rumors have been circling through the department for a while now. drastic weight loss, unannounced nosebleeds that send me running from class, bloodshot eyes, erratic mood, manic energy. i have always stayed distanced from the other people in my major, which makes it worse – they have little to go on, so instead they spin wildly fantastic speculations.
i am a junior in college with a 3.8 GPA, i’m an RA and a tutor, and behind my back people are whispering that i have a cocaine addiction.
it’s february and bitingly cold. we have just finished a concert on campus, a performance for the incoming freshmen and their families. we sang whitacre, to this day one of my favorite pieces. the opera just closed last weekend. during production weekend i had a major meltdown and donated my hair on a whim. everything is starting to crumble, i can feel myself fraying.
i walk from the theatre to the campus grocery store. my heels are machine gun fire on the pavement. the sound singes my ears; all of my senses are heightened, acute. by the time i hit the market and draw open the door, the tremors have started. i ball my fists in the pockets of my coat, try to slow my breathing and look nonchalant.
i’m back in my room and i can’t get out of my recital blacks fast enough. dress pants and elegant top crumpled on the floor and i drag on sweats and a hoodie, thick socks. it takes five minute for me to get to the bottom of a bag of doritos. i leave orange fingerprints on the entenmann’s box as i rip it open, ignoring the perforated lines because i’m still shaking too badly and can’t be bothered, i have to open it as fast as i can and that means savagely ripping it from the first side i grab. i’m only mildly aware of what else i bought – a pint of ice cream, now soft because i forgot to put it in the freezer twenty minutes ago, honey mustard pretzels, milk, baked lays.
i launch myself out the door in a panicked fog, keep my head down and in three quick steps have plowed into the bathroom. it’s a saturday night and the dorm is nearly empty, but i still do a quick scan of the four stalls and four showers. no feet; all clear.
i don’t know how long i’m there. two people come in to use the bathroom. i pivot when i hear the door open, spin so my feet are facing the proper way, and wait. make the appropriate ‘i have shy bladder and you’re ruining my plans’ noises – a sniffle, a spin of the toilet paper roll – and after three eternities they leave.
the ice cream is still cool and the milk makes me gag even more, but finally i see orange blending in with the mess. doritos have always been my marker food. relief mixes with exhaustion and soon – minutes? a half hour? – i clean myself up, blow my nose, flush, throw my hood up, and shuffle to the sink bank. i keep my head down as i wash my hands, ignoring the sting in my scratched knuckles. out the door, three quick steps, and i’m back in the solace of my room.
the pressure in my head is almost unbearable and my eyes feel too big for their sockets. i set my alarm for 7am so that i can get to the gym right when they open at eight. i should change out of my sweats – i’m hot and shaking and probably smell like vomit – but i can’t stand the thought of seeing myself naked right now. instead i burrow under my covers, try to ignore the erratic pounding of my heart. ‘it’s fine,’ i tell myself, ‘it’s all gone. everything’s okay.’
on monday, ten minutes into choir rehearsal, my nose starts spouting like a faucet. as i rush to the bathroom i catch the smug, knowing glances passing through the soprano section.
i am a junior in college with a 3.8 GPA. i’m an RA and a tutor. and while everybody thinks i’m snorting coke, i’m actually puking myself into oblivion.