Content warning: suicide and eating disorders.
‘Wait, why can’t I see my nickname, then?’ I quickly type in. ‘Don’t I have one?’
I’ve wrongly been added to that group chat. An impostor. A third wheel. Why am I even here? This only makes things worse, it makes me start actually using Facebook, due to the fear of missing the unintelligible private jokes I’m never a part of, and the swarms of inordinate emoticons, just because. I don’t fit into that, and yet I’m there, somehow.
Everyone here has a nickname, in order to create a new identity for the context of the group. A group of friends is in itself a separate world, something I’ve never been able to fathom.
‘Do I have a nickname?’ I ask.
‘Sure,’ someone answers. Someone, an anonymous entity, as I only seem to be friends with twenty percent of the group. ‘You’re The Owl.’
The owl? Huh. Now, that’s ironic.
She looks at me with those stern, dangerous eyes of hers.
‘You have to do this. It is not a matter of discussion. In order to get your period back, you will have to gain weight.’ I hate doctors.
It is so easy for you, isn’t it? I think to myself. You’re sitting in this sickly white room, with the skeleton-white desk, and a tabula rasa, upon which all you have to do is write down the recipes for one’s health and well-being, in a foreign language, the language of pills and chemicals.
It was supposed to feel different. It was supposed to have a soundtrack in the back, and broken bones like broken bottles like brittle spirits—but all that there seems to be is pressure. My body presses itself upon me, to remind me that it’s still there, small but not nothing. My energy deficit pressures itself upon me, and transforms itself into reusable, angry energy, that I use to make fiends out of friends. People pressure themselves upon me, people who worry too much or too little, people who are just curious, or worse, those who ignore me and say nothing.
Most of all, it’s my battle between imagination and reality. In the tumult of music, I’ve convinced myself that what I’m doing has a purpose. In the ironic melancholia of books, I’ve convinced myself that what I have done serves me right and helps me define that purpose. But art is dreams, music is illusions, literature is abstractions, and life is solid and sordid, and…unsafe. It even ruins my alliterations, you see, the un-safety of it.
‘Hey, mom,’ I say when we’re in the car, ‘can we stop by The Owl today?’
‘Yeah, sure, we’ll do that on the way home,’ she says, probably thrilled that there is something I crave to such an extent, that it’s able to silence the disordered reason. Who cares that what’s allegedly making me “normal” turned out to be cake? At least I’m doing it.
Lights dimmed, check. Family’s dealt with, check (no one to disturb me). Some feel-good TV on, check. Went to the toilet beforehand, check. Sitting comfortably, check. Intake written down in my notebook, check. Tea prepared, check. What else is there, what else is there? I cannot forget anything. I’m about to escape the world for an hour and a half, who knows what sort of atrocities are able to come out of my daydream when I’m not looking? What matters most is that I’ve got my succulent, weighed, counted, accounted for, restricted-all-day for, piece of cake. From The Owl. My supposed spirit animal, my—at the risk of sounding dramatic—salvation. My safety blanket. Sibilance melts itself into my throat like a snake around my neck, a net of ssss’s, luring me into the world of delusion upon delusion. What was that bit in the song? Catch and release the lure above—
I discovered The Owl on a rainy night in the city centre. A modern day romance, between girl and sustenance, strengthened by the glimmer of the lights and the shimmering of the connections that are not hers to make anymore. The first cake I’ve tried was the Turkish one, made of a chocolate base, vanilla cream, and giant halva pieces. It cornered me into the long forgotten part of my self, the one whose love of life was filtered by the love of sugar.
What’s most striking is that I haven’t gained any weight, although at some point I was buying a quarter of an entire cake three times a week. I was having a quarter of an entire cake for dinner. And it took me an hour and a half to eat it.
There were breaks, premeditated ones, to prolong the pleasure. A toilet break, an internet search break, a thought break, a breath break. I existed solely for those four and a half hours of bliss per week.
I wonder what the future holds now, I’m thinking during my thought break. I got rid of my old stupid human follies, I started writing stories, I started thinking independently from anyone and anything (well, almost) - and what now?
Two years later.
Twenty pounds later.
One suicide attempt later.
‘Hey, mom,’ I start, reluctantly but desperately, ‘can we stop by The Owl today?’
Silence. How things change when you look differently. Before, she did not care whether or not I devoured sugar like it was mother’s milk, as long as I was eating. But now…All it takes is to be a little bigger, to grow out your heart just a little bit, to become both fragile and shielded at the same time, making people confused about who you are and where you are at this point in life.
‘You had all that cake yesterday,’ she says. ‘You shouldn’t be eating so much sugar.’
You mean, I shouldn’t be eating so much sugar, or I shouldn’t be eating so much, period?
I remember, I still remember, that charity concert. I hosted it, I raised all this money, I even performed at it, I deserved to be perceived differently. I tried rising above the material, and creating my own self above the vanities and falsities of all that humanity stands for. I fought for creativity, kindness, meaning, but I am still just a body. My mother was proud of me for a little while, but, of course, she could not ignore the fact, that on that stage, on that day, stood not a voice, a mind, but a body, with puffy cheeks (you made me do that!), puffy legs, puffy eyes.
‘No wonder they thought you were a teacher—don’t you think it would make you feel better if your face slimmed down just a bit?’
That’s funny, because what my mom usually says is that I look younger than I actually am. And suddenly I look old enough to be a teacher? Do not use my body against me, do not take advantage of whatever illusions you put into your head in order to make me change. I’m fighting enough as it is.
‘I’m going to the cinema this afternoon,’ my mom says, later that day. ‘I should be back at around 9 p.m or so.’
Perfect. That will give me enough time to go to The Owl, come back, binge on everything, purge it, get rid of all the traces, and still have some time to adjust to the reality of what I'll have left behind.
I wonder what the future holds now, I’m thinking as I’m bent over the toilet. I’m engulfed in a hideous shell, I stopped writing, I’m too misshapen to be assigned to any category, any context, any reality, any group. What now?
Two years later.
Twenty pounds back.
One move-out later.
‘So, what are your plans for the evening?’ my mom asks over the phone.
‘Oh, you know,’ I answer, while counting the last few laxatives I’ve got left, ‘the usual. I’ll watch a movie, read something.’
I wish they had The Owl in London, but they don’t, so I’m usually settling for grocery goods, as wretched as they may be.
I don’t have to feed off owls anymore, as I seemed to have become one myself. Locked in my room, too afraid to step into the kitchen I’m sharing with my roommates. I even asked my parents to send me a kettle from home, so that I don’t have to face anyone while preparing my tea.
My interest with that hazy group chat has group chat has deteriorated more and more with each year, until I forgot about the nickname they gave me altogether. I created my own nickname, so it didn’t matter anymore. But they don’t have to know about it. Starved off the world, I can’t bother myself with them. They are nothing to me. People are nothing to me.
I shiver from the injections of solitude, and I yearn for them more and more. Better than any drink or any drug I’ve ever tasted, solitude begets mania begets depression begets loneliness begets seclusion, and the circle never dares to break.
I’ve lost all the weight again. Of course I did, I’m finally living on my own, far away from the discouraging glances of everything that is certain and complete, and familiar. I am finally free to belittle myself without the help of other factors—outside of any contexts, realities, groups, and selves.
I’ve started writing again. I write album reviews, prose poems, lyrical essays, parodies of purpose, meanderings on meaning, filling everything with regretful and redundant alliterations, just because. At least I’m alone while doing that, I say to myself. At least no one interrupts me, I convince myself. I can be a night owl, a morning owl, a daydreaming owl. A dead owl. Brittle boned.
‘Don’t you feel lonely?’my mom asks, during yet another phone conversation. ‘Maybe you’d like to come home for a bit?’
What is home?
It is very easy to hide behind the “food stuff,” as I name it when I’m too afraid to call it by its proper name, when I’m trying to understand my relationship with solitude. It is very easy to fuse two significant parts of one’s life together, and pretend that they are the same thing. They are not.
One gets signs from the world in different forms, and I’ve been getting hooting signals for a long time. In primary school, trying to be the trendsetter (I’m always desperate for something), I bought an owl necklace. It jumped up and down while I walked, exemplifying the desire to get out—but get out of what, where?
And then there was the nickname.
And then there was cake.
And then there were metamorphoses.
And then there was solitude.
Lifeless and escapist, I still try to move. Forward or backwards, it’s of no importance, as long as I’m moving. Jumping up and down, trying to get out, apparently.
I stumbled upon this sentence while studying psychology a while ago: “Individuals who carried genes that promoted solitude-seeking were less likely to survive.” I can’t control genes. I can’t control the sharp pain in my stomach each time I’m faced with another human being. I don’t like Facebook, I do love cake, I despise assumptions people make about me. I despise myself for making assumptions about everyone around me.
I don’t think I’ll survive here for long. I’m alone. I don’t have a parliament of owls to stick by me, I don’t have the night to watch over me.
But what does it mean to be alone? I would be lying if I said that I don’t have any friends, or that I don’t love my family. But I would also be lying if I said that, essentially, in both nature and nurture, both in solitude and in contact, I was not alone. Maybe everyone is endlessly alone, but the world operates around the links we create, the connections we’re bound to. I don’t seem to have those.
I glue myself to pen and paper, the keyboard, the typewriter, force my fingers to dance and twirl, and break into the system of links and connections. Other times, I use my vocal cords to extend my bubble, to call out for help or understanding. Either way, fingers get tired, throat does too, and I’m gone back to wherever I came from.
So, what now? I don’t really care what the future holds, to be frank. As an incarnation of each moment, past and present, I am too much to bother with what’s still unmade. The future is simply a today of tomorrow. I am simply a parliament of the owls of each moment, each bite, each sensation, each panic attack, each smile.
And I’m fine with that.
Do I sound cold?
I am cold.
‘Why The Owl?’ I ask.
‘Oh, I don’t know,’ he answers. ‘Kind of felt fitting. Just, sort of, random.’
That was a disappointing answer. Then again, most behind-the-scenes action is dull.