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Reflections

Reflections

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Published by Ben Burr
A girl with a deadly problem, irony.
A girl with a deadly problem, irony.

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Published by: Ben Burr on Jan 11, 2010
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08/11/2010

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Ben Burr Reflections

Courtney stared at her ten-dollar lunch, wasted, at the bottom of the toilet. There was a small green bottle of mouthwash from her purse; she turned to the small picture frame-sized mirror over the sink. She gargled the minty mixture around her mouth and looked long into her own eyes, ignoring the years of irreversible damage she had done to her child-like body. She had acquired a taste for vomit. Not acquired really, she could stand it, much like a lottery winner acquires a taste for pâté or caviar. The taste could be tolerated. The method behind her madness was unclear, even to her. Her bulimia had started in the twelfth grade, immediately before prom. The dress for which she had been carelessly fitted months before was suddenly impossible to zip. Her friend Susan told her of the practice, and later instructed her. Susan was a weight-loss guru at the school, herself being addicted to Slim-Fast and smack. She even held Courtney’s hair on the first attempt, which was an altogether bad experience. Frightened at the last minute, Courtney pulled away from the toilet and proceeded to coat the front of her “Say Yes to Michigan” t-shirt with a mixture of Fritos, Mountain Dew and gummy bears. The subsequent attempts proved to be much more successful. In total, Courtney had lost ten pounds by prom time, and she never looked better than she did that night. She was a modern Cinderella. She had never been so complimented in her entire life, although never had positive reinforcement had such a negative consequence. Seven years later, she faced that mirror, still an image of beauty. But it wasn’t the outside that she had a problem with anymore. The years were beginning to take their toll. More and more, she had to work to cure what her coworkers believed to be chronic halitosis. Her molars were being eaten away by the acids from her stomach, so too was her esophagus. Frequently she suffered through what felt like heartburn or indigestion, which it was to a degree, but was totally of her own making. Framed perfectly in that mirror was a liar. How she’d kept this from Dave, she never knew. But that didn’t really matter much, now. The writing on the wall came in the form of emails and text messages, late night meetings and secretive calls. This was to be their final meal together. Her mom had told her to break up with people in a public place to avoid a scene; Dave’s mom must have told him the same. She wanted to cry, but instead, she gathered herself together and went back out to the table. He sat there, talking on his phone as he always did, never actually communicating anything, just speaking. The empty plates still lied there, reminding her of what she had just done. Both were now seated, opposite each other, looking off at happier people around them. “I suppose you know what’s coming,” Dave stuttered while looking down at his fork. “We had a good run, longer than most. I would like you to think this is my fault, but it’s not.” Courtney sat, silent. Her eyes, as empty and as blue as the sky on a late summer’s day, stare at him.

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“You never seemed to mind me; you never cared for me. I don’t want to place blame. You could have been kinder.” “I don’t know what to say. I knew this was coming. Is there someone else?” “I don’t want to discuss this here.” “So there is. Do I know her? Dave, do I know her?” “No…I don’t know. Yes, probably, yes.” “This is my fault? I’m I not pretty enough? I’m not skinny enough? What is it?” “You’re pretty, very pretty. She’s prettier. I didn’t want to have to say that, I didn’t. I know how that sounds, but it’s the truth. You always said to tell you the truth.” “The truth is that I’m not pretty enough for you.” “I wanted to just do this and part ways. I didn’t want to hurt you. I’m an animal. I’m a fucking piece of shit. Is that what you want me to say?” Immediately after Dave stopped talking, he stands up, throws money down on the table and walks away. Courtney sat, humiliated, not by the facts, by the words. She didn’t want to cry, not in public anyway. After a minute or two, she stood and walked out. At six o’clock, her stomach was howling. Eating wasn’t an option because she knew that she wouldn’t be able to keep it down. The scene from earlier kept replaying through her mind. He had been such a jerk. His character was awful, but she had known this their second date. On one channel, they were showing The Apartment. When she had been a little kid, her mom had made her watch it. The scene where Shirley MacClaine had tried to commit suicide had stuck with her all of these years. Courtney walked into her bathroom, just after watching Jack Lemmon win Shirley MacClaine. Again she stared into the mirror. You can look into a million mirrors, but you’re always going to see the same thing. So many things were on the other side of that mirror. She couldn’t see them, but she knew they were there. Problems could be solved on the other side of the mirror. There was only one way to get to the other side. Her hand reached down pulled the open the drawer. A small bottle of sleeping pills looked back at her. She removed from the small amber bottle nine of the blue, horse-sized tablets. Her palm was facing heaven, one by one she swallowed them, each one becoming more difficult. She never looked at them, just gazed into her own blue, blue eyes in the mirror. The inevitable sleep was approaching and the bed seemed to be calling her name. She walked over, sat on the edge flipping through the channels. On one channel was Waterloo Bridge, the version with Vivien Leigh. As luck would have it, the moment it came on was the moment in the film where Leigh throws herself in front of a truck. Her eyes were fixed on the television Suddenly, suicide seemed like a severe and drastic solution. Her eyes, fighting to stay open, filled with fear and urgency. Extremely drowsy now, she stumbled to the bathroom, knocking over a lamp and a rocking chair that had belonged to her grandmother. In front of the toilet, she fell to her knees as if at the altar of God. She’d done this a thousand times before. Her middle and index fingers were thrust frantically down her throat. The difference now was that nothing was happening. She had become immune to them. Years of self-induced vomiting had virtually eliminated her gag reflex. Thrashing wildly about on the floor, panic was setting in. Once in middle school, when discussing ways to fake illness, she had heard that mouthwash makes you vomit.

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There was a need now to leave the cold linoleum and get her purse in the foyer. Slowly she crawled: hand, knee, hand, knee, left, right, left, right. Her strength was completely gone. She reached up to the chair and grabbed the strap, pulling everything down. The contents fell onto the ground and scattered. No mouthwash. All of a sudden she remembered it sitting on the sink in the restaurant’s restroom. She rummaged for something, anything. The carpet pressed against her left cheek. All that was there was her compact. Gradually she pried the clam-like shell open. Her eyes caught their reflection in the tiny mirror. She stared for what seemed like years until she fell asleep.

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