I fell on a treadmill today.
Catapulted right off of the thing.
And somehow, I think that flying off of that treadmill at whatever the level 7.4 equates to in miles per hour might have made my life a lot better. Or possibly a great deal worse.
I’ll start earlier than that, though.
In. Out. In. Out.
Focusing on her breathing was the only thing that kept Rebecca Eaves from letting her mind wander to other places when she ran. If she let her mind wander, her mind would start to focus on the fact that her legs hurt, and that her chest hurt, and that everything about running hurt. If she let her mind wander, she would be reminded of the fact that she had two pints of Ben & Jerry’s Brownie Batter Core ice cream sitting in her freezer that were begging to be eaten, and that eating both of those in one sitting would feel great. Relaxing. Eating. Not worrying about her weight.
In. Out. In. Out.
If she let her mind wander, she would start to tell herself that she didn’t need to finish running the five miles to get the reward of a quarter of one of those pints. She would stop her run, powerwalk back to where her car was parked just a mile and a half behind her current position, and drive home, to the apartment she was still in the process of moving into. She would watch Kaylie’s disapproving stare as she ate her ice cream instead of unpacking her boxes. She would feel guilty afterwards for eating her ice cream without finishing her run first. So, Rebecca kept running.
In. Out. In. Out.
It was a beautiful day. Early September, two days before the first classes of Fall semester began, and the sun was shining through a soft cloud cover. At 10:12 AM, it wasn’t too terribly hot, but the humidity was at 79% already according to Rebecca’s weather app, which meant that she was already sweating after a mile and a half of running at a relatively moderate speed. Not a jog, but not quite a run yet. Somewhere in between.
In. Out. In. Out.
Rebecca kept moving halfway between jogging and running. She kept going, one foot in front of the other, focusing on her breathing, until the time on her Fitbit read 10:38, and she had made a five-mile circle back to the parking lot outside of the furniture store half a mile outside of the park she ran in when she didn’t feel like going to the gym. She unlocked her car door and climbed into the driver’s seat, taking a sip of water before pulling out her phone to check her text messages and disconnect her wireless headphones. She had a text from Kaylie waiting for her. When was she planning on unpacking the boxes? It had been over a week since she had moved in. It was getting hard to walk. Rebecca shook her head and ignored the message, backing out of the parking space and pulling onto the main road to head back home.
In. Out. In. Out.
“Clemson is so much better than UMD.”
Rebecca rolled her eyes as she walked into the kitchen on the evening of the day after Labor Day, her right hand wrapped around a bottle of cucumber water and her left clutching her daily planner. Work had been terrible that night, with old women yelling at her for not accepting their coupons and old men touching her hand for no reason other than to make her feel like taking a bath in the same sanitizer they used to clean the floors. 10:00 had brought freedom, and by 10:38 she was in sweatpants and ready to plan out the rest of her week.
“You’ve had one day of classes so far, Cel.” She replied before sitting at the kitchen table and setting her planner down, “You spent two years at UMD. I don’t think you have the right frame of reference yet.”
Celeste Becker shrugged absentmindedly in response.
“Maybe following a high school boyfriend to an out of state college wasn’t the smartest choice.” Rebecca grinned slightly, “I’m glad that you’re back where you belong.”
“Me, too. The gang’s back together!” She bounced up and down excitedly, her heels moving onto and off of the floor in quick succession, “I don’t think I had seen Spencer since high school. Did you guys hang out a lot last year?”
“Yeah, all the time. It got kinda weird when he confessed his love for me, but we moved past it.”
Celeste’s eyes bugged out of her head and she opened her mouth to speak before being cut off by their third and fourth roommates walking in to the apartment, two girls who had also been friends since high school…just at a different high school.
“Aw good, you’re home.” Kaylie Ernest shrugged a deep maroon purse off of her shoulder and left it on the table beside Rebecca, “And I see that the boxes finally made their way out of the living room.”
Rebecca bit her tongue, unwilling to engage in any sort of argument with the girl. Everything about Kaylie Ernest screamed everything that Rebecca loathed in a person: the judgement she exuded towards anyone she deemed ‘below’ her—whether that was via social status, wealth, physical attractiveness, intelligence, or anything that someone could be ‘better’ than someone else at—the way she spoke as if she were spewing facts every moment of the day instead of complete garbage, and the way she expected everyone she lived with to live exactly how she wanted them to.
Her best friend was better, and for the life of her Rebecca couldn’t figure out why Jamie Renner was friends with the monster that occupied one of the rooms in the apartment. Jamie was sweet, albeit a bit ditzy, but with a good heart and a preoccupation with ensuring that everyone around her was having a better time than she was. Rebecca suspected her kindness was the reason Jamie was most likely Kaylie’s only friend.
“Yeah sorry, they were all mine.” Celeste sighed theatrically, “I’ve just been so busy sitting around this giant apartment and remembering what it was like when I went to a school with a 48% acceptance rate instead of 50% like this one. How simple you all must feel.”
Rebecca stifled her laughter at Kaylie’s bewildered expression as Celeste waved her fingers at the group and walked off towards her bedroom. The other two looked at each other for a second in silence before walking off to their own respective rooms, shutting the doors with varying levels of severity.
Rebecca looked down at her meticulously color-coded planner, listing everything she had to remember about her 38-hour work weeks on top of a 16-credit class schedule. She had mapped everything out perfectly, allowing enough time for work, school, homework, and working out every single day. She was ready for everything the year would throw at her, her and her color-coded planner. Everything had a place. And everything had a time to get done.
She closed the yellow-and-white striped planner and took a sip of the cucumber water floating in her knockoff grey Hydroflask—which went perfectly with her knockoff Lululemon leggings that she wore to a fault. She shook memories of the terrible customers in the grocery store out of her head and picked up her phone, beginning her nightly scroll through the accounts of people with lives that looked so much better than her own on the screen.
Fitness blogger with their workout of the day, paired with an ad about their favorite protein powder. Nutritionist blogger with a photo explaining the difference in macros between a Big Mac and a Greek salad. A girl from high school posting about how she was nearly eight months pregnant and so excited to be a mother while her baby daddy stared on from the background of the picture, looking like he wanted anything other than being made a father at 21.
A girl from Clemson who Rebecca had never met, but who led the picture-perfect life, with plenty of friends, the perfect bikini body, and seemingly no time spent in class. Rebecca had been following @kabe99 for over a year by then. She had never actually seen her on campus, but she had heard stories.
Everything about social media made Rebecca want to vomit, cry, and laugh at the same time. She wanted to live the lives of the people she saw online. But instead, her own Instagram feed was filled with pictures of Celeste on FaceTime calls from when she lived in Maryland and grainy images that she had pulled from being tagged on Facebook.
Rebecca opened Instagram again after closing it five different times and decided she was feeling like uploading her own picture. She hadn’t posted in over two months—not that anyone cared—and she felt like maybe people would want to see something from her.
She had taken a picture of the sunrise before a morning jog the week before. She uploaded it and took a few seconds to think of the caption “sunrise run = losing 20 pounds by christmas”. All lower case. She was pretty sure it was more aesthetically pleasing that way. She hit ‘post’ and put her phone down, telling herself not to care about the likes or comments the picture surely would get.
After thirty seconds she picked up her phone again. No likes. No comments. Maybe none of her 437 followers were on Instagram at 11:07 PM. That was probably it.
Rebecca left her phone on the table as she went to wash her face. She had seen a post on Twitter that said “I don’t know who needs to hear this, but taking off your makeup does not equal washing your face” a few weeks ago, and had since been heavily dedicated to her skincare routine every morning and every night: first an exfoliating cleanser, then a coconut-scented toner, an oil-free moisturizer, and finishing off with a spot treatment on the tiny pimples that seemed to crop up whenever Kaylie spoke.
She grabbed her phone off of the kitchen table and went into her room, turning off the light and putting her hair into two quick French braids before climbing into bed. Rebecca Eaves set her alarm for 6:30 AM and turned off her phone at 11:39 PM. Enough time to get at least six hours of restless sleep before starting over the next day. That was the beautiful thing about new days: they were perfect for fresh starts.
Rebecca turned her phone over one last time to check it before rolling over and closing her eyes. Her 437 followers seemed to still all be asleep at 11:41 PM. Perhaps they would wake up before she did in the morning, and there would be some sort of notification to greet Rebecca at 6:30 AM.