Hovering


He had rejected her. Time continued, but not for her. She had tried all manner of manipulation; she had even starved herself because, surely, perfect beauty would catch his eye. Unquenchable tears fell .

All the hours she had spent devising ways to please him… to make him love her…  All the hours she had spent bent over a toilet until her throat bled…  All the discipline she had incurred in her search for his approval until she had collapsed… All wasted!

Now she was in the hospital with an IV in her arm and a tube to her stomach. The psychiatrist came twice a week and the pills twice a day.  And he came and said, “You got problems, baby, and I can’t handle it.” I wanted to scream, to argue, to do something other than lay here, eyes bulging like a cartoon character, tongue languid as a stone in my stupid mouth. I must have looked like a crazy person then because he turned a walked out the hospital room door. I didn’t say anything. Why didn’t I answer? I’m such a fool. I guess it was for the best. I wasn’t in my body anyway.

I hadn’t been, not for a long time. Ever since he had pushed me up against the wall outside his house. He slammed his hand over my mouth to keep me quiet. He was drunk and determined.  I’ve been hovering just over my body. Hanging, strangling, since that night.

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Miranda


Miranda sat in the soaked sand. The ocean pushed and pulled itself to shore like a candymaker ceaselessly stretching taffy. Slow raindrops pitted the beach. The cloudcover muted color and emotion. The sand on dully green shore grass stood out in still detail. The ocean leaked into a noncommittal sky. The jetties made out of blocks of pink granite blended in passively. Nothing melted the landscape’s anxious passivity. The only incongruity is an aberrant, red signpost, indelible at the waves’ edge: “DO NOT ENTER: RIP TIDES.”

She stared at the liquid slate slab and signpost before her. Sand covered her body, and her skin was stiff with salt.

            Been here all night, haven’t I, she thought.

Miranda closed her eyes and tried to let her eyeballs water themselves. She had forgotten to blink for minutes at a time throughout the night. She felt as if the surface of her eyes had hardened and shrunk like the chocolate on top of a dipped ice cream cone.

Idiot! Why are you always thinking about food?!

            I want—

            No, you don’t want. You do not want food, weakling! You’re such a pig.

            Miranda scrunched her eyes tight as insults stabbed her heart’s flesh.           

            Her head ached. She didn’t give credence to it, or tried not to. Deal with it, bitch. Headaches are nothing compared with their laughter. Tough it out. Two more days of cold-water meals will do it.

Opening her eyes, she took in the ocean. It looks like an abyss. Who in their right mind would let their child play in the water?  It enveloped one totally, obscuring the body from its own eyes, and who knows what animals lurked there, just out of sight, an inch from your vulnerable, tender skin? One waded into the vastness of the abyss like a child wading into a polluted lake on whose surface a white fish floats. She was stiff. Miranda rolled her head around her shoulders restlessly. Should she get up?

Abyss? Dead fish? You’re sounding pathetically poetic again. Why don’t you wear skinny jeans, get a ridiculous haircut, and have done? You’re pathetic. I can’t believe you.

Miranda’s head and eyes gave an extra-hard, hot throb. She put her head down on her knees that were drawn to her chest. The head roll had sent Miranda’s senses spiraling like a bird out of her body. She enjoyed the sensation, each time leaping to fly away from her prison. She had control over the images once it started, although she couldn’t know how long it would last. She floated on a breeze made of warm goose feather pillows before finding stars like crystal still scattered over the earth. Marveling at their clarity, she imagined running her fingers over the flawless surface as she circled them. Green and blue spirals erupted into the air, forming swirls and vines with leaves and little lavender flowers all over them. Some flowers danced a waltz about her, rubbing their petals softer than silk against her face. The vines dripped into a frothy, green liquid and poured into a yellow coffee cup. The gust from the liquid going to the coffee cup blew the scent of seaweed into Miranda’s nostrils, and she was back.

The voices hurled expectations harder Jolly Ranchers at her. Miranda didn’t want to open her eyes, but she shifted in her spot.

The rest of the world agrees with me.

Maybe she should run now. Burning calories was admirable and time-efficient. It beat sitting here. Baked to cracking point by her thoughts. The gravity weighed heavily on the shore like syrup in the bottle. She slogged through it on her twice-daily runs. It was like she ran from a tornado as their eyes propelled her.  They glided down the school hallways in a golden fog of royal confidence, disdainfully glaring down their noses like she inhabited a separate bubble of common, dirty air, glancing sideways at her as if they were afraid to get too close to her, the dog dung sitting next to them at the cafeteria table. If she ran fast enough, could she pop their confining bubble of expectations?

She compared her proportions against things like the cafeteria table and people’s hands, bulging backpacks and the scarred, wooden bathroom doors.
            You’re three times as wide as the bathroom door’s width! Imagine three doors standing together. That’s you. You’re huge. Fat. Awkward. Ugly.

The despair of these words sent her careening out of her body again. She hovered a hundred feet above her body and to the left. She was turned in the air toward her body. The arms were flabby and gross. They almost seemed to glow in the half-light of spotty cloudcover. Hair, dishwater blonde, flapped in an ocean draft. A white face partially showed, although her brown eyes were concealed. A double chin that would never go away no matter how radically numbers dripped like wax off the scale protruded. A t-shirt drooped over the frame like a wilted wildflower.  It still couldn’t hide her special brand of ugly. She wanted to scrape off the ugliness like she scraped icing off a slice of cake. It couldn’t hurt any more than her skin already did. Her hands and arms were thick with blood and scars. Layers of them. Blood oozed from her veins and dried there.  Proverbially. Only the sissy I-just-want-attention-cuz-I’m-angsty-and-hormonal emos cut on their arms. Mutilators, though, cut other places. The places no one saw.

Opening her eyes, she noticed the bright bits of sand that clung to her body. Sand could turn into crystal. She remembered learning that once in a junior high science class. People took sand back to a factory and created things out of it. The sand was heated and perfectly melted before it was shaped. A team of workers blew it into shapes, worked it, cut it, and cooled it. The glass needed to be constantly reheated to shape it because it cooled quickly. The heat kept it supple until it reached its final form. Her mom once had had a crystal vase full of lavender daisies. The lavender in the vase sparkled along with the crystal. It shone like a gemstone in the window’s full sunlight. The flowers had been the only bright thing in that apartment. But that was the week that… But they died. The flowers had died. They, in the crystal vase, still shone in her memory.

The waves murmured; the seagulls skittered gracefully over the sand.

Ugly is to the bone.

You’re worthless. Crude. Worthless. Awkward. Clumsy. A fool. Pig!

It could all go away.

A picture punched Miranda’s mind.

The ocean seethed. The gulls cried. The voices screamed.

A muscle in her neck jerked. Her legs lifted her.

Essay: The Pursuit of Beauty


Amazing scents meander across a well-tended garden with an irresistible and gracious allure toward their sources. Intense colors entrance the eye as the bright flowers’ faces spill eagerly out of their beds. The soil in which they rest is dark, loose, and delightful. Water and nutrients are theirs in abundance, so gaiety also pervades their world. Over time, however, as water evaporates and no gardener replaces it, flowers’ sad heads droop in weary defeat by the acrimonious sun. Their delightful soil beds dry to unsettled dust, suffocating them, and cracks like scars appear in the arid earth. Rain comes and soaks the earth, yet the earth’s scars still remain.

Growing up, I always looked for a beauty which would bring me peace. When I was in elementary school, I looked for it in flowers and nature. Deeply impressed in my childhood memories are a thousand colors and scents. During the sweltering summers, I endlessly ran the wooded trails which surrounded the pond behind my family’s house, braving all spiders, snakes, poison ivy, and thorns in search of every kind of flower my little mind could imagine. It did not matter to me what kinds or colors they were; I came tripping home each afternoon, my clothes streaked with dirt and my blonde hair disheveled, clutching fistfuls of wilted wildflowers and weeds. I held them out, my chest puffed with pride, for my mother to gaze at before I eagerly searched in the wooden cabinet underneath the kitchen sink for a vase to display my treasures. Placing them in the very center of the worn kitchen table, I would gaze in awe of how the brilliant summer sunlight shone on them through the two huge windows on either side. The saddest days to me were the days of fall and winter when I helplessly watched the vibrant, alive world around me fade to cold lifelessness. I realized anew each year that the wild beauty of the woods and flowers did not last. I continued my search for everlasting beauty.

As I entered middle school, endless campaigns arose with the intent to convince me, an awkward, confused pubescent girl, that I myself was completely beautiful, inside and out. Lindsay Kane’s song “All Beautiful” and Bethany Dillon’s song “Beautiful’ were the emotional soundtracks of my middle school years. Both in the Baptist church where I grew up and in the Christian school I attended I was told by sweet, well-meaning lady teachers that God possesses perfect beauty, and that, if I was a Christian, I was perfectly beautiful since I was in Him. Well, I didn’t know what that meant, so I said I believed it in a feeble attempt to banish the insistent, panicky self- image worries. However, as my pastor would say with a knowledgeable smile behind his bushy brown beard, “You can’t act like who you aren’t for long.”

By my sophomore year of high school, I had trapped myself in a heart-wrenching vacuum of fully grown self-hate. Rich, pretty, skeleton-thin girls around me laughed with bright eyes, light hearts, and many friends. I came to the distorted conclusion that happiness, peace and beauty lay in thinness. I was not rich, tall, blonde, or thin. The soundtrack in my mind slowly changed from the encouraging words of Bethany Dillon’s “Beautiful” to the repetition of the words “Pig, fat, lazy, worthless” like a distant cult’s hellish chant. I could not eat without a vivid vision of myself fat and ugly, and alone because of it. Every aspect of my life morphed to revolve around a crazy desire to lose weight, no matter the cost. Soon I lost thirty-five pounds through excessive exercise, starvation, and purging. I wasted away. Although I believed it would fulfill my longing for internal peace, the pursuit of physical perfection almost stole my very life.

Someone once said that the last one to know a person is anorexic is the girl herself, and it was very true for me. I will forever remember the moment in which I realized I was no longer in control of my body and my life. I slouched limply in a seat of my sophomore Spanish II class after a lunch of cold water, staring blankly at one of the colorful posters which adorned the walls. The teacher, a very white, peppy, red-haired woman from California, was discussing some facet of a recent test as she handed it back to us. I had, until then, earned a high A on every Spanish assignment and test I had ever completed whether studied for or not, but that day there it was, scrawled in green ink at the top right corner of the page – an eighty-six. The vestiges of my sane reality tumbled like rocks down the vast crevasses in my mind, slipping into a sea of despair. Spanish – the one subject in which I had always been terrific – had slipped from my grasp. My mind reeled; I could not believe it. My heart plummeted; I temporarily went insane. My mind left me and my emotions froze. Malnutrition, even though I saw her as a friend, had stolen my strength, my ability to concentrate in class, and my cherished spot on the “A” honor roll.

I discovered over time that weight loss had become an addiction. I sat at the feet of addiction, anchored by white-hot chains whose links I had forged myself. Idolatry seared my mind, spirit, and body. However, my wounds slowly repaired themselves with aid from family, friends, and mentors. Though scars always form, they form with knowledge; they are a blessing and reminder of what is behind. Scars can empower us to move forward with life, helping others with the wisdom attained from the wound. Thus it is with a happy heart that I embrace my past without compunction. After all, scars are beautiful too.