No, really, I mean it. And I don’t mean to stare but, but, but it’s just hard. I think she’s sick. Not disgusting – though certainly disturbing – but sick. Physically ill.
Of course, the first thought upon seeing someone whose bones threaten to undress the skin is anorexia. Bulimia. Some wasting disease that no one talks about because it’s too rare, incurable, and who wants to bring attention to the dead and dying without their permission?
And that’s the rub. There’s someone – this girl – who is clearly not well, but there’s nothing to be said or done about it, at least not by me. There’s no clear evidence of an eating disorder, and the person she’s with seems okay with her looks, and she dresses as though she’s proud of her body and, why not be? most people would say, if we were talking about someone overweight, or of average shape (whatever that is).
But that girl has no flesh on her bones. And what I mean by flesh is muscle..
And what I mean by muscle is definition.
And what I mean by definition is normalcy.
And what I mean by normalcy is accepted beauty.
And what I mean by accepted beauty is that I have no real way to judge what it is I’m seeing except in terms of failure, either my own to understand, or hers to accept the world as it is rather than something that can be controlled by what you take into your mouth.
Take it in, I want to say to her.
But I’m not talking to her, I’m talking to me. Every day, the world presents me with a new taste and, often as not, I reject it. I say, Ah, there’ll be time to get to that later. Why endure possible discomfort of dislike for the boundless limit of possible pleasure? Pleasure is theoretical, but distaste is actual.
Even now, the cat’s dead body dumped along with the rest of the trash, the smell lingers in our driveway. The flies have mostly fed and fled, their children dead, mummified bodies stuck to the interior of the garbage bin.
Even now, I’m not sure that the smell I smell when the wind clucks my chin is not memory, and that my fear of walking down to the street rests on that memory, which is to say dream, which is to say the theoretical.
In theory, there are so many possible reasons for the girl’s painfully thin body.
In actuality, my mind accepts only one.
In memory, my body recoils against entering the room where my father lies dying.
O, associative mind, you string the world like a spider’s web. The girl touches this one thin strand only for a moment, and the spider rushes out with its jaws open, ready for feasting. But the web is barren.
It has been so long.