Someone To Love
The spotless surface reflects my double. I smooth my hands over my long dirty-blond hair and examine my skin, slightly jaundiced under the bathroom’s unflattering fluorescent light. The problem with mirrors is that they show me only what’s already there. It’s I who has to see the potential, who has to see how much more there is to lose. How much smaller I can be. How much closer to perfection.
Speaking of perfection: Zach Park.
He’s gorgeous. Thick dark hair tousled like he’s been lounging on the beach all day. Wide green eyes with teardrop curves that seriously make me want to stop everything and get lost in them for an eternity. I’ve had a low-key crush on him since the end of freshman year when he transferred here from a Korean private school.
I had only one class with him—the last semester of first-year English—but I doubt he remembers me. I mostly drew pictures of other people in the class on my notes to avoid looking at him too much, even though I was always listening to him. He was so well-spoken and mature. So different from the other teenage boys who seemed to be interested only in playing video games or whatever party they were planning for the weekend.
Zach actually liked talking about ideas. Whenever the teacher called on him, he would say something insightful that I’d never thought about before, and I loved when he volunteered to act out scenes from the books the class was discussing, because Zach would bring them to life. It was like whatever character he was playing had stepped off the page into the classroom and was standing in front of you.
Not that I ever really talked to him.
Today’s the day. Maybe.
I just have to pull it together for the camera, in front of all the other junior and senior girls with their immaculate hair and carefully coordinated outfits, in front of Zach and his perfect jawline and forearms. Even thinking about all of them staring at me, wondering who the loser is who wandered into their perfect midst, is enough to make me want to skip school and never come back.
I screwed things up enough my freshman year. I was dating this guy—Ollie Barrios—who was a really popular junior basketball player. I’d just lost a lot of weight and he was my first boyfriend. It felt amazing to be noticed. To be wanted—no, desired—by someone. I should have seen the red flags though. Ollie was always telling me what I should wear or who should be my friends. He’d even choose my food at restaurants.
I ended up gaining some of the weight back during the first few months of school, and Ollie dumped me. We were leaving from my house to go to the homecoming dance. Ollie stopped me before I could get in the car. “We’re not going,” he said.
“What do you mean?” I asked, thinking maybe Ollie made other plans.
“That dress makes you look like a stuffed sausage.”
“I—I can go change,” I stammered.
God. I was so stupid. That would have just been putting lipstick on a pig.
“How much weight have you gained? Ten? Fifteen pounds?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
My skin was crawling. I wanted to escape my body.
“Don’t you keep track? Most girls weigh themselves every day.”
“I’ll start eating better. Exercising,” I pleaded with him.
“Whatever, Liv. You obviously don’t care about yourself.”
He left me crying on the doorstep.
Ollie spread his version of the story around the entire school. He said our relationship wasn’t working out because he was an athlete and I wasn’t “disciplined” enough, which was obviously code for eating too much and not exercising enough. Everyone looked at me like I was the biggest loser. But Ollie was right. I was a fat cow. I immediately went on a revenge diet. I started fasting for days at a time, but then I would get so hungry that I’d binge and eat way more than any normal person should—pasta, burritos, ice cream, whatever was available—and feel so guilty about bingeing that I’d puke everything up.
I’ll never let myself gain weight again.
I’m a yo-yo girl. What goes down must come back up.
I’ve been keeping myself from bingeing pretty well the past couple of months, but I still have to purge. I hate the feeling of being full. It makes me nauseous.
I smash the gum between my teeth, partly to cover the acrid smell, but mostly to give my mouth something to do. Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. I try to push away the thoughts. I’m stronger than my hunger. I take a cleansing breath to clear my head.
Food is disgusting. It never made you happy.
I exhale slowly. My breath is my mantra. My focus.
You are not a slave to your hunger.
I’m finally ready to take on this torturous rite of passage.
I leave the bathroom and am walking around the corner of Decker Hall when a guy staring down at his phone runs into me, nearly knocking me over.
“What the hell?!” I say, then I realize I know him, a smile forming on my lips.
It’s Sam. We’ve been best friends since elementary school.
“Sorry,” he says. “I was looking for you... You left class early.”
“Obviously.” I roll my eyes and make a sarcastic face at him. “I had to prep. Don’t wanna turn out wretched in my yearbook photo.” I look down at my simple, sleeveless black dress. The color suddenly seems so wrong. “What was I thinking? I look like a vampire. And not even the cool kind.”
“Oh please,” Sam says, laughing as he puts his arm around my shoulder. “You look great.”
“Greatly appalling,” I say. “Do we have to do this?”
I twist around to look into his deep blue eyes, trying to plead with him to cut class with me, but Sam doesn’t cut class. He actually likes school. He’s really smart—I’m sure he’s going to be a genius-level scientist someday—and handsome in that geeky, still-needs-to-fill-out kind of way, but there’s no way I’m ever going to tell him that.
“Why even bother asking?” Sam says.
“Fine,” I say, moving his arm off my shoulder. “You can at least walk me over to the shark tank. And button your shirt.” I don’t even wait for him. I start doing it myself.
Just like when we were kids. They don’t go anymore, but Sam’s parents used to take me sailing with him and his older brother, James, on the weekends. I remember standing on the deck, the boat going full speed, the wind whipping my hair back and forth across my face, feeling weightless and completely free from the prison of my own body. Sam may not be the best at dressing up for yearbook photos, but he seemed so confident on those sailing trips. The way he handled the ropes so deftly, how he steered the boat with ease. I envied him, because Sam was the master of his own destiny on the water.
I miss those days.
“They’re yearbook photos. Who cares? We’re all just going to stuff them in our closets anyway,” Sam says.
“Wrong,” I say. “Yearbook photos are like diamonds. They’re forever.”
“Actually you’re wrong,” he says. “The whole concept of a yearbook is obsolete. Everyone blasts their lives on social media now, so what’s the motivation to rummage through some old book?”
He takes over buttoning his shirt when I get up to his neck.
“Have you not seen the awful yearbook photos of celebrities on the internet? Just because they’re not on social media to start with doesn’t mean they won’t end up there.”
A tie hangs limply from his pocket. “Do you know how to tie that?” I ask.