I almost didn’t post this.  It just felt a little too personal, and I don’t think it’s my best work.  I’ve been busy with longer projects for the last few weeks.  Here it is, my response to this week’s Trifecta challenge to use the third definition of animal – “3  :  a human being considered chiefly as physical or nonrational; also :  this nature” in a piece of writing no longer than 333 words.

“Drink it.”

“It’s not good for me.”

“You need it.”

“I’m fine.”

“Damnit, just drink it!”

With a hoarse growl I shove his hand away, sending foamy, brown cola sloshing all over the parking lot.

Desperate, almost defeated, he croaks, “You’re acting like an animal.”

A niggling voice tells me he’s right, that I should drink it.  But another voice roars and threatens, parroting all the lessons I learned from my mother so many years ago.

The tolerable times were when the cabinets were filled with crème pies, twinkies and cheese curls. We pretended to think she’d bought them for us, even as rushing water from the bathroom faucet muffled her retching.  At least we could hope she digested some of the calories she tried so desperately to nullify.  The frightening times were when she watched us eat our mac-n-cheese while worrying a bowl of naked lettuce with a fork that never quite made it to her mouth.  Her eyes grew as sunken and deep as her hungry temper.

Once I pinched my nine-year-old waist, lamenting, “I’m so fat!” – something I’d watched her do a million times.  I was trying on her affectation the way a toddler stumbles around in high heels.

How did I hope she’d respond?  Of course you’re not fat!  You’re beautiful! 

“You can always diet,” was what she really said.

I can’t starve myself or binge and purge; severe hypoglycemia cured that.  Still, it hasn’t cured my wariness of food, my distorted reflection, my crippling fear.

He’s back with a new can and a determined grimace.  “You need sugar and this is all we’ve got right now. Drink it.”

Hot tears stream down my face as I accept it with a trembling hand and force myself to swallow.  Eventually my blood sugar returns to normal, my mind clears, and I sheepishly mumble, “I’m sorry.”

He shakes his head, smiling wryly.  We’ve played this game before.

“Don’t you know how beautiful you are?”

No, I want to answer. I’m broken.


4 responses »

  1. I hope it was cathartic, because it is a terrific peek into the things that stay with us (we all have them, you know) and which we try to avoid passing on (so far, I haven’t done so well curbing the sarcasm my kids have picked up…)
    Glad you posted this, Jean!

  2. How deep seated are the scars that wound us -how deep-seated the fears that take root in our psyche, while we are growing up,that even after we mature,we are unable to let many of them go,or cut them off=as a result becoming as you said “broken” and forever having a low self -image/esteem!!A fabulously strong piece depicting one such facet of life!Kudos!

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