AmLit Fall 2020

Page 104

Shelby Rose

Missed Messages CW: eating disorder MOM > --------------------Today 8:40 AM I haven’t been truthful with you the past few months. Not you, not anyone. Every time I try the words stick like so much food in my throat, choking me until the moment’s passed and it’s too late to revisit the diner topic we were on before the bread went the wrong way, swallowing my words instead of being swallowed itself. -------------------Today 9:00 AM We leave the topic untouched like so much food on a plate. You let me. I’m not blaming you, or maybe I am, or maybe I’m blaming myself, or maybe I’m blaming everything. We don’t talk about it. Not even when you saw more than your 17-year-old daughter. When you saw the gaunt lines of age creased carefully into her face, like so many folds in that belonging to your mother. When the numbers listed off when, as a child, she would grip fast to your hand as the pediatrician marked her in a percentile, healthy and whole, were read out again with the doctor’s pencil falling below the line. -------------------Today 9:30 AM I love you. You love me. I think that’s why I never spoke, why you never prodded. From birth, I was your golden girl, docile and sweet when the others weren’t. Soft-spoken, sensitive. I think you worried you would lose me. It didn’t matter that you were losing me anyway, you willed yourself to ignore the physical to preserve the emotional connection we had. Even if my body wasted, no longer the chubby child you held close and read to, what you wanted most of all was to still love and be loved. I don’t blame you for that. I kept silent, allowed you to crow about how healthy your daughter was, how active, how conscientious. You did it because you loved me and somewhere I knew that to tell the truth was to become a stranger to you. -------------------Today 10:00 AM You do the perfunctory work of making appointments with a dietitian, but you’re never in the room. You can’t look it in the eyes, can’t hear it put into words that solidify its existence, make it real. I understand. It’s scary. So we don’t speak of it, pushing the topic around our plates, skirting around it even as it sits heavy between us on the table. I don’t put it into words either. Better to attribute it to stress, to an offshoot of my depression. That way it isn’t deliberate. All you have to do is reignite an interest in food, watch as the candle alights our faces in a restaurant, looking at each other but not seeing. --------------------Today 12:00 PM Haley notices. A sharp glance, blunt words–things that hurt the skin as they target the problem, rip the bandaid straight off. Maybe it’s because we’re friends in the ways siblings can be but parents can’t. Maybe it’s true that somewhere before our birth we split our souls into two, losing a part of ourselves but gaining some mythical twin sister spirit you see in cheaply put together YA fantasy novels with gaudy, glossy covers. Maybe it’s also a generational thing, the distance between Boomers and Gen-Zers. I don’t know. I do know that she notices in ways you don’t. She makes derisive comments when I put together food, something that sparks a brief and spiteful

104 / American Literary Magazine