The sofa’s velvet, a rich aubergine like summertime eggplant. I run my hand across the soft nap as I take my seat. The cushions absorb my weight, embrace my hips and welcome my back. I move a throw pillow behind me, the silken finish slippery against my shirt. It takes a minute for me to get settled. My legs are crossed at the ankles. My hands rest loosely in my lap, palm down. A novice sociologist would observe my positioning and note: cautiously open.
“So tell me why you’re here,” she says as she sits down in the armchair facing me, a large area rug separates us. As I study her degree framed on the far wall, formal print noting the university, I answer.
“I think I’m fat.” I don’t have time for niceties at her hourly rate.
She cocks her head to the right, nods as she relaxes her mouth. Her lips, thin and pale, form and shape but no words exit. I sit, wait, listen to the guys working on the roof of the neighboring building. Through the open window I hear hammers pound nails, saws separate wood. Journey echoes through spurts of static.
“I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder,” I elaborate, impatient.
“Okay, how’s your relationship with food?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I glance at the bottle of Honest Tea I brought along for the session. Thirty calories.
“I’m sure I eat to comfort myself instead of solely for the sake of survival. And I suppose I binged a bunch when I was a kid. I mean, I regularly hid Entenmann’s cheese danish in my desk at home. But I’ve never purged or starved myself, if that’s what you mean.”
She lifts her pen, makes a note. I can hear the nib drag against the paper. My eyes follow the movement of her hand and I attempt to decipher, from the arc and swing of the pen, what she’s writing.
“Let’s build a foundation - tell me about your family. Parents? Siblings?”
I provide the most relevant details. Like how my father was sick by the time I was eight and that he spent most of his time working or playing sports. Parenting wasn’t really his thing unless it involved skiing or tennis. Or how my mother had me enrolled in diet plans by sixth grade, suggested and paid for liposuction when I finished college and then pointed me in the direction of Fen-Phen shortly thereafter.
“I guess the problem is that my fucked up standards aren’t really my own. Rationally I get it. But there’s still an irrational side I can’t turn off.”
The therapist continues to probe. She pushes, asking for more details. And oftentimes, when I answer, she winces. Her face pinches, her brow wrinkles. Sometimes she even finishes with a concerned “ooh” as if she can feel the blow. I am a train wreck she is witnessing, metal crashing, engines exploding. When I see her reaction, I look away.
“Paige, your mom, you know she has –”
Her voice fades as she finishes her diagnosis. Or it doesn’t fade but my ears fill with white noise. My eyes dart around the room, surveying the space, reconfirming the exit.
“It’s okay,” she continues, her voice comforting like warm milk. “You? You we can fix.”
I pinch the inside of my cheek between my teeth and saw back and forth. I can’t look up, look at her. So I cast my eyes down, observe the way my fingers knot together. Intertwined so tightly, they almost tremble. I follow the grain of my skin, observing the creases that slice across the knuckle of my thumb, and then I let go.