Toilets, trashcans and how to be sorry

24 09 2011

FOOD, TOILETS AND TRASHCANS

We sit down in a both at Musso’s and Frank’s. My hands shake and my artfully applied eye makeup is a runny mess. I need a drink. But that’s unimaginable.
Were the master AA couple. People are in awe of my husband who is sweating profoundly because he has ADD and is medicated more then adequatelty with pure pharmacy Amphetamines.

I’ve dreaded this couple-)date for weeks. Any time we leave our house , the chances that we return as a couple afterwords are not good.
My boyfriend of too many light is red, oh yes! Because both windows are decorated in MY Designs. My work. Exactly the same stuff robbing his sanity now.

He sees it too and grumbles.
Just before the light turns green, he slams his forehead once more
” I can’t do it. I need an elegant wife comfy in a wellcut simple dress, not a freak bathing in attention any chance she gets ” he says this with an expression that makes him look 90 years old after biting into an extra hot peppe r. Suffering, plagued and not able to let me go for longer then a day, two max.
This we have in common. Besides books, it’s the only interest we share.

The valet Parker hands me a tissue and I rush into the ladies room.
When I return, Payne beams
” you know, this guy here, This legendary director knows beauty when he sees it. He almost had a coronary whe you walked in. He thinks you’re achingly beautiful” he turns to the lion maned legend, firmly patting his arm,
” you’re ok now, man? Your sure?”

HIS dining companions are a celebrated an respected director of real Hollywood movies ( no indies at this table) , a famous costum designer and her bear of a boyfriend. He’s sexy. Not handsome, but hot. The kind of guy dragging the woman of his choice away from a loveless marriage – he’s an animal man. He smelled that there was no passion. He would change that. And he did.

They are in love. Embarrassingly so. In love with each other and as much with the predictable scandal they caused, they tell and retell and repeat the story over and over. And over.

All of them intimidate me.

But I have the best intentions  to eat like a “normal person”. So I imitate what they order. I have no idea what a normal order looks like.

Starched linen napkins, plates and nice silverware – at home, I don’t bother with niceties like that – at home, I use my sleeve to wipe my face, eat with my hands right out of the bag or pot  – and plates?  Oh man, plates are too much work to wash, so why bother?

But here, cultured and successful people everywhere, I pretend to have manners. I mean, I grew up in a civilized house hold, my dad was a judge and my mom a psychiatrist. I went not only to a catholic boarding school where I learned how to keep my arms close to my body and eat like the educated, privileged lady I was to be one day. But I learned much more when I snagged that scholarship for the international boarding school , how to be sexy and coy and how to fake what I lacked. Hand me downs from the 13 year old busty Lolitas and stuffed bras turned me into a creature that caused blue collar daddies on their way from work to crash into traffic signs.

I order a perfectly healthy, low-calorie and balanced meal and pace myself, careful not to look greedy and weird. But I barely participate in the conversation at the table – I’m too pre-occupied to make sure to stop, so there is a little bit of food on my plate left.

But like always, that hungry ghost inside me starts his shit with me. I touch my thighs and my stomach under the table and feel myself swelling into monstrous dimensions. I’m a fat pig, an overweight monster, growing from 100 pounds into 120, at least.

I have to get rid of it.

And since I will get rid of it, why not pack it in, now that it’s all over anyway. I finish what I left so politely on my plate. I’m too embarrassed to order another dish, so I grab the bread from the basket, the bread that everybody else shrinks away from as if it was poison, smear it thick with butter and olive oil and under the horrified eyes of my boyfriend, I stuff it down as slow as I can.

“I missed lunch today – busy day – and I just realize how incredibly starved I am”, I smile apologetically.

“You are not you finishing this?” I ask my already suspicious boyfriend, while I reach for his plate that has a napkin thrown over it – obviously done and ready to be taken away

“You don’t mind if I try what you had?” I already stick my fork into his tiny piece of half-eaten fish.

“No, not at all, it was delicious, but I’m full” my boyfriend remarks while everybody else watches with growing curiosity as I shovel his leftovers.

“That’s incredible! Next time I have to order this!” I lie. I don’t taste anything. I could be eating horseshit balls or cat vomit. It doesn’t matter. As long as I can go on and chew and swallow and stuff myself into oblivion.
I discover another plate that has not been eaten all the way and go for it. Fuck it. Those people don’t like me anyway. They just put up with me because I am his, the famous and charismatic guy’s date. So, yes, fuck you too.

“I’m glad you like it, it was a little to salty for me” the well mannered date of my boyfriend’s movie star friend smiles with fake kindness, when I reach for her half-eaten meal. How could anyone leave food on his or her plate – what a waste! There are people starving outside on Hollywood Boulevard. There are people starving all over in this world.
Most of all, me!

“Knock yourself out,” my boyfriend mumbles with growing embarrassment. He has experienced this before with me:

Once in an all-you-can-eat brunch buffet in Santa Barbara, I got up twelve times to refill my plate. He looked like he was going to vomit, watching me descending in an uncontrollable binge neither he or I could stop.

I finally lost control after our  three day horror vacation in a five star hotel, filled with fights and silences and make-up sex that left me angry and jealous of the obviously happy couples, that seemed to occupy all of the hotel. The tension of it all exploded when I got a look at the overflowing tables with salmon, eggs, deliciously stuffed little mushrooms and oh, the deserts!

My boyfriend lived on a strict diet of vegetarian, no fat, no sugar diet, presumably to protect his damaged Hep C liver, but I knew better: he ate like this to keep his worked out and perfectly slim body. He picked at his food, the little he choose from the way too rich offerings of the rich-people buffet.

“You are eating AT ME,” he hissed, when I returned with the fifth overflowing plate.

“Why would I do that?” I spat back, “I spent the last three days biking and swimming with hardly a bite and it’s catching up with me. Look at me! Do I look like I eat too much?”

“That’s what’s freaking me out,” he whispered with blazing eyes, trying to keep his anger under control.

“Excuse me, I have to go pee” I squeezed by him, rushing to the bathroom, my stomach a filled to the rim , an end term pregnancy ball, making me look like a skinny, in control expecting mom.

Of course, I had checked out the bathroom before, the locks, the flushing and the privacy.

I have trained myself to vomit without a noise. When I see that there is somebody in the stall next to me, I flush to scramble the sound of splashing, bend over and let it all come out. I have this insane believe, that since it is so easy, I am meant to do that. If God would not want me to do this,  it would not be that easy, I tell myself.  No big deal.  No retching and burping, just a little splash and it is all over, all gone.

But in America, toilet stalls let you see the feet of the person next to you. Why is that? Why this lack of privacy in a land of puritanical rules and PG ratings?
I don’t get it. It’s a pain in the ass, that’s what it is.  It makes it so much harder to barf when I know that my feet, turned into the wrong direction can give me away. So I taught myself to throw up sitting on the toilet with my feet turned into the same direction as the person next to me. I have to practice this skill a lot, but eventually, I manage. I’d sit all the way back on the toilet seat and throw up between my spread legs. It’s not easy, let me tell you, but years of Yoga and Pilates had made me limber and strong enough

Where there is a will there is a way, and believe me, my will is incredibly strong and unbreakable. I make sure to remove my pantyhose and panties or my jeans and I am proud to tell you that I never had an accident. No wait! Once, in a hurry, I hit my expensive La Perla panties with a stream of hot vomit. I took them off and left them in the trashcan. For the  rest of the night, I tried not to scratch my newly waxed and tender crotch inside my new jeans.

But this night, at Musso’s with that annoying lady outside, sitting there with her out-dated offerings of hairspray and deodorant, with my boyfriend taking care of the bill while I sneak off to the toilet, I realize that this toilet looks kinda old and might not be able to handle the load I’m about to let off.

I’m so full and so disgusted with myself, I don’t need one more problem, like an overflowing toilet with a bored and resentful lady, just waiting for some kind of drama to make her shift more interesting .

I flush the toilet, lift the lid of the wastebasket, that is supposed to be used for female sanitary napkins and barf inside the plastic bag that lines the trashcan..

Now, skinny again and very relieved, under a surge of adrenaline and dopamine, I’m able to return to the table and finally join the conversation, high and happy, with much more enthusiasm than before my visit to the ladies room.
Of course, this high never lasts. All too soon, I find myself hungry, shaky and desperately looking for the next food-fix.

“Damn it, I just remembered that I have a deadline for tomorrow morning, I’m so sorry, but I can’t spend the night with you today” I whisper to my boyfriend, when he is about to sign the check.

“She is so busy with fashion week,” my boyfriend tells everybody at the table “You should come to her show at the Max Factor Smashbox studios next week”

“Of course we will” the movie star grins “I would not wanna miss that”

“Sure you wouldn’t” My boyfriend says “the models are something, exquisite and they would flip out to see you there. And there is always lots of fun afterwards at the party”

The movie star’s date looks a little miffed but plays along.

“I’d love to see your fashions, I heard so much about it” she forces a smile that looks almost happy.

“I’ll make sure to tell my PR agent to save seats for you all” I promise with confidence, but my thoughts are already on the Trader Joe bagels, the cereal with full-fat milk and the cans with whipped cream I have stuffed into my fridge before the date.

But this is now way too long for me to get to. I blurt: “
“Hey, what about dessert?”

“How can you eat a whole meal and still have room for dessert?” one of the female guests asks.

“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 lie with practiced lightness in my voice. The people who have met my parents nod 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” the movie star’s date sighs.

What I fail to disclose, is that both my parents are 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.

Once, as a teenager, when I had to live with my father and my overweight stepmother, my dad told us during our usually meager dinner, 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, told me 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, huffing and shuffling her weight and got 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, after my disappointed and embarrassed boyfriend drops me off, alone at home, I don’t have to keep up the show of being a normal eater. I prepare enormous amounts of food, plates and pots lined up in front of me before I sit down to read fashion-and literary magazines; well written, convincing, intellectual and smart 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 inhale and even comprehend. I am able to focus and read difficult to understand information because I am stuffing my face with a drug that keeps me emotionally removed enough to read on for hours.

I am very well read and informed during those years and could join just about every conversation. People think about me as smart and intelligent and are in awe of the amount of knowledge I can provide at every discussion.

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

I have read about bulimics who are so desperate that they eat what they threw up and that really grosses me out.
I would never do THAT.
That would be really sick.

Until one day, I am out of food, but not ready to stop just yet.

I sneak to my neighbor’s trashcan. It is after two AM and everybody is asleep.  I find a few spoiled and disgusting leftovers that are thrown out for a reason, but what does it matter? It will not be long enough inside my stomach to do any damage. Leaning against the trashcan, I munch on green bagels, gruesomely covered with fungus and rotting chicken wings, spoiled cheese and suddenly – be still, me heart, I come across a half eaten birthday cake, fresh and moist, dripping with rich frosting and sugary letters on top. All I have to do is to scrape off the drips of candle wax. So? Hell, what’s wrong with eating a perfectly good birthday cake that somebody threw out?

I am sick a lot during those years, going from doctor to doctor, from quacks to healers, always complaining about the bloating of my hands and my stomach, the pain in my back and my kidneys and the paralyzing fatigue that makes me dizzy, tired and sometimes suicidal depressed.

Today, more than four years later, in recovery by some undeserved and wonderful grace, I always worry how to make amends to the poor fucks who had to handle the garbage bags. I imagine 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.

There are things that cannot be excused or explained.

The only thing I can do now, is to always tip generously and make sure to be extra nice to every janitor or toilet lady providing paper towels or deodorant. I leave at least two bucks even if I don’t need gum or hairspray. Sometimes, I hear the tell tale signs of some poor women throwing up in a toilet stall next to me. Their feet are always turned into the wrong direction.

I listen and am filled with gratitude and wonder that I’m not that person anymore. All I do now in a toilet is what everybody else does. I can leave without shame or fear of exploding trash bags or clogged up toilets. I don’t scarf other’s leftovers. And I can even leave food on my plate, without thinking about it.
I call this grace.

Some things cannot be explained.
But hopefully, they can be forgiven.





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