The Room At The End Of The Hall

yvonne@attractedtoshinythings

I stood at the end of the hallway, on the other side of the cheap, hollow wooden door, my heart pounding in my throat. My mouth was dry, my palms were damp and my ears were ringing from running up 3 flights of stairs. I automatically smoothed the khaki skirt from Eddie Bauer that I'd gotten at 90% off, because my size was always the last to sell. Just leave. Turn around and get out now my brain instructed me, but instead I took a deep breath and knocked. The door opened and there she stood, smiling at me with that phony smile people have when they're just going through the motions. I wasn't fooled. I looked at her and I could tell she thought I was wrong. I also knew she wanted to take it away from me. My obsession, my strength, the thing that set me apart from anyone who couldn't say no, thank you. The thing that made me special and powerful and in control, no matter what else was happening in my life.

Refusing to make eye contact, I crossed my arms in front of me and walked across the room to sit where she motioned. Looking her over critically, I saw long, messy blond hair and a fussy, navy blue suit with gold sailor buttons and epaulets on the shoulders, close-toed navy pumps to match. She had to be joking. As she sat in her chair I couldn't help noticing her wide hips, thick calves and the way her suit jacket strained at the buttons. I noted the beginnings of a double chin and I knew just from looking at her that she had no self control whatsoever. I, on the other hand, was spare, self-controlled, self-contained, minimal.

On the windowsill next to her desk was a calculator, a set of calipers and an apple. On the wall opposite her desk was a poster of the food pyramid. The walls were painted institutional avocado green and the furniture was brown, ugly and cheap. Magnets in the shape of fruits and vegetables were stuck to the side of her metal desk. In the corner of the room I saw a white metal physician beam scale and my eyes automatically did a search and find. I found what I'd been looking for and I suddenly felt such a jolt of searing jealousy and intense hatred that I couldn't breath.

"The person in here before me weighed 84 lbs?" Bitch, bitch, bitch I thought. Three times, because odd numbers made good things happen to me.

Lisa glanced over at the scale and frowned. She zeroed the scale out and returned to her chair. "You don't miss much, do you?" she said, and then she started talking to me. I began to make a mental list of all of the foods I would not allow myself to have. This served two purposes. It blocked out the sound of her voice, but it also organized my thoughts, it reminded me that I was stronger than she was. She wasn't going to break me.

"So, you will find that we take a multi-discipline approach to treatment, and we believe in.....butter, cheese, cream, chocolate, mayonnaise, cake, pie, cookies, pasta, salad dressing....my supervisor Kim and our nutritionist Ruth will assist with....pizza, beer, fried chicken, stuffing, ice cream, peanut butter, chocolate milk, bratwurst...weekly group every Wednesday night, where you will learn about...eggs, bacon, cheeseburgers, steak, casseroles, potato soup...a disease, not about willpower when it comes to...donuts, french fries, cheesecake, beans, potato chips...do you have any questions?"

 "How long does it last? When do I get out?"

Lisa opened her mouth to speak, but just then a knock came at the door. She glanced at her watch and called out, "Come in!"

The door opened and an orderly walked in, carrying two trays. The combined odors of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans assaulted my senses, I could feel the blood leaving my face. I saw a huge piece of chocolate cake covered in thick frosting and I automatically made a circle around my left wrist with my right thumb and index finger. In the extra space I could fit 2 pencils. I was still me. 

"I'm not eating that", I spoke automatically.

"You will when you're ready", she replied calmly, unfolding her napkin and placing it in her lap. Then she smiled, "Welcome to treatment."

Not speaking, I stared past her, watching the cherry blossoms drift to the pavement below.

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