as if nothing had happened and keep going until I would either pass out from fatigue or because there was nothing left to eat.

I had heard of people who would eat what they threw up and that really grossed me out. I would never do THAT. That would be really sick and I was not that crazy. No, not me.

Until one day, I was out of food and sneaked to my neighbor’s trashcan to look for leftovers. They were spoiled and disgusting, but what did it matter? It would not be long enough inside my stomach to do any damage. I ate green bagels, gruesomely covered with fungus and rotting chicken wings, spoiled cheese and once – be still, me heart, I came across a half eaten birthday cake, fresh and moist, dripping with rich frosting and sugary letters on top. All I had to do was scrape off the drips of candle wax and – hell, what’s wrong with eating a perfectly good birthday cake from a trashcan?

I was sick a lot during those years, going from doctor to doctor, from quacks to healers, always complaining about the fatigue and the bloating of my hands and my stomach and the paralyzing depression that I could not explain.

Even during my pregnancy, I was binging and purging day after day, racked by guilt and fear of what this would do to my unborn baby. But no matter how firm my promises and decisions would be every morning to stop and eat like a normal person – by noon, I’d find myself shuffling tuna, corn and beans from the can, not even bothering to use a plate. I was a hopeless case of an addicted women, so out of control, that nothing, not even the concern about my baby, could keep me from gorging myself with food I did, for the most part, not even like or enjoy.

Then, after almost 19 years of this insanity, I stopped.

I was on an airplane, returning from New Delhi where I had spent two weeks in a factory, designing my new collection. The night before I left, I looked at the samples I was about to bring back to my business partners and knew with squeezy and shaky certainty, that each one of those dresses and tops I had worked so hard on, sucked and would certainly be rejected and ridiculed by my nasty French Business Partners. After I packed the ill-fated samples and my belongings, I called and ordered room service.

The cart with covered dishes arrived, complete with a set of four plates and I signed the check, made out to my room that was paid by my partners.

“Where is your company?” the polite and quite attractive waiter asked as he laid out the feast.

“They are on their way” I smiled “leave the covers on to keep it warm, they are delayed by an accident on the main road”

“As you wish, mam” the waiter smiled back and handed me the room-bill to sign.

“Would you like me to keep you company until they arrive?” he winked.

“No, no, it’s quite all right, they’ll be here any moment” I flirted back. Get the fuck out of here you smuck and give me space to do what I need to do.

He finally left and I sat down to my lonely dinner, not even bothering to get to the bathroom a few feet away to throw up in between stuffing the excellently prepared cuisine down my throat. I used the flimsy wastebasket to get rid off the shrimp and lamb, the chutney and rice to make room for more. I tried to pace myself and at least enjoy the excellent and quite expensive meal for four, but it took less than an hour until it was all gone. Now what?

My fear and apprehension about the ill-fated samples in my suitcase stuck to my brainpan like the sticky mango-rice I could not vomit up, no matter how deep I stuck the hotel supplied toothbrush down my raw and bleeding throat.

I woke up bloated and fat, tired and so depressed, that I could not even look at the array of empty dishes, covering every surface of my beautiful hotel room.  To the cleaning personal it must have looked like the end of a decadent party and I dropped a handful of Rupees and Dollars on the nightstand before I rolled out of the room, dragging my overstuffed suitcase out to the waiting taxi cab.

I did not know this then, but for reasons that I still don’t understand, this hotel-orgy was to be my last binge.

On the airplane, I asked the stewardess to remove my tray with gloppy and over-salted grub after a few bites. I snaked my way through a crowded isle to the dirty, piss smelling lavatory and before I could bend over to relieve myself of the few bites I had eaten, a vision of an enormous, old-fashioned picturesque scale with grains on both sides of the scale in perfect balance appeared between my face and the dirty toilet. It stopped me cold. I saw this scale and in a vividly bright and eerily colorful vision, I imagined how my self-destructive action would add the one grain to cause the scale to tip over, causing a horrible earthquake, floods and worldwide destruction.

The precarious balance of our earth, already tipping towards irreversible damage and death was just one grain away from total annihilation and adding that grain would be my fault. Shivers ran down my spine and I sat down to pee. A wave of diarrhea gripped my body and I sat there for what seemed like hours, wracked with cramps and fear.

When I was finally able to get up, I had decided not to be the cause of the destruction of the world that was after all, home to my daughter and my friends.

I retuned to me seat. For the first time in 19 years, I had left a toilet without vomiting. A sense of peace and calm enveloped me and I joined a conversation between a professor of art who flew back after evaluating a collection of antique paintings and a women who had just gone through a serious cleansing process in one of the many ashrams in the South of India.

When I arrived in Los Angeles, I stepped into a limousine my wealthy boyfriend (and almost husband) had arranged for me to pick me up.

As I had expected, my partners in our fashion company rolled their eyes when I presented them with my work. I excused myself, claiming extreme fatigue from traveling and drove home to the crappy cottage cheese ceilinged apartment I had rented; so that my daughter could go to the High School she had begged me to go to for years. I felt guilty for the resentment towards my daughter, specially once she started to fuck up in school. Our house in Glassell Park, that beautiful, spacious and oh so quiet house –  my property wall was also the wall of the Forest Lawn Cemetery, so besides birds and fighting sqirrels, it was peaceful and surrounded by huge trees – quiet like a cemetary should be.  Now we lived next to the Freeway and had to sleep with earplugs.

I told my partners and their assembled wives, to go screw themselves, slammed the door to the sweaty studio without A/C and spent the next few days at my future husband’s mansion in Mt. Washington. I slept for a whole day, protected by his midnight blue black-out curtains and when I woke up, I was still in the same place about the bulimia – I was done.

I ate very little and never once threw up. We got along and were in love. I attributed this to my sudden honesty and lack of secrecy and maybe I was right – at least during those first few, almost magical days.

But I was terrified of gaining weight, I fact, I was convinced that I would certainly get fat, so fat that somebody would eventually ask me to give up my seat – not in the subway, since I never had set foot into the LA subway (except once, when the only way to get to the anti-war protest in Hollywood was by subway), but maybe somewhere else, on a plane maybe?

My solution to that phobia was to spent hours at the gym. I did not enjoy this at all – to work out, run on treadmills, doing Pilates, Yoga and swimming, because I only did it to feel good after words and to calm my overwhelming panic.

To make matters worse, my back, that had been bothering me for years, started to hurt again. I was in constant pain, probably from over-exercising and at one point; it had gotten so bad, that I was scheduled to have back surgery. Thank God I backed out of it at the last moment. But now, with my new, even more brutal and Nazi-like regime, the pain had become almost unbearable.

One Saturday afternoon, on my way downstairs to the hateful smelly locker room and the torture machines, I noticed a belly dance class going on in the big hall upstairs.

It had been a difficult and painful day so far. My new husband (we had finally gotten married after 13 years of me nagging him to) acted as if he had done me a huge favor by marrying me and I felt unloved, unwanted and alone. From the moment I woke up, I could not stop thinking about food. I needed relieve so badly. I imagined and obsessed over the almost orgasmic pleasure I would get from buying a cake at the Glendale Armenian bakery, sit down with it at my kitchen table and read all the magazines that were heaped on a huge stack of things I could not read without food. I missed reading. I missed my best and always reliable friend to provide me with comfort and ease, if only for a few hours. I knew how horrible and disappointed I would be afterwards, but the tension that had built up inside of me over the last five months was about to explode and take me down. I ate my regimented breakfast of one egg and half of a toasted bagel and took a bite out of the other half.

I chewed for a few seconds, relieve and pleasure washing over me, the trance I was so familiar with, so close and so available, almost winning, when I remembered.

What the fuck are you doing? You know where this one bite will lead to!

I spat that bite out, jumped into my workout clothes and raced down to Oak Street, to the YMCA.

I gingerly opened that door to the class in progress, guilty and scared because my new husband had told me at several occasions that “the last thing I want in my life, is a wife who belly dances”

Why? I don’t know. I was too sacred to ask. I was a co-dependant and scared little women and pretty much followed all his (sometimes quite bizarre) rules.

But as soon as I stepped into that room, I immediately fell in love. With the music, the clothes and the challenge of it. I had done ballet as a child and some go-go dancing, but I never was any good at it. I had tried Jazz- and Modern dance but quickly given up because I was to inpatient and un-coordinated to follow the simplest choreographies.

Now this wasn’t any easier either. But something inside me, the same power and determination that had kept me from being bulimic for five months by then, made me stay inside this room. I was totally bad at it, I could not even make a turn without bumping into somebody and I was anything but graceful. I was a wooden stick figure, ungraceful and ugly. Every glance into the huge mirror reflected a stupid and ridiculous creature back to me, an untalented creep who drew undisguised contempt from the other dancers and what had to be annoyed disgust from the pretty and snake-like moving teacher.

But I stayed. I tried. And suddenly, that one step and move that looked like I could never do, would never be able to conquer fell into place. I was doing it! Damn it, I did that little combination without stumbling and falling over my own feet.

I dared to take a closer look at the teacher. Something about her felt familiar. Her voice? Her dark hair with the bangs that fell over her eyes? That small, but curvy little body, clad in tights and a shimmering hip scarf?

Before I could figure it out, she walked over to me, took my hand and announced to the rest of the class: “This is Monah Li, one of my oldest and dearest friends in the world. Please welcome her. I am so happy to see you here!”

Oh my God! Now I remembered her. Eloise, the long time girlfriend of my ex husband, the father of my daughter. I had stolen him from her, just as he came out from rehab. He was the most beautiful man I had ever seen, a Billy Idol, but way more attractive and hot. We fell in love immediately and the little fact that he had a girlfriend, who had been standing by him through the years of his heroin addiction, was nothing but a small nuisance to me. I stared at her with ill-disguised contempt, when she came by our loft to pick up the furniture she considered hers. It bothered me and creeped me out that she looked like my twin – the same haircut, the same short and fragile figure, the same slightly slanted dark eyes and the same high cheekbones. She made me feel like a slut.

The whole situation was weird and I felt guilty and awkward. It got even more uncomfortable when she started to cry and I fled outside. Through the closed door I heard her sobs.

“Why do you have to do this? I’ve waited for years for you to get clean and now you just exchange me for somebody who looks just like me. What is wrong with me that you have to leave me like that?”

“I’m sorry, Eloise. It’s not your fault. You are the perfect woman, the best girlfriend I deserved. But I’ve fallen in love with Monah and we are getting married in May. I’m sorry,” he mumbled.

I listened with me ear pressed to the door and when she started to smash his dishes, I ran off. To the Japanese Supermarket, a few blocks away, where I cowered in the French Bakery, stuffing myself with croissants and macaroons until I felt like the Michelin-Man and ran off to find the bathroom in the mall.

When I returned to our loft, the massive antique kitchen table and a chest of drawers were gone.  Clothes piled up on he floor and shards of smashed dishes covered the concrete floor. Peter was bent over a pile of broken plates, pushing them onto a dustpan.

“Let me help you with this” I said and pushed him away, grabbing a broom.

‘No, this isn’t your fault. I’m taking care of this” he said gently and continued the clean up.

“I know it’s not my fault, but let me help you”

“No” he said with unusual sternness. “Come back in an hour”

“I’m staying, Peter.”

He looked up, tears clinging to his lashes and I was sure I’d never felt such love for anybody. We moved to the bed, tearing each other’s clothes off.

Hours later, the mess was still there. It didn’t bother us anymore. It took a few days until we cleaned up and shoved the broken plates and glasses into the trashcan.

Now, almost 20 years later, this same women offers me, not exactly friendship, but kindness and welcomes me into her class. I start to go to every one of her classes, two times a week for two hours and slowly, but steadily, I learn the moves that save my life.

Speed Kills “Showrooms of Perfection”

26 07 2011

I am still new in America, barely speaking English yet,  but I have already managed to get myself strung out on crystal meth . What started out as a diet to lose the weight I’ve put on since I got here,   has now become a full-time job. As soon as I try to go a day or two without it, I immediately get out of control with food. I don’t like to be on speed, but I see no other way to stay skinny.

One of my  dealers, Bruce, lives on Benton Way, in a dilapidated house that is supposed to be a sober-living home. At least 30 people live here, in makeshift tents and behind blankets strung up to provide some privacy. It stinks of piss and dirty socks and spoiled cat food. I have actually watched one of the inhabitants eat out of a cat-food can.

Everybody seems very old. At least 30. Everybody scams all day for drugs, for cigarettes, for money and food. I love that I look so good compared to these freaks. Bruce’s wife, Fifi, is grotesquely obese, despite her little habit of shooting speed in her feet all day long. Her ankles, at this point, resemble purple tree stumps. “I used to be a bikini dancer,” she whines to me every time I stop by. “Sure you were, honey,” I say. We have the same conversation over and over. I know my lines.

Bruce makes Fifi leave their corner whenever I show up. Given the amount of speed he consumes, I imagine his penis must have shrunk to the size of a doorbell; still, he has developed a serious crush on me. Part of the deal is that I shoot up and hang out a little bit, just to be nice. As an addict, it’s part of the job description: hanging out with people you wouldn’t be caught dead with if you didn’t need what they were selling to make it through the day — or the next five minutes. The problem is that Bruce has gotten so interested in me that I might have to start buying from the other weirdoes in the house, like “face-pick” Jimmy and his sister, Doe, a skeletal woman who’s either 29 or 90 — there’s just no way to tell. Speed has leeched her of everything but cheekbones, skin and eyes, like a demented Keene painting.

One Friday evening, I arrive at the house to find Bruce on the sidewalk, twitching and pacing, having a vertical seizure, if there is such a thing. “Gimme a ride, gimme a ride!” he chatters at me. His breath reminds me of the time a rat died under my sink. “I gotta pick up some awesome product. It’ll scald your brain!” He looks more fucked up than usual: sunken eyes, feathery spit-flecks stuck to the corner of his mouth.

Once in the car, I realize that his body odor is even worse than his breath. I roll down all the windows, but it doesn’t help. Even worse, he is so wasted he doesn’t know where he is going. “Bruce, how long have you been up this time?” I ask him. I know that he prides himself on staying awake for days, sometimes weeks at a time.

“16 — no, 17 days,” he sputters proudly. “But I’m losing it . . . keep seeing these giant ants. Goddamn it, Monah, turn here, you stupid bitch.” We are on Rampart, turning into a tiny, barely lit street called Dillon.

“Hey!” he says, suddenly swinging his ferretlike head in my direction. “Let’s get a motel room after we cop! You and me, we’ve had it coming for a long time. I see how you look at me. You want me, don’t you?” Before I can think of a response, he blathers on.

“I’ll pay for the room, baby, I’ll take care of you. Look! Look at all my cash!” He reaches into one pocket, then into his other pocket, into both his boots, then again his front pocket. Each time he comes up empty-handed, he looks at me. He pats himself frantically, like a man putting out a fire. “You whore, you fucking, low-life witch! You stole my money! Fourteen-hundred-and-twenty-three bucks. You fucking took it, didn’t you?”

I manage to stay calm and keep driving. “How the fuck could I have stolen your cash?” I ask him. “You just got into the car. I haven’t even been close enough to touch you.”

“You’re a witch!” he shrieks, his voice so high he sounds like an old woman. “You’re a witch, everybody says so. You can steal by thinking about it. You took it with your thoughts, you voodoo whore! You used your fucking brainwaves, I can feel it! Bitch, give me back my money, or I’ll kill you.”

If I didn’t need the speed, I would laugh in his face. “Listen, man, I don’t have your money,” I say. “But I’m gonna be nice. I’ll drive you back and you can check the house. You probably left it in a drawer.”

I don’t know if he can even hear me — his eyes keep rolling back. He sinks down in his seat, and I figure he’s played out for a while. But I when I turn down another dark street, he lurches across the seat and grabs my neck. The car swerves crazily. I try to hold on to the steering wheel while he yanks my hair. I manage to drive the car back to the curb without hitting anything and screech to a stop.

“Let go of me, you asshole!” I stick my face into his when I yell and he backs off. I can hear the freeway close by, but the street we’re on now is deserted. I’m scared, but not of him — what scares me is that I might not get my drugs.

By now, Bruce is foaming at the mouth. Literally. “I’ll kill you,” he says, spraying my face, “even if you do give me my money back. You hear me? I loved you and you ripped me off. You’re going to die!” Now he squeezes my throat again. I can barely move. “Fuck you!” I manage to scream, taking a swipe at him. My rhinestone ring jabs him under his eye. He loosens his grip for a second, and I twist around and kick him between the legs. I worry that he likes it. But he cries out in pain, and I slip out from his hands.

“Are you gonna behave now, asshole?” I wanna kick him out and step on him, but I haven’t given up hope of scoring some extra-good shit tonight. I give him another chance.

“What’s it gonna be, Bruce baby? Answer, or get out!”

“Okay,” he mumbles, like a sullen child, and off we go again. He stares down at his rotting tennis shoes.

Back on Benton Way, the first thing I see when I pull up to the house is a fat wad of cash in the gutter. “Look!” I yell. “There’s your fucking money, you retard. Get the fuck out and pick it up. And never ask me for a ride again!” I expect Bruce to jump out to grab the money. Amazingly, he stays stuck to his seat and stares at me. “You still took it. I know you did. You put it back with your brain-rays ’cause you got scared.”

“Listen,” I say. “Just pick up your money and let’s fucking go! Open the door, pick up the cash, get in again, close the door and let’s get rolling.” He won’t move. I reach over him, careful not to touch his skin or clothes, and open the car door. Finally, like some kind of stroke victim, he drags one leg, then the other out of my car. It takes him forever. As he bends forward, I hear a metallic clunk on the asphalt and see the gun, a cheap-looking thing that looks made of tin. It’s dropped out of his coat pocket and bounced under my car.

Fuck that. Without thinking, I step on the gas and peel out of there. In the rear-view mirror I watch him fall on his face, flailing for his piece. My knees shake, and I have to stop around the next corner. My heart’s beating so loudly I can hear it in my head, and I squeeze my temples with both hands. It hits me, out of nowhere: Not having to do all this shit would not be such a bad idea. But I know that if I stop taking speed now, I’ll be tired for the rest of my life. I’ll end up looking like that fat girl who sat beside me at my first, and last, N.A. meeting. This girl was twice as big as Mama Cass, but beautiful. Breathtaking, even.

I’m not ready to be that “but you have such a pretty face” girl. It is not an option. I’ll stay fucked up and keep my figure. I just hope to hell I can score from somebody else at the house tomorrow — without running into Bruce.

On my way to the non-recovery house the next day, I sense something bad. But I’m a speed freak — I always sense something bad. When I get to Benton Way, the house is in an uproar. The police and paramedics have just left, along with the ambulance. Everybody is talking at once, and everybody is so freaked it takes a few minutes before I can find out what happened.

At last, Doe, the soulful skeleton, gives me an update. “This new girl, Miranda, came over to get some product from Bruce. They got into an argument — she said he was selling her baking soda — and then, boom! He shot her. Just like that. She flew straight across the room, like that girl in The Exorcist.” She hops back and forth in little circles as she talks. I have to fight to keep from hitting her to make her stop.

“I knew that would happen someday,” she goes on. “He quit the skag and hasn’t been the same since. At least on heroin, you’re relaxed, you know? Fucking crank makes everybody crazy.” I agree, profoundly, and leave immediately to get some more.

BULIMIA SATURDAY “Showrooms of Perfection”

14 07 2011


I wake up skinny and full of life. A whole Saturday to myself! My plans are plentiful. An Alanon meeting at noon – because Peter is in rehab, I’m told to go to this fellowship, but I think why? I have to go to yet another 12-step group because he has a problem? I’m resentful about another obligation, but I go anyway. Afterword’s I am supposed to do my fashion- market research, which consists of going to all the stores that carry my line and catch up on inspiration. I always walk away with new ideas from those trips and can’t wait to get home to work. At night I will meet a few girlfriends to see a movie and have dinner with. I have a full and exciting Saturday in front of me.

The woman who leads the meeting looks like me, a little bit too much like me. Sure enough, when I get a closer look, I realize that she is Peter’s ex-girlfriend. The last time I saw her was at our loft, when she picked up a few pieces of furniture that she said belonged to her. I was shocked when I saw her: she looked like my twin. So was she.

She stepped outside with Peter and I heard her crying as soon as the door closed behind her. I didn’t want to hear them argue, but she raised her voice as her sobbing turned to screams and I felt empathy and sorrow for her. She was the kind of girl I would like to be friends with.

“You replace me with somebody who looks almost exactly like me? What is wrong with you? I’ve waited for eight years, patiently and faithful for you to get clean. And a soon as you are, you leave me for her?”

“Shh. Please keep your voice down”, he whispered, “I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you, it just happened. I fell in love with her, what can I say?”

“But why?” she yelled “Why her? Why not a tall blond one? Why not me? I’ve been a good girlfriend to you. I took care of you. Why?”

I stumbled into the bedroom and crawled under the blanket. I didn’t want to hear this. Peter was the love of my life and I totally trusted him.

Of course, this happened before he had to go back to rehab.

Now this girl, who hates me, leads the meeting. I sink deeper into my seat. I want to leave, but that would draw too much attention in this quiet room, so I stay.

When it is break-time, she walks right up to me. I brace myself. But to my total surprise, she hugs me and looks me straight in the face while she holds both my hands in hers.

“Welcome” she says and then we both break into tears. We hold on to each other while we cry. She gently takes my face into her hands and wipes my tears with her sleeve. I’m in love with this girl. I can’t believe how graceful and generous she is when she introduces me to an endless row of women who all welcome me.

This isn’t so bad after all. I know I will come back here.

After the meeting a few of us go for breakfast and I exchange numbers with other women. I do need this support. The last few weeks have been hell for me. I’m down to 90 lbs and shaky from the worries and fears that he might die before getting into Impact.

But as soon as I get home, instead of dressing up to go on my research trip, I start to cook. I steam a few pounds of broccoli – what can go wrong with this? I’m hungry and broccoli is obviously not a binge-food.

But I am dead wrong. After the first innocent bowl of it, I start to add butter and Parmesan to the next bowl. I scarf it down and reach for a slice of bread to dunk it into the sauce at the bottom of the now delicious dish. Before my next conscious thought makes its way up to my brain, I have devoured half a loaf of bread and a quarter of butter. The broccoli wilts in the pot while I rip open a bag of oatmeal cookies.

A few magazines, a few trips to the bathroom and a few hours later, I’m way too wiped out to go to the stores I planned to visit. I feel fat and bloated and there is nothing left to eat in the house.

 No big deal, I’ll go tomorrow, I promise, I just get more food – nothing to binge on, just so I have something to eat and I still can make it to movie night with Carla and the girls.

I drive to Echo Park – the closest market – and stock up on groceries, normal stuff, healthy food, nothing suspicious, and nothing that will get me into trouble and drive home again.

As soon as I’m alone with my purchases, I check out. Hours later, I’m still glued to the kitchen table, an oil-smeared book spread out next to a plate heaped with pasta, poppy seeds and sugar. A disgusting combination, but it tastes so good. By now I’ve puked at least ten times. I’m high. Not on a good high that makes me feel courageous and adventurous, just woozy and out of it. I’m so removed from myself and my sense of time, that when Carla calls to say that she is on her way to pick me up, I’m startled.

“I’m so sorry. I was just about to call you,” I stammer, “I don’t think I can make it. I got some kind of bug and feel like crap. I’ve been throwing up all day” No shit. You’re not even lying. “I need to take it easy and relax” I say.

“No wonder.” Carla says with concern and care in her voice “You’ve been through hell for the last few weeks. Do you want me to come over with chicken soup? We could just hang out and talk, maybe watch TV?” she offers.

Damn. That would indeed be nice. I feel unspeakably lonely, now that I hear her voice. I need human contact. I need to get up from that fucking table, clean my vomit stained toilet and stop the insane waste of money, food and my health. But I can’t.

“That’s really sweet of you” I manage to say “But I think I would feel horrible if I made you catch what I have” No kidding, you crazy sick bitch, nobody wants to live like this. “I better go to bed and try to sleep it off. Can we talk tomorrow?”

“You’re sure you’re okay alone?” she asks, “I’m not worried about germs and bugs. You shouldn’t be alone in times like this.”

“No really” I sigh, “I just want to go to sleep. I’m sorry to flake out on you. Rain check? Please!”

As soon as she hangs up, I dress in my biggest jeans and drive to East LA, to a Ralphs on First street.

I spend another $80 on food that will end up in the toilet. It is way after midnight, when I finally wash my face, stuff the empty remains and packages of the food that made contact with my stomach for minutes and take the elevator down to the trash bins.

I am exhausted and my whole body shakes with a sugar rush tremor. Sweat drenches my filthy t-shirt and my cheeks are blotchy and hot. I am too tired t take a shower and barely make it back upstairs. On my way to the bedroom, I spot the pot with the now yellow and mushy broccoli. I pour some olive oil, salt and garlic powder on top of it and shovel the whole revolting mess into my now freezing body. The toilet bowl spins when I bend over it, but I’m on automatic pilot and don’t miss a drop when I puke it all up. But then, before I can even pull the handle to wash it down, I pass out.

That’s what you wanted, you retarded cow, to die next to the toilet, filled with gross and disgusting shit!

I come to, pull myself up and flush and try to crawl out of this neon filled room that smells like vomit and death, but I don’t have the strength. I curl up on the bathroom mat and hug my knees.

Why do I do this? I had a whole day, a whole god-given day to enjoy and to live my beautiful life. There are people who starve right around the corner and what do I do? Eat and throw up all day. I need help. I really need help. This isn’t fun anymore. This is hell. I hate myself.

I rock myself into a hate filled half-sleep. I feel like crying, but I’m way too far away from myself right now. And who’d care anyway? I’m alone. No, I’m far from being alone. I’m in a grave of my own choice. I might as well be dead. There is no help for people like me. I’m a worthless waste of a human being. No, wait; human? What’s human about spending 20 hours eating, shopping, purging and shopping, eating and purging again and again? You call that human? No animal would do that. Nobody would do that. So many of my friends are dying from AIDS and they do a much better job clinging to life that I do. I don’t deserve to live. I’m nothing but a piece of shit, letting everybody down, wasting opportunities and priceless hours of life.

I don’t know how long I lay there, curled up, berating myself and freezing. Eventually, I make it to my bed and pull the covers over my head.

Tomorrow will be a better day.

Out of Control “Showrooms of Perfection”

8 07 2011


Finally, about a month later, they have a bed for Peter at Impact. I pack him into the car and get on the 110 Fwy. He is very quiet and looks very unhappy – I know the feeling; I know how it feels to get dropped off at rehab, the hopelessness, the fear and ambivalence to leave your best and most reliable friend behind. As if he was a child, I buckle him into the seatbelt and he just sits there, gloomy and sad.

Suddenly, in the middle lane of the 110, he rips the car door open and leans out. I swerve and try to pull him back inside, but we are going 65 and I barely manage to hold on to his shirt as he leans out farther and farther.

“What the hell are you doing?” I scream at his dangerously bent over shell off a once vibrant man.

“I might as well die,” he whispers. When the fuck did he unbuckle his seatbelt?

We are in the middle lane of the tight 110 Fwy with cars whooshing by on both sides of us. He’s really gonna jump out.

With a sudden jolt of strength, the kind of adrenaline energy that allows a mother to lift a car off her trapped child, I pull him back and slam the door shut – all the while keeping the car in a straight line.

“What the fuck was that about? Put your seatbelt on. Now!” I bark. Now that the moment is over, I feel my nerves scramble and my whole body trembles. But I’m not gonna let him see this.

“You fucking asshole. After all the shit you put me through, you want to kill yourself in front of me? Get a grip”

He leans back in his seat, his face a white and haggard mask. I can barely hear his mumbling.

“I can’t live with what I’ve done to you. You’re better off without me”

“Bullshit. I love you. Don’t you dare to do anything like that again. I should have put you in the back seat with the child safety lock.”

“I am so sorry” he stammers and I put my hand on his thigh.

“It’s going to be Okay, baby. You know the deal, a few days of misery and then you’ll be so glad to be off this shit, not having to hassle anymore, being human again.” I’m still shaking, but by now we are almost there.

I drop him off at Impact, fill out sheets and sheets of paperwork and get to say one last good-bye to him. I’m so sad; I can barely get out without bawling. I really love this man and don’t want to be without him. But at the same time, knowing that he is safe now, without a loaded gun in his truck and the always possible overdose, I feel relieve wash over me like a shot of heroin when I slam the door of my car and get the hell out of there.

Back at the loft, my three employees – two Spanish seamstresses who pretend not to speak or understand English and a cutter, Loretta, one of my AA friends pretend that they don’t know that I have just dropped my charming and always friendly husband off at rehab.

Loretta knows what’s going on. She was the one who caught him stealing my checkbook when I allowed him to take a shower. There is no point hiding from her and the seamstresses know too. I can tell from their concerned faces and I do understand the word “loca”.

By the time, they finally leave at 4 pm; I can barely wait to close the door behind them.

“Do you want to talk?” Loretta asks after the seamstresses have packed up their lunch utensils and run off to catch the bus.

I know I need to talk. I’m totally confused about what I feel. But I know what I need more right now: a trip to the insanely expensive Japanese shopping center a few blocks away.

“No. Not today. I need to lie down. But thank you, Loretta” I lie.

“You know you can call me anytime and I’ll see you tonight at the meeting. Take it easy, promise?” her concern is real and I feel like a traitor and cheater when I turn around, rubbing my eyes and pretend to be on my way to our bedroom.

Fucking bitch, leave! Or I’ll have to grab you and throw your fat ass out. Get out of my face, you overly concerned gossip cunt. I need to be alone, can’t you see that?

“See you tonight. And thanks for everything.” I manage to say as I disappear behind the quilted room divider that separates my workspace from our private isle of comfort.

I count to twenty and then I’m off. With my purse, stuffed with cash and my naked legs inside rough combat boots, I rush down the stairs and hop in my car.

As soon as I enter the Japanese market, the usual shame creeps up inside me. Compared to American Markets where big people load their carts with junk and sodas, the shopping women here are all Asian, thin and thoughtful, their carts light with fish and carefully selected vegetables.

When I pull up with my filled to the rim shopping basket, I feel the eyes of the cashier on me. As she tallies up my selection of cookies, ice-cream, way overpriced imported Japanese jam, white bread, a pound of butter and three bags of strange looking chips, I breathe a silent thank-you for the fact that she doesn’t speak English and even if she did, her Japanese politeness would prevent her form comments I’ve heard way too often before:

Once in a fast food Chinese crap take-out place, the cashier who handled my order of four family sized boxes of Orange Chicken and Teriyaki Beef with two boxes of rice, looked at me and smiled: “You good eater” and giggled as she shoved my purchases across the counter.

“Me? Ha-ha. This is for a party” I replied, “Do I look like I could eat all this alone?”

“No. You small women. But good eater”

For good measure, she stuffed a handful of at least a dozen chopsticks into my bag.

If I didn’t need that stuff so badly, after waiting in line forever, I would have loved to slam all those boxes behind the counter and in her face. But of course, I didn’t. Instead, I slipped out of there as fast as I could, crossing this MSG poison hut off my list of possible binge score places.

Back in the loft, I spread my drugs out in front of me and tuck into hastily prepared sandwiches, dripping with jam and butter, stuffing myself with cookies while the toaster roasts more slices of bread. I can’t bear to wait for a second without filling my mouth with whatever I just bought. It doesn’t take long until I’m full. I vomit quickly into the toilet and when I’m done, I hear the familiar click of the toaster. Yay, more bread!

The phone rings and I let it go to the answering machine. With my mouth full, I listen to a message from a store that asks how soon I can deliver ten, no, even better, 20 more of my dresses. I’ll get back to that later.

I have a fashion magazine spread out where I eat and I read every article, every ad and every comment. When I get to the fashion section, I have to go puke again. The adrenaline rush that always follows the purge lasts just long enough to look at the gorgeous models in their gorgeous dresses, placed between props and creative back grounds, their long hair whirling and floating by an invisible wind machine. Some day soon, those dresses will be mine; I am convinced until my rush ebbs off. I turn the pages, impressed and dwarfed by the beauty and perfection of the shoot.

Dream on. Vogue doesn’t ever look at designs from LA and even if they did, I couldn’t hold a candle to this kind of polished and mercilessly shiny paradise.


Back to more toast. I flip through more fashion shoots without really looking and rest my mind on articles about Psychology and Art instead. Then I find a book I’ve just started to read, a difficult to read literary journey into a doomed stalker affair in England. As long as I eat, I can follow and appreciate the delicate and really smart literal spins and thoughts and I almost finish the book, when I realize that it is almost 8 pm – time for my AA meeting. Most of the food is gone anyway and I rush to get dressed, put on make-up and when I look in the mirror before storming out, I look skinny and pretty, normal, just like a successful fashion designer who has just worked all day and is ready to meet her friends.

I’m late to the meeting and soon, a biting hunger grasps my stomach. During the break, I assure everyone that Peter is safe, that I am so happy that he is finally at rehab and that, yes, it’s the disease….blablabla. I actually like all those people and that’s why I go, even though I know I’m not an alcoholic. I’ve tried Overeaters Anonymous, but compared to Silverlake and Hollywood AA, those meetings are pathetic and really uncool. There is nobody there I’d spend one extra minute with. No way.

After the break, I listen to the speaker for a few minutes, before I drift off into phantasies of Cool Whip and Cereal. I know that Ralphs is still open.

I spend another $50 on binge food and head home. By the time, everything is gone, it is 4.30 am. But I force myself to stuff every empty package and box, every evidence of my out-of-control addiction into a trash bag and take the elevator down to the parking lot with the dumpsters.

I wipe the table and counters, spray and scrub the toilet and fall exhausted into my bed. I don’t have the energy to wash my face, take my cloths off or brush my teeth.

I have to be up and be the confident boss of my company at 9 am and like every other day for the last year, I manage to do just that.


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