by: Sue J.A. Walter
That’s the problem with the internet. Old pictures seem to be there, hanging like a chime on the corner of your rain gutter; out of your eye and mind, until the wind snaps back. You’re forced to see them; it’s the jolt of instinct. There’s no telling when they will surface either, one of your friends from high school feels sentimental, finds some old files, gets their hands on a scanner somehow. They’re up on your newsfeed, within the hour you have racked through your Facebook photos twice. There on your Myspace, your LiveJournal, Xanga, maybe you thought they were gone by now. They aren’t. You look at them sometimes, on a rare night.
I’m in my shower, looking down, and it has been half a decade. I live around 2,200 miles away from my parent’s house but I am in that old shower with the calcified head spitting steaming hot water, staring down at my freshly carved legs. My left thigh, under where saw– I believed– rolls of fat developing, there are cuts are on my hips so when I cinch in my belt I could really feel it. I’m in my shower, in my apartment that I rent with my money from my job, I’m now an adult, and the scars from that time are unthinkable let alone visible; the only ones that you can see a hint of, I covered with a tattoo. I can see them cleary. I click through them like a set of photos.
The problem with the internet, in reality, is my problem. Not entirely my problem, many people have and do share it. Binge eating, being too busy to eat some days, keeping up with multiple sports and always training through off seasons, eating just enough, eating too much, till I am beyond full, till it hurts, using laxatives, occasionally to frequently and in varied amounts, to keep up appearances in every sense of the word.
I still live with my eating disorder, my cutting, I’ve been safe for less than a handful of years. Feels like longer, it shouldn’t be treated as such though. One look at my old pictures, and I am trying to change my initial response, to them. I am trying to see the action or the pose or what this picture is of.
Less than a few years, I am trying to fully recover though therapy and consciousness, staying mindful and expressing myself, maybe I’ll use a joke or two at my expense—that’s not really the best way yet though, its all too fresh. Less than a handful of years and I am trying not to see, when I look at an old picture of myself, how much I struggled for a body. A body. An attractive, a streamlined, body. My body to me used to have to be disciplined to just reach what I though was functional, on par with others. Who could have told me that iI was beautiful, that I am beautiful now, I wouldn’t have listened. I took compliments in a broken stride, my head dipped, thanklessly with disbelief.
I am trying to see what a picture of me in High School or college is of. It’s that golden hour on the beach, a smile new to encroaching stubble. It’s an 8 frame shot on a plastic camera where I am jumping off a statue in my old red pants and a Don’t Mess With Texas T-shirt billowing in the wind, up, up, revealing a flattened belly that I couldn’t see. It’s every inch of plaid I wore and an Italian racing jersey and blue sunglasses and damn I couldn’t call them style mistakes now because it took so much courage to be that authentically ridiculous. It’s everything I feared was unruly, took up too much space and held me low, slow, unable to ever be as graceful as my teammates, my friends, competitors, family, even strangers.
I don’t see the red pants, hating that my thighs for being too thick for them, I don’t see my neck craning dotted with juvenile razor burn out, an arc out of a just-on-the-wrong-side-of-tight T-Shirt, I don’t see that vest reaching to just above my waist, can’t feel my hands searching, tugging, impulsively, down, down to cover myself.
I don’t see all that first. I don’t want to see all that anymore. That’s the rest of my problem. The act of finding what I can see instead. A young man, dressed in something louder than a sound with a mismatched tie or worn out shoes or some ski wear from the 70s, putting evey bit of light in his heart into each action, each captured frame. He doesn’t know any other way to live yet. This is the problem I am bending into light.
Sue J.A. Walter is a man about town.