Disclaimer: It's not mine
Warnings: addiction, eating disorders, bodily functions, swearing, drugs, sex
I grew up in the Midwest so… cows, fried chicken, people bigger than mountains I swear, you want to know why I sometimes can't eat for days you should've seen my cousin Mary Lou. She may as well've just fried up the entire chicken, I mean the whole. damn. thing, skin on and bones in. Everyone used to call me skinny. They said it like a bad thing, like skinny was some kind of sickness and they had to fatten me up before they caught it, too.
And everyone in New York who saw the truth thought exactly the same, not that skinny is sick but that too skinny is sick. The boys rallied together to help me, what they saw as helping me.
Roger understood the best of any of them why. Roger's been "every kind of sick a person can make himself," according to Collins, so it was Roger sitting with me in the mornings. "Here, Mo." He would sit beside me on the couch, plate in hand. I made you breakfast. He never said it, never drew attention to his involvement. Just talked me through the meal, babbling about insignificant things until breakfast was gone.
After that, Collins and Benny played their parts. They distracted me for at least half an hour. We would hang out, mostly talking again about unimportant shit or Collins would bring out the weed and we would smoke some. When I was high I would stuff myself, like eat two entire sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly, plus milk. That was when we had cash, so we had food.
As for April, April-baby played her part, too. Her part was never to know. As soon as I caught on to what they were doing, I told them that.
"I don't want April to know about this," I told them.
"That's fine, Mo, it's your business," Collins said.
It was Roger who voiced what we were all thinking: "We don't want her to get the idea that this is right."
Mark kicked him, but Roger had a point. April-baby always looked up to me.
Mark's part? Why, Markie boy just took care of me. Mark made certain I knew that he cared about me. We would cuddle in bed at night and whisper sweet nothings meant for no ears but ours, feeling secret and safe and naughty and good. He would blush and smile an almost laugh and shush me if I giggled too loudly.
"Shh, shh, we don't wanna wake Benny," he would whisper, mocking the lightest sleeper.
"Sorry, Markie," I would reply, stifling giggles with the back of my hand.
Growing up in the Midwest, it's not like that. Everyone is loud and in your face. Privacy? Don't you wish. I used to puke off the highway overpass because it felt more alone there.
Sometimes I just needed to be sick.
I remember we had gone out once, the five of us, clubbing maybe or to some tapas place, where Collins, who spent a year in Southern California once teaching at the University of California at Los Angeles, would explain exactly what we were eating, which always considerably narrowed the field for me and Mark.
They couldn't monitor me in the bathroom to make sure I didn't puke, though I like to think that Collins at least had more respect for my privacy and, hell, for my dignity.
I remember, this one time, we were out and I had gotten tired, a little too much wine maybe, and I dropped out of the conversation. My stomach began to churn. Bile burned my throat and my temperature rose and I knew that I was going to make myself throw up.
Roger saw it, too. "Maureen, you… you don't look so good," he said. Everyone expressed concern. I had been doing so well lately, and Roger salvaged that. He said, "You've been drinking too much. Come on, let's get you back to the loft."
He took me, just Roger. The others stayed. We insisted. It would be fine. We stumbled home with arms around waists like drunk lovers, laughing too loudly in a night too quiet, the air warm and heavy and rank with the smells emitted by the cars that gave us cricket-song.
He was using by then, but I didn't know. Roger led me into the loft and I guess about that point he realized that there was a toilet here, too. "Come lay down," he said.
Roger's room was not exactly clean, but he kept his paraphernalia in a shoebox well away from the bed where he helped me lay down. "There we go," he said. He had had his share of wine, too. I smelled it on him. He laid down next to me and brushed my hair with his fingers. I liked his touch. "Why d'you do it, Mo?" he asked me quietly.
"Why do you do this?" I asked, running my fingertips along his forearm. It was not sensual.
"You're too good to starve yourself."
"I don't wanna be good, I wanna be beautiful."
He kissed my forehead. "You couldn't not be beautiful if you tried."
"Roger Davis, are you challenging me?"
He was frank and kind, and he talked me into a comfortable sleep.
The next thing I knew, Roger was sprawled on the ground and Mark was standing over him, shouting and kicking him. "Get up! I'll fucking kill you, get up!"
"Hey-- Mark--" Benny stood in the doorway, watching this. He tried to stop it, but he stayed away. I was too tired and drunk to know what was going on.
Mark pulled Roger to his feet. Roger was bleeding already, lightly, from the nose. "Why?" Mark demanded. And then he shouted it: "Why!" He pushed Roger against the wall.
"Mark, stop," Roger panted. "Nothing happened--"
"Fuck you!" Mark punched his face. I screamed. "Fuck you! You can have anyone you want, why would you do that? You're a real shitty friend, you know that?" he shouted. He hit him again, in the stomach this time. Roger cringed and whimpered, but he didn't fight back.
"Mark, please," Roger begged. "Listen to me. Maureen and I--"
So that was what he thought. "Mark, I would never--"
Three things happened within a split second of one another: first, Collins and April wandered in, talking but I bet even they don't know what about. Collins always liked April. Second, Mark kneed Roger in the groin. And third, I screamed.
"Mark, what the hell?" Collins pulled him away from Roger.
"He fucked Maureen!" Mark shouted.
"No he didn't!" I shouted back.
Everyone was shouting. Collins was angry with Mark. Mark was angry with me and with Roger. April, the same. Benny was urging everyone to calm down and I was shouting at Mark that he had no right to say that, that I would never cheat on him (I did, later), and that Roger would never do that to him.
Roger alone remained calm, shaking his head. He had crumpled to his knees. His mouth was open and bleeding, and all he could do was shake his head. His face was white as a sheet.
I ended up in Mark's bed that night, assuring him that I would never cheat on him. April disappeared. I later learned that she took her first shot that night, Roger's drugs, up on the roof. Benny had disappeared, too, downstairs though we didn't know that yet. Collins took care of Roger.
"You okay, man?"
"Here, this'll keep the swelling down."
"Do you believe it?"
"Yes, I do. You put the thing on your jaw and you can eat tomorrow. You don't, it swells up like a tennis ball."
"I mean about me and Maureen. And you know it."
A pause, then, "Roger…"
"Well, did you?"
"No! I would never do that."
"Then I believe you."
We have break-ups in the Midwest, too. They're simple. You just kick him out of your trailer.
To be continued!