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My Roommate

by Cklara Moradian, 16, Reseda, California

I can almost picture it, every time I close my eyes—I can see, feel, smell, and almost even touch the room, the imaginary room in the residential clinic. I somehow even know my roommate, the anorexic victim whom I envy. Sometimes the picture becomes so clear that my jealousy towards my imaginary roommate makes me furious—I could almost hate her!

The perfection of her destruction makes me feel weak, for her bones so visible under bare skin remind me that I did not have enough strength to starve.

It's dinner time. My roommate is anxious. Everyday at dinner time she is anxious, these are the worst moments of her existence!

She is gazing at the locked windows, which never open for the fear that our insanity might win over, and we will decide to escape life by flying out of the window. We are on the 13th floor of a psychiatric hospital.

She looks at me with her sunken eyes. I know well the poisoned thoughts that are running through her mind.

"Will you do this for me, this once, please?" she says quietly, not because she doesn't want anyone to hear, but because she is so weak that her voice hardly comes out. "I'll do anything to repay you," she says desperately.

I believe her, she would do anything...

She barely ever speaks—the silent lethal destruction has made her too weak. She is out of breath after uttering two short sentences. I think that her weakness is far more due to her enslavement to an unreachable perfection than a physical weakness.

Suddenly I feel heavy—I feel like I have just put on a ton of weight.

"I can't!" I tell her sympathetically. "I can't contribute to your destruction."

Her tears roll down her pale ghostly cheeks—my words had cut a wound within her weak heart. She is so small, so fragile...

I look in the plastic mirror upon our padded walls. I am not allowed to have a real mirror or anything sharp from glass to lead pencils, to shavers, to anything that can be used for self-mutilation. The walls and the floors are even padded so that we don't hit our heads anywhere during our moments of insanity. My food is served for me, and I can only refill once so that I don't binge. I can't buy more than one item from the vending machines in between meal times. I'm followed to the bathrooms, like so many of the "guests" hospitalized in this clinic. They fear we will vomit vanity, though I refuse to starve.

My roommate is served too so that she will receive the necessary amount of calories, but ironically she is allowed to refill as many times as she wants. She is also followed to the bathrooms, for her empty stomach vomits her madness upon the toilet sink.

I shiver from the lack of choices, the lack of freedom.

I look back at the mirror; I've turned into a fat, hairy, useless cow.

I know what I have to do; I know well what my roommate wants me to do. Selfishness finally wins over, and I look back at her teary eyes, nod with heavy guilt, and begin to cry.

She has leaned towards the wall for support, but now she straightens herself up with a great effort, and gives me a faint smile with her colorless dried lips.

I help her stand and walk to the cafeteria. I am holding a walking skeleton!

In slow motion we sit on our usual seats, both aware of the sin are about to commit.

My food is served for me. 600 calories, 150 calories from the orange juice we have to drink. I stare at my plate—I have no appetite, but I begin to eat anyways, slowly at first but then without a moment of pause. I can't taste anything, but it doesn't really matter. I know the nurses will come to check on us in five minutes, so I finish fast. I look at my roommate, her food untouched; the dark circles around her eyes have grown wide. She is having a hard time sitting on the cushioned chairs. The IV on her left arm is running out of batteries. I stand up and change our plates—now it looks like I haven't touched my food. I start eating again, another 600 calories. I watch her, from the corner of my hungry eyes, slowly stand and walk towards the cafeteria. She can barely hold the plastic plate in her hands. I keep my mind on the food I cannot taste. The nurses come; I try to slow down, pretending everything is ok. They know nothing; they never have a clue about anything until it is too late...

I see one of the nurses bring my roommate back, her plate full. She makes a great effort to move her sealed lips and with unbearable weakness says, "I've decided to eat again." Then she leans back on the chair, breathless, exhausted. That day she has spoken more than she has in the four weeks I have been here, and her last sentence is perhaps the biggest lie she has ever uttered in the name of perfection. I am ashamed that I am part of it. The guilt is thickening upon my shoulders, but it doesn't stop me.

The nurse smiles at her, and says with great enthusiasm, "Great! We are all so proud of you!" How much more ignorant can their blind pride be?

When the nurse leaves, I am finished with my second serving; I stand and exchange our plates again. It looks like for the first time in two years she has finished her food at dinner time. I don't look at her, I just shove down another 600 calories in silence and disgust. I stand and run to the cafeteria for my refill, and I come back and begin eating again—another 600 calories, in front of a creature who is too bony to be called a human.

...Five minutes later, I am in the hall buying a cup of noodles from the vending machine, another 200 calories swallowed without a taste or thought. No one there to follow, I begin running towards the bathroom, my bitter tears rolling down.

Only the padded bathroom walls, the plastic mirrors, and the plastic sink are there. I kneel on the cold floor and put my fingers in my throat. It isn't easy—I haven't tasted the acid in four weeks—but then it all starts coming out. I continue to vomit until nothing but a mixture of acid and blood comes out. I fall on the bathroom floor, exhausted, was ted by my own greed. I begin coughing, over and over, but only the walls hear my silent cries. I manage to get back to my room; she is there, under two blankets, still shivering from the lack of heat in her flesh. She is barely visible, vanishing through the air. I think I look as disgusting as I feel, for she looks startled when she sees me.

"Where are the shavers they give you when you take a shower?" I ask. I don't want to lose a second, I can't. The voices in my head are returning and the haunting thoughts are piercing within my veins, tattooing pain. She shakes her head in slow motion, for now she is too weak to move. "You said you'll do anything I ask," I almost yell! "You said you'll do anything" I repeat, this time gently, ashamed of being angry at such a small and weak creature. She points at her closet. I run to it, pushing the doors open and looking back at her. She points at her medicine box. It is locked for the obvious reason that we might overdose. She whispers the code number for the lock. I open it. Prozac, Zoloft, PRNs, Lorazepam, and several other antidepressants are there. The shavers are there too. I take two and close the box, smiling in a maddening manner—I am a child again, stealing sugar candies. I can feel the fear in my roommate's eyes without even glancing upon her. I think, at that moment, she is as scared of me as I am of myself. I break the shavers, taking the three razors out of each and putting them in my palm. I squeeze my hands and feel an arrow shoot through my heart. I run to the bathroom, and open my grip, the red dripping on the white of the plastic sink...

I take one of the shavers and delicately, as if I am preparing to create an artistic masterpiece, begin to cut on my arms little marks, straight lines, geometric figures...all the while staring at the girl in the mirror, wondering, who she is? She with her expressionless indifference, she with her numb vacuum of emotions, who is she?

It takes a long time for my arms to stop bleeding, so I have to sit in the cold bathroom, still tasting the mixture of acid and blood on my lips!

Somehow I am able to get back to my room. She is awake. Despite her fatigue she has stayed up. Five minutes are left until the "light turn off time"—she is usually fast asleep by now. She smiles a weak smile of relief. I think she thought they would find me dead on the bathroom floor.

"Don't worry, I'm fine." Then after a long silence I say, "Thank you."

"Thank you," she whispers.

I change to go to bed. The cuts are burning their mark on my arms so perfectly. We are both chained to self-destruction...

I take a deep breath, the first one in the past four weeks that I have been imprisoned in the name of recovery.

I lie on my pillow and cry myself into a dead silent sleep. I don't get to say goodnight to my roommate!

In the middle of the night I wake up with sudden sounds of shouts and noises. I open my eyes and see the nurses and doctors on the other side of the padded room by my roommate's bed. They always come to check on us at night, but the confusing figures mean there is something wrong. The same nurse that had helped my roommate sit down on her seat this afternoon comes and holds my hand and takes me to another room. She puts me in an unfamiliar bed, with sheets that smell like hospitals. I suddenly know what has happened. My roommate has disappeared, vanished like smoke in the air, become too small to be found within her thick blankets. She has defied gravity—the laws no longer apply. Now she can walk on the virgin snow and her footsteps will not be seen. Now she can walk amongst a crowd and she will not be noticed, she has reached perfection!

I begin to cry uncontrollably. Confused, guilty, I fall asleep again only to awake in the morning and see myself in the plastic mirror and realize that I am a murderer...

I start shivering and drop on the floor—the room is not padded. I begin to cry and shout, no longer in silence. I never meant to hurt her!

I think the nurses hear me that time, for they put me back in bed. I am given some kind of pill, for I fall asleep again.

When I wake up, it is noon, the sun shining through the fake barred windows of the clinic, creating an ironic mockery of the whole situation. There is a cold breakfast on a tray next to my bed. God I hate food!

I am taken to group therapy, but as usual I decide not to speak. I find out though that she has died of heart failure. Some of the other "guests" are crying.

"Perhaps," I say to myself, "a bite of food would have made a difference, given her another day."

I am taken to art therapy. I only use the color red, except I do remember that the color of red on the sink was darker than that on my white paper.

I'm given my medications. I don't swallow them!

I am taken to my therapist for my usual session. I tell her everything that happened last night, and I tell her that I killed my roommate. She only tells me that everything will be ok, the sentence I so often hear from people who cannot find anything else to say.

All afternoon I wait for the police to come and arrest me, but no one comes. My things are brought to me in the unfamiliar room. They found the razors! No one asks for an explanation, no one questions me, but I am to be watched more closely. How ignorant they are, they never know anything...

Do they think that by locking us in a building with padded walls and plastic mirrors, by monitoring the amounts of calories we eat and burn, by injecting their medication through our veins, they can keep us safe from ourselves? Do they think that by taking our weapons away, we'll be safe? Do they not see that we ourselves are the weapons?

They never realized that my vanishing roommate threw her food in her underwear while the nurses were not looking. She barely ever took a bite!

They never realized that even when I was watched too closely to cut myself, I was biting my fingers so hard they would bleed. Only the padded walls knew, only the plastic mirrors saw, only the bathroom flushes heard our cries...

After the disappearance of my roommate, I give myself the silence treatment. I am never prosecuted nor punished for contributing to her death, for her murder. I always find a way to punish myself though for sins others refuse to see.

After a while even the clinic can't help me, and I am sent home to create more misery for my desperate parents. If I am afraid of someone or something, they make me feel safe; if someone is hurting me, they can call the police, get a restraining order, move to another country, gate our house; but what can they do when it is myself I am haunted by? Wha t can they do when it is myself I fear the most?

I barely ever speak; perhaps I too have become too weak to speak. I continue the inevitable self-prosecution until my body becomes so numb that no pain can be felt...

The telephone ring wakes me up from my dream, but come to think of it, it wasn't a dream—I just lived a life I never want to imagine again. So I look at myself in the real mirrors, the mirrors of the cold mosaic bathroom of my house, and I ask who am I, my roommate or me? Which road will I choose to take, my roommate's or mine? Which destruction will I be chained to? Where will I be imprisoned? Will I allow myself to be the slave of an unrealistic perfection as well?

Humans often fear being hurt by others in both an emotional and a physical way, but I think they never realize that the biggest fear of all is when one is afraid of oneself!

Unless I break the lethal silence, unless I ask for help, I will always be haunted by myself! Unless I try, and I want to be ok, I will become another roommate in another hospital.

If you are going through a hard time, if you are struggling with yourself and the world, tell someone! They are there for you.

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