At least in this particular blue dress Paulette feels like somebody. Like somebody Mexican or somebody Italian, harsh and wary and sullen, but nevertheless up for the fiesta like the rising moon. Like somebody Egyptian or Greek, with ancient history and temple walls could be the oldest on earth. Somebody stinging and svelte, she thinks, soulful, lyrical and rhythmic, like that ruffled gypsy girl with the steamy eyes on her phony ID, the one worth turning around for and staring long and hard at. Hopelessly hopeful as the brittle dahlia edge of joy in high winds, knocking her head against the wall. She’ll use fresh lemons squeezed on her unwashed hair and lay outside to activate it, render it even blonder by a few shades, she decides. Approaching fringe, it parts down the middle now. No more bangs. Second glance like full afternoon sun, somebody. Come to it like a sickness, yes indeed.
She’s been trying desperately to lose weight, jogging, jump-roping, doing aerobics with disco music and sweatbands, doing anything she can to create gaunt in her over-plump face. She’s been thin as a carrot stick for years. But now her hormones have made her body more like the butternut squash. So she will force herself to eat less, refuse rice and potatoes and spaghetti, bread of course too, and if she must, give it secretly to the dog waiting underneath the table. Trying to be smart about it, she quietly pushed the food around her plate, arranged and rearranged it with her fork to seem as though she was eating. She gave away every bit of her packed lunch that was not cucumber or celery, which she swears has got the negative calorie effect. Strange, to cut out almost entirely everything that you imagine makes you fat, which is just about all that you consume. And she and her father were really the only two in the family who ate fresh vegetables, so there were few of those zucchini and broccoli and cauliflower to fill the void.
Like everybody else who fancied being Twiggy, Paulette wanted a new version of herself faster than a diet could bring into being and she did not like at all the pang of hunger. So, rather than starving herself, she’d begun to eat more heartily, and then right afterward, when nobody was paying much attention, she would quietly disappear into the bathroom, lock the door, put the seat up on the toilet, stick her finger down her throat as far as she could and get rid of the food, all of it, and the hunger too. This became a ritual, or something like it, after most every meal. The senior picture, well it goes into the class yearbook, and that is forever, she thinks. Set in stone, like a dog footprint in concrete before it can dry. Nothing you can do about it then.
In November she can start eating again and stop the throwing up. It is a worthy goal, she reasons one dreary Saturday afternoon four weeks into the new school year, her last one in high school, searching through the cupboards and the fridge for anything in the kitchen without calories like lettuce that she might keep down. This morning when she’d purged breakfast, the toast with apricot jam and the fried eggs, her heart sped up dangerously and she thought more than once about it. She did not always want to be dead. Not permanently dead, anyway.