I’ve always said to anyone who’d listen: “I’ll do whatever it takes to lose weight – even if it kills me.” No one listened. No one really cared. And honestly, I couldn’t blame them. I’ve always been overweight. Overweight by a substantial margin. I just couldn’t stop eating. Everything felt like it was spinning out of control whenever my stomach was empty. It’s been like that for as long as I can remember. And for just as long, I’d hated myself for it.
Diets came and went. Atkins, Weight Watchers, paleo, Zone; just gimmicks. They’d give me a day of hope and then I’d wake up the next morning with a bottomless pit in my stomach. If I didn’t at least try to fill it, I’d want to kill myself. And God, how I wished I could have. But no. That’s not me. That’s a brave person. I’ve never been brave.
The worst part of it all was the utter lack of hope. I’d dream about a future me who’s lean and lithe and happy. But I knew with every fiber of my massive being that it was all a pathetic fantasy. I knew my habits. I knew how I operated. I’d be even bigger in a year. Bigger still in five. At the rate I was going, I wouldn’t be able to walk when I reached my 45th birthday. And I’d still lack the confidence to kill myself. I’d be trapped.
It was the image of myself confined to my bed that catalyzed my last-ditch effort to become the person I’d always wanted to be. I’d never been a sociable person. But still, I knew meeting people would be a step in the right direction. So, with a bit of effort, I started visiting various online fora and chat rooms. After a while, I connected with some people. The relationships were tenuous and fleeting, but I still felt flickers of hope that’d been impossible to experience before I set out on this mission. More time passed. I talked to a few people who could sympathize with my condition. People who actually seemed to care. And then I met Lee.
Lee understood how I felt more than I ever thought anyone could. He even lived in the same city as me. We connected on so many levels and I have to admit, I felt more attached to him than I probably should have. I’d never been in a romantic relationship before. I hadn’t even given thought to whether I was straight, gay, or anything else. Romance and sex were just so far from my mind all my life that it took until I was 37 and talking to Lee before I even considered I might be attracted to another man. The thought filled me with joy and fear. Joy because I felt normal. Normal people fall for other people. My fear, though, was nearly paralyzing. What if he grew to hate me? I am so, so hateable.
Months passed. Lee and I had agreed to meet at my apartment. We’d talked about my diet plans for weeks and I’d finally agreed to try what he’d found so successful for his own weight loss. I remember sitting down on my toilet with the tiny, sharp wire brush and wincing as I used it on myself. When I got up, the bowl was filled with blood. Not enough for me to worry I’d done severe damage, but enough for me to be ready.
Lee came over a couple hours later. He was beautiful. His smile was wide on his thin face which accentuated his protrusive cheekbones even further. When he undressed, I admired the craggy ravine between each of his ribs and the sharp rise of his hipbones. Then we proceeded. I cried before he started and I cried harder during. But after, while I cleaned myself up, I felt a level of hope and optimism that eclipsed anything I’d ever felt in my life. He held me while we slept.
It’s been six years and I’ve finally gotten to a weight where I feel confident enough to walk down the street and look at my reflection in the shop windows as I pass. Lee and I spent a beautiful four years together before he passed. They were the best four years of my life. But I know I’ll be seeing him soon enough. I remember stopping in front of a store this morning and looking at my trim shape in the mirrored glass. I ran my hands up and down my sides, feeling the ribs under the size-small t-shirt that once belonged to Lee. I winced a bit when my fingers knocked against a lesion on my lower back, but the pain was quickly forgotten. The man I’d always wanted to be stared back from the reflective surface. I smiled. Finally, a life worth living.