She knows that somewhere along the line something about her changed, but that won't stop her because she is invincible.
But even invincible people can shatter, can't they?
Au bout du fossé, la culbute.
Pride comes before fall.
It's hard, he would tell her. It's hard to live in a world where society is what it is. She would stare at his eyes as they filled with this sort of emptiness that she knew by heart, the piercing green fading into a dim peridot. He would lightly finger the wide leather bracelets that covered his wrists and it gave it away to her all too soon.
She didn't even need to see the glimpse of puffy and reddening skin around the bright scars because she just knew.
And before she could form some sort of jumbled thought in her head, the bell would ring through her ears and he would be walking, walking, walking away from safety.
Feelings turn into thoughts. Thoughts turn into words. Words become sentences. One sentence could save him. She could save him. But Jenna would stutter on her own selfish thoughts and by the time she had anything coherent to say, there was no one left around her. And finally, it registers, he is gone.
But he will not be gone forever, right? That is the one string that keeps her held to the ground. Nothing bad will happen today. It won't happen. He won't die. It will be okay.
She has no words left to say.
Somewhere along the line, she realizes that it's up to her.
And maybe it's not, but Jenna feels as if it is her job to save him. It's her job to make sure that he will be okay, and that nothing will hurt him anymore. She will take responsibility for him. She will take care of him.
Somewhere along the line, she realizes that it may just be love.
He walks her home that day, but she tells herself that it is the other way around. She is trying. She is doing every possible thing that she can to make sure he is okay and is not going to die.
It's a quiet walk. The summer heat is slowly creeping away as autumn starts to change the leaves from green to the beautiful browns and golds. For Jenna, it's sad. The trees will soon start dying, and no living thing deserves to die. Her thoughts turn to the boy who is walking with her, but not next to her. There is too much space between them. He hates her, he hates her, he hates
"It's hard to imagine anyone dying, right?" Words lump in her throat, choking her. "It's hard to imagine," chuckle, "life without certain people there next to you." He stares into the sky, and she can no longer hear the particular thump of his sneakers against pavement.
So quickly, she feels a rush of cold. Not the type of cold on the outside, but the inside. It wraps around her bones and runs through her veins and she can't feel anymore and the sun is dimming and oh god, why him?
"It's hard to imagine suicide."
Jenna is retching. All of a sudden her stomach is up heaving and she pushes past Adam, hurling herself at the ground. She hears his body thud against the concrete and feels her knees slam down into the solid sidewalk, before vomit travels up her throat and launches itself out of her mouth. She presses an arm into her stomach to keep the half digested food from staying in her stomach cavity.
There is scrambling of feet before she feels a hand on her back, rubbing it, and she can feel her long hair sliding from her face and being held up out of her way. He is shushing her, telling her its okay, but it's not. It's not okay. At all.
The taste is rotten in her mouth. Not just the sour vomit, but the words she is trying to process. Combining the two make her want to vomit again, so she does. Her body lurches at the pool that sits in the grass as the contents of her stomach empty once more. Adam continues to rub her back, cooing at her in a soft voice.
But she doesn't want this. She is supposed to be taking care of him, not the other way around. Jenna hates this.
She lashes out at him, pushing him away as she wipes her mouth with the back of her hand. Her mumbled threats are ignored as he just goes back to patting her gently, but once again she pushes him away and stands up.
"I'm fine," she mumbles, but the look on her face is a dead giveaway. Something is not right. With her, with him, with the world. This is not good. This is not right. She tells him she can make it home the rest of the way, and she walks, walks, walks away from him, into the burning sun.
She will not see him for a few days after this.
There is one thing she realizes by the time she seeks him out again. It is something she is not proud of, but it isn't a big deal. It's not a problem.
She likes the feeling of having an empty stomach. Of purging. It makes her happy.
But it's not a problem. She doesn't have a problem. She's just a bit weighed down. She needs to lose weight, that's all. It's fine. She's fine.
He comments that day in class that she's a little pale. Jenna snaps at him to mind his own business, and that is that. But as the day wears on, she asks herself what she has done. She is supposed to be protecting this fragile child. This boy who is weeping so much he makes himself feel pain.
Suicide. The word echoes in her head. She has to protect him at all costs. She cannot be too careful and cannot be too careless. She has to do anything and everything in her power to makes sure that he will be stable at some point this year.
She will force herself for him.
Lunch comes far too quickly for Jenna's liking. She is not hungry, but the school is making her eat at an hour when she will just gain weight. Gaining weight is not allowed, she reminds herself throughout the day.
If she is weighed down by food, how can she protect Adam? How can she fight off his fears and make sure that he is not hurting if she is not light? She can't. That's the only answer she can provide herself with. She can't.
Her normal seat by him is empty, as usual, and she gracefully lowers herself to the cafeteria chair. Though it is not at all graceful, she pounds it into her head that she must be graceful at all times. Even though she isn't light now, she will at least pretend to be. She will trick herself into thinking she is.
They give each other a nod, and Jenna watches as he pulls out his lunch: a sandwich, apple, and bottle of water. How regular. The only thing out of place is when he stretches out his arm, his bracelets pull back just a tad and she can see the fresh red plumes of blood that push against his healing skin. Her stomach rolls again.
The small pear she had brought for lunch suddenly disgusts her, and she snarls at it before pushing herself from the table and tossing it in a nearby garbage can. Adam looks confused.
"I'm not hungry," she shrugs, and places a hand on her belly. She can feel the acid rising, wanting food, needing food. She smiles.
She has to be light.
The one thing she forgets to multiply into her near flawless plan was her parents and their Wednesday night dinners.
It was the same every week. When the day rolled around, her mom would stay home all day fixing the same extravagant meal of roasted chicken and creamy mashed potatoes with five different types of expensive cheese. There were freshly made rolls, steaming hot, brown gravy in a silver server, steamed broccoli and carrots, and so many different sides. Not to mention there was still dessert.
There was never any change in her family. Mother would make a huge dinner for three, Father would comment on how lovely it tasted, even though it was always good, and Daughter would nod politely, as if she wasn't connected to this family at all.
Because she wasn't.
Jenna doesn't open the door right away when she gets home. Her four-year-old-but-still-works backpack is slung over her right shoulder, resting against her hip. There is a breeze around her that flitters through her blonde hair and makes the wind-chime sing. Her vision is blurry.
She can hear her mother humming from the window that is cracked just an inch to let the fall air into the probably scorching kitchen. At the same time, she can also smell the food. Although it's a delicious scent, her stomach rolls over twice and she holds back her vomit. Barely.
Then, she's walking in. The fumes hit her straight on and Jenna gags, stumbling slightly. She wipes away the reflex tears with her index fingers, then takes a deep breath and continues in.
"I'm home," she shouts, throwing her bag down onto the floor of the entryway. Her mom calls back a hello, and Jenna starts towards the dining room table out of habit. It's Wednesday, so of course she goes there first. Of course.
Her dad isn't there yet, but in about 5 minutes he'll shuffle through the door, kiss his wife on the cheek and park it down in his usual chair at the head of the table. Jenna sits on the left side facing the seat her mother will take, and already starts to dust off the glass plates and silverware that have been sitting there for hours. Her mother will always put them out first, then cook. Always.
The only thing else to keep her company is a bouquet of fake plastic tulips in the middle of the table. They're dusty and fading and smell nasty, but for some reason she feels bad for them. They've been used every Wednesday for at least a few years; they should be retired by now.
She rests her head on the table and closes her eyes. She should be retired by now.
And sometime, she feels a hand on her shoulder. Jenna's lifts her head, startled by the feeling and jumps away from her attacker. This is not routine for her.
"Whoa there, honey. You fell asleep. Did you have a bad day?" Her heart pounds as she stares at her dad, surprised. Asleep? She never falls asleep at the table.
"Oh, I No Dad, I'm fine. Don't worry about me." Sweat is pouring down her forehead and rolls down the side of her cheek. Her hand reaches to swipe it away, and she is confused. Why is she sweating? What is going on?
He nods at her. "Alright. Dinner will be in a few minutes, you know. If you don't feel good, you should sleep though. Take Wednesday off!" He chuckles to himself, as if he told the world's funniest joke. She can only force out a quiet laugh.
"Rob, leave her alone and let her do what she wants!" She turns her head to her mother who is entering the room, a full roasted chicken in hand. As usual. Jenna looks back and notices the rest of dinner is already on the table. She has obviously been sleeping a while.
As her parents launch into a full conversation, she shrinks back. The smell of food is assaulting her senses, but all she can do is gag lightly at it. Her stomach is screaming for food, but at the same time she is revolted by the sustenance.
Jenna's thoughts are jumbled as her mom picks up the plate in front of her and loads it with her favorite foods: a chicken leg, a lump of potatoes, a buttered roll, a spoonful of creamed cauliflower, and a tossed salad with clumps of bleu cheese and dressing.
It's amazing, but once again she gags and has to cover her mouth to stop vomit from coming up.
Her mother notices. "Something wrong, dear? Are you sick? You love our Wednesday dinners." The concern bothers her. It makes her feel smaller than ever and yet the comment makes her feel fatter than ever. Of course she loves the dinners. It's just more fatty food for her to consume willingly.
"I'm not really hungry," Jenna fibs, her blue eyes finding interest in the stone flooring underneath her feet. "I think I'll lie down." Before anyone can say anything else, she flees from the table and to her room.
Once there, she locks her door behind her and starts to tear her clothes off. It's almost as if she is an animal now, tearing the buttons off her collared shirt and shedding her jeans faster than ever before. Once down only to her underwear, she unwillingly scampers to her full-length mirror. Jenna stares. And she stares. And stares.
She cannot see her hipbones. There is no gap in her thighs. She cannot count her ribs. Her collarbones are hidden behind flesh. Her breasts are unshapely. And this girl of only seventeen realizes something.
She is fat.
"Things have gotten better," he laughs and takes her hand in his. "I'm not scared anymore. I'm going to face my fears and I'm going to live and laugh and love and go out with a bang." A kiss to her hand. "I
Thank you, Jenna."
"For what?" She shivers. She has done everything she can for this boy. She has loved him for so long.
"For being there for me." Adam gives her this look, and it's no longer the empty jade she is used to. It's
(something she cannot explain. She has never seen this; never directed at her.
It's different. It scares her. It intimidates her. She is so)
vibrant. Like someone has shined a light straight into his eyes. It's like he's been invigorated. Reborn. She doesn't know what to call this emotion that she sees. But it has a nice feeling. It makes her feel warm inside.
But somewhere deep in her stomach, a pit settles, and the air turns into a sudden chill. Her fingers wrap around her wrist, caressing the flesh and pulling at it absentmindedly. She is trying to look distracted. She is trying to think up something to say to him.
And then, he kisses her. And it's all over.
One would think from here the story would get better, but it doesn't.
Their relationship doesn't move anywhere. Every day she peeks at his wrists and finds no fresh lacerations. He smiles more at her. Mostly at her. He does his schoolwork and homework and participates in class like he used to.
She didn't realize how much she missed the old Adam, but she did. It had been so long since she had seen his glowing green eyes, his shining teeth, his spirit.
He hugs her a lot. Tightly. Squeezing her against him. And one day, it goes too far.
Adam embraces her to him and lifts her from the ground lightly, but she goes much farther than that. His eyes widened as he is basically carrying her, and he sets her down, a confused look marring his precious face. She gets scared.
"Lord, Jenna, I feel like I might break you in half. You're so frail," he comments, and places a hand on her shoulder, squeezing it. "God, you need to eat more. Let me buy you some dinner or"
"No!" She jumps back, turning her back to him. "I-I mean, no thanks. Mom's probably cooking dinner for me, I'm fine. See you tomorrow Adam." She can barely stutter out the lie, but it's good enough because he lets her walk away from him with only a look of complete terror mixed with worry marring his precious face.
And somehow, she knows that he knows.
Her suspicions are confirmed when he really does take her out to dinner only a night later. He's forced her into this by telling both her parents he wanted to go on a date. She's disgusted by how easily he can play them into his hands.
She has no time to rest as her mother pushes her into the bathroom, clothes she's already handpicked from Jenna's closet on her arm. Rochelle makes her try on each item she has, then picks a blue blouse with detailing, an off-white skirt that falls above her knee, and white wedges to match. She desperately tries to pull the skirt down as her mother brushes out her naturally straight hair and applies a bit of blush to her hollowed cheeks.
The comments of how thin she's gotten hangs in the air, but her mom just smiles at her, kisses her flushed cheeks and whispers to her how beautiful she looks. Jenna can only tuck her veil of hair behind her ear and stare into the mirror with disdain.
Before Adam will knock on the door, Jenna gobbles down a cherry popsicle leftover from summer.
And then her mother is pushing her out the door with grins and camera flashes.
("You will lift the toilet seat, carefully slide your fingers inside your mouth and down your throat, and puke until you see orange. The Doritos. You ate them first because you, like most bulimics, have developed a system of "markers," eating brightly colored foods first so you can tell when it's all out.")
These days, she is always cold, no matter the temperature.
Adam has to give her the jacket he brought just in case it gets too cold out. But he is confused, and she can see it clearly. It's steaming hot in the restaurant, and yet she is cold. She is cold where it wraps around her bones and squeezes into her veins and she can't escape. There is no way out of the freezing prison she has locked herself into.
The waiter comes. He orders a simple house salad and some sort of pasta dish, while she quietly asks for a salad as well.
"Is that all you'll have, ma'am?" he asks her, and she nods with a smile, but Adam refuses to let this slide.
"She'll also have the fettuccini, thank you." His green orbs bear into her dull blue ones and the waiter walks away quickly. He seems to realize trouble will arise soon. Adam takes her hand in his, but she glares at the ground. At people. At food. Jenna hates everyone and everything right now, and nothing will change that.
"You will eat dinner tonight. Most of it. You're too skinny." He does not let on that he knows, but he does. She has to be careful.
"Fine." No more conversation is shared. The silence is frightening, and she doesn't like that either. She wants him to try to talk; to try and get an actual topic on the table, but nothing happens. Their salads come first, and Jenna dumps cups and cups of Thousand Island dressing on her lettuce, showing him she is being good
(But in reality all she can see is the orange and bright green mixed together. It's perfect, right?)
And he nods. They both dig in, but Jenna knows another trick yet.
Cut it into small, small pieces. So small, but eat lots of these small portions. Push them around on your plate. Make it look eaten. Eat, eat, eat, but only small. This eliminates some of the food, but not a lot. It's the perfect illusion, and she can do it perfectly.
She shows her plate to him and it looks two-thirds eaten from, and he is proud. Adam kisses her fragile hand, and smiles at her. He whispers to her that she's doing great, and that he loves her so much. Because he does, but she can't believe it.
What he doesn't know is she's barely eaten any of it, but the plate is whisked away before he can realize.
Everything goes smooth until the pasta is brought out to them. The huge portion scares her, and she panics on the inside. Again, she starts to cut it up, but she doesn't take a bite at all. She pushes it around, hoping he won't notice, because she can already feel the food wanting to come up. It's been too long since she's eaten a stable meal.
"Here, Jenna, try this!"
Before she can even grasp what's happening, Adam stuffs a forkful of his dinner in her mouth, waiting for her answer. The only thing her brain can process is food, calories, fat, and in two seconds flat she's spit it out in her napkin. She's near tears.
"I don't like that kind of pasta," she stutters, trying to laugh it off. His face is surprised, but his eyes read something she can't explain. "Excuse me." She rises from the chair and heads to the bathroom, a hand on her stomach.
Once she's away from his sight, she runs to the ladies' room, not even checking to see if it's occupied. Thankfully, it's not, and she can barely lock the door behind her before she is hurled over the toilet and puking. She is aware her retching might be heard, but there is nothing she can do about it.
The only thing she can hear besides her insides being let out is a pounding at the door. It's Adam, she knows it. And although she's weak and doesn't want to, she lets him in, reaching to open it slightly. Then, she's vomiting again. He rubs her back and pulls her long hair away, just as he did last time.
When Jenna sees the bright red from the popsicle, she sighs in relief. It's all out, she's sure. She leans against her companion, panting and wiping her mouth. The brown haired teen stands and grabs a paper towel, wets it in the sink, then hands it to her. With thanks, she wipes her mouth with that again, getting the nasty stains from her lips.
"That's your marker, isn't it?" he asks quietly. She can only nod and wonder how he knows that.
"You have a problem."
"Why are you doing this?"
"Jenna, please stop"
"It's your fault."
The bathroom is quiet. The shock on his face is mixed with confusion and devastation. She feels terrible. "What?" She isn't sure how to explain to him what she means. Would he even understand? Would he even care?
"I mean, it's not really your fault. I had to take care of you. I pushed myself to make sure they wouldn't hurt you. Make sure you wouldn't hurt yourself. I pushed too hard, I guess. It's not a problem, though. I'm just a little sick right now. I'll get better. I'm fine."
He can say no words to her now, but gets up and punches the wall instead. Her eyes close.
Jenna shuts herself away for three weeks.
She can't handle anything that's happening in her life. There's Adam and her parents and school and love and depression and anxiety and she's fat and there is nothing she can control anymore. Everything is spiraling out of her grasp, and she hates it.
Her routine is so simple: go to school, don't talk, don't eat, go home, lock room door. There is nothing else but that. She's hurting so many people, but she doesn't care anymore. She turns away when Adam looks to her, doe eyed and devastated. What she's doing is wrong, and she knows it. But she can't help it, because there's nothing else to do.
It takes her three weeks to break.
It's a Wednesday when she brakes her silver Tahoe in front of her house, jumping out and rushing into the house. She ignores her mother's hellos and worried glances as she riffles through the kitchen drawers, looking for one thing.
It only takes her a few seconds to find the house scissors, the fluorescent lights above her glinting off the surface. Jenna takes off and her dear mother screams after her, fearing the worst.
She makes her way to the bathroom, slamming the door open and placing herself in front of her mirror. Her hands grip the sink and she takes a deep breath before closing her eyes and raising the scissors. Jenna's mom is only a few paces away, screaming at her that this was not the right choice, reaching out for the weapon in her hand.
And then, she snips.
Pieces of her waist-length blonde hair fall to the floor. She snips and snips and snips and her mother stands there in utter shock, tongue tied up in her cheek. Snip, snip, snip. Jenna can feel the strands fall from her head and slither down her body until they hit the floor. For some reason, she wants to laugh. Giggle. Chuckle. Choke.
By the time she is done, however, big fat tears are rolling down her cheeks. Ugly tears. She is ugly crying, with sobs bubbling from her throat. A hiccup follows, and she looks up into the mirror. The person staring back has ugly, choppy, hair. It's uneven and shaggy and comes up to her ear. She has bangs now, too, that cut across her eye brows. They hang slightly in her blue eyes, some of the straggly strands catching tears.
Who is this person?
Before she can crumple to the floor, she sees her mother bend down to the tiled floor quietly. She scoops the strands of gold into her cupped hands and starts to throw them away.
Seeing this makes Jenna cry harder, and she doesn't know why. A part of her is crying in desperation, she thinks; another in child-like selfishness. She doesn't understand fully what her body is doing, but she comes to a simple reasoning. She does not like it at all.
She leaves her mother cleaning up the bathroom alone and heads to her room, locking the door as usual. She strips herself of her clothes and looks into the mirror. As much as she tries, though, her eyes cannot stray from her mop of ugly blonde on her head. But Jenna launches into her nightly routine now.
Count your ribs. Examine the hip bones that thrust out from your body. Check the gap between your legs. Feel the knobs on your spine. See how far you can wrap your thumb and index finger around your wrist. Ignore the fur growing on your body. Don't touch your hair; the brittle clumps could fall out.
She isn't sure what the last straw was, exactly.
It might've been Adam. Her family. Wednesday night dinners. School. People. Her body. Life in general. She doesn't know for sure which one led her to the decision she is at, but she knows that she can't do it anymore.
Jenna's hand trembles as she signs the little sticky note, then slaps it on her mirror. One last time, she looks herself over, and comes to the same realization as always. She is ugly and fat and nothing would change. She could change nothing. She had no control over her own life.
The last thing she does before leaving the house is going to her bathroom and steps on the digital scale. She's never used it, but today is full of firsts and lasts for her. She reads: 108. Jenna blinks, then shakes her head.
And then, she's creeping out the door. It's the dead of the night, and she sneaks out too easily for her liking. No car tonight, she'd rather walk and enjoy the air. It isn't far, either. The train station is only about 5 miles from her house, and the tracks are only about a half a mile into the woods behind her. And so she walks.
It's cold; she's always too cold. She bundles her hands up into her hoodie and walks faster, trying to warm herself, but nothing will work. Her stomach hurts, but soon it won't matter, so it's okay. She dodges trees and branches and roots as she treads through the woody area. It feels like forever until she enters the clearing, where the tracks lie.
And she checks her watch. 1:26. She has four minutes. Perfect.
She's shaking. She's scared. She's excited. Jenna's stomach flutters now, and it flips when she hears the familiar sound of the train speeding through the forest. Her steps are slow and careful as she steps towards the railroad, and then she sees the train. It's rushing so fast. Wind is blowing through her hair and she closes her eyes. This is all she's ever wanted, and finally she'll get it. She's smiling.
And she opens her eyes and
(LET'S GO OUT WITHA BANG!!!
The entire city shut down on October 17th. There were no cars on the streets, and nobody was in any sort of building or house. Everyone walked to the cemetery, where the funeral was held.
Everybody came. Everybody. The entire school was there. The teachers, the principle. Even the mean, popular ones were there on that day. There wasn't enough room in the entire graveyard to hold them all; they filled the streets around it as well.
I was there, in the front. I didn't cry, even though her parents cried around me. People gave me condolences too, but I didn't care. I didn't listen.
Have you ever experienced the feeling of loving someone to a point of breaking at their expense, then having them commit suicide? No, you haven't. You hopefully never will. It doesn't even hurt. You feel empty. You feel useless and stupid and terrible and why couldn't you just save her from this.
You have no one to blame but yourself, and yet no one will let you blame you. It's horrible.
They gave speeches. About her, I mean. They told everyone there her story. Had to use a mic and a load of speakers because they wanted everyone to know her story. My story. Our story. And I think everyone cried.
They still give speeches about her. They go around to schools and talk about her. Try to help the others before they get like her, y'know? Her parents are good people. They asked me to go with them, but I'm concentrating on school now. I want to be a therapist to help people with her type of problems. That's why I'm doing it.
I'm doing it for Jenna.
We all miss you. And I love you more than ever.
Why'd you have to go?
I'm taking my test to become a doctor now. I'm so excited. I want to help all the people in the world with anorexia and bulimia and depression. I want to save them, because I couldn't save you.
I'm still sorry.
I'll leave this one on your grave so you can read it, okay?