Chapter 1 - Suffering in silence
“I think you missed a stage in your childhood where you skipped meals that's why you're this small.” Aunt Barbara confessed.
“But you need to eat Summer.” Emily, her three year best friend added.
“How old are you?” Summer's ex boyfriend asked her one cool afternoon in September.
“19.”She answered shyly.
“What? 19? You don't look 19. You look 12.”
But why would I be lying about my age? Summer thought. Yes, the majority of women her age would lie about it because they wanted to look young... but Summer wanted to look old. She always wanted to look old. And just when she thought she had found someone who would love her despite her flaws... Taylor backed out of the relationship. He was scared of what everyone would think about him. He looked mature, healthy, strong and he deserved a lady who looked probably 23 in the face, curvy, tall...
“I'm sorry but I can't do this Summer. People will think I've gone mad dating a baby girl. It would look like defilement in their eyes. You get what I mean?”
“Yeah, I do get what you mean.” Summer smiled sadly.
She truly did understand him. He was right. He did deserve someone more grown than her, despite the pain that stung her heart like a bee when he uttered those words confidently. She was used to it though. Every man backed out in the end.
The memory of those conversations still vexed her. Her mum, aunt, best friend and everyone deluded her brain, but as years kept coming... she realized they were wrong.
Summer never skipped any meals in a day. She ate breakfast, lunch, mid lunch, dinner and even midnight junk food to grow fat and look healthy... but the food never worked. She was still the same small, tiny little girl like before. In fact she even reduced the more by the age of 22.
She kept visiting the hospital to check her weight, how far she had improved but she had deteriorated. At first Summer was 46kgs but now she was 36kgs. She couldn't cry any more even if she wanted to. She was beyond numb to feel sorry for herself. Maybe that's how things were meant to be. But she was empty.
The sadness was now an empty unhappiness, the kind she didn't think she could ever lift.
So she decided to detach herself from the reality of life. She stopped hanging out with friends, she stopped chasing parties, she stopped having the time of her life in general. She literally detached herself from everything that once made her happy because the small photo album of all the good memories slowly vanished out of her head. Her eating habits even changed. She realized she had to figure herself out before she lets the world back in again.
But sometimes Summer could think and ask the universe “What about me?” and the universe would just reply back “Well, what about you?” and that was something that always pulled her back down. Maybe she was prone to retardation.
16th October, 2015
It's a wet morning in October. Summer is in bed snuggled inside the covers of the duvet. She's feeling warm and lost in the world of the dead. But not for long when her roommate Belle plays her loud music on the other side of the room. It's loud enough to even wake up the devil himself.
Summer groans and pulls the covers up her head, hopefully wishing that that can slightly reduce the noise that's coming from the side of the room. It's not that Summer hates music... no. It's the fact that Summer has had less sleep. She slept at three in the morning fighting demons in her head. They couldn't let her sleep. She tries hard to stop feeling that awful ache in her heart but when it's nights like yesterday when it's raining and she's read a really sad emotional book, she can't help but let herself remember how depressed she is.
She also loves silence. No talking, no noise, just shhh. Shhhhutthefuckup... she loves that. But Belle is LOUD. Belle loves noise and sometimes Summer wonders why she has to room with her... Well for starters, it's not her house. It's her Aunt Barbara's and she was told to share a room with Belle.
Plus, she found Belle there by the time she moved in... so basically there's no way you can give rules to someone who has been living in a place for over five or so years now.
Aunt Barbara has two houses. She's one of the rich relatives in her family. Summer's mum is poor. Ever since she was fired from her well paying job twelve years ago... life became different. It became hard. Sue looked for a job everywhere and every job she kept getting wasn't paying enough so Summer can't remember the last time she had a beautiful life where she could get anything... everything she ever wanted in life.
But her mum tried. Her mum struggled hard to give her and her two brothers everything they desired, so they couldn't feel left out from the rest of their cousins. Her aunties and uncles too were loving. They made her fit in with her cousins. If they went out to go for ice cream, Summer was taken, if it was time for shopping for school, Summer was allowed to pick requirements too and stuff she loved just like the rest. She had no room to complain that she never really had a great childhood.
Though a few comments were thrown here and there about her body weight, her baby face, her cousins always mocking her about some of the tv series she didn't watch on Disney because mum couldn't afford the tv bill sometimes. Her not getting the best grades in school like her brothers and the rest. And that was okay. She managed to cope with all those beautiful compliments.
When time for university came around, Sue had no money to pay for an apartment or dorm for Summer to sleep in, so she requested Barbara to allow her daughter have a stay at her other house til when she finishes school. Barbara couldn't refuse because Sue is her sister. Summer stayed there and she still requested to stay in this house til she got a job that could pay her well and rent an apartment.
Belle gets out of bed humming to the music playing as she finds her way to the bathroom. She smacks the door behind her causing Summer to flinch. She pulls her phone that's buried under her pillow and checks the time. It's 5:49am.
She can't complain. That's the time Belle wakes up every Monday to Friday because she has to go to work. Once Belle is done showering, she gets back to room but she doesn't notice that Summer is awake. She always thinks Summer is a deep sleeper and can't wake up by the loud noises she makes in the morning. She continues to hum as she gets dressed up.
Summer's anxiety suddenly leaches in. She has a vested interest to be alone. She doesn't realize she's tapping her foot on the other repeatedly and rapidly. She's growing impatient. She wants Belle to just get out of the room so she can cry in peace. She's trying to grasp what's making her feel this way but she can't figure it out. Why is she feeling vexatious?
Probably because she wants to just bark at Belle and tell her to switch off her damn music but she's too scared to tell her. She's scared that what if Belle doesn't listen. What if Belle gets pissed at her?
Now she's tapping her fingers on the bed, the same rhythm with the actions done with her feet. It's really something that isn't that serious but her anxiety doesn't give a fuck. It's serious to it and that makes Summers' eyes well up.
The big lump of pain is in her throat.
‘Get the fuck out. I just want to be alone. Why are you born so mentally stable? Why aren't I like you?’
The voice in her head speaks, and she's now crying. She can't help it.
‘Good luck Charlie, Jesse, the suite life of Zack and Cody, High school Musical...’
She's listing out a few of her favorite Disney series to keep calm, but they suddenly are varnishing from her head.
‘Uh... lemonade mouth. Uh.....’
And it seems she can't remember them.
Luckily Belle is done with dressing up. She takes a quick glance at herself in the mirror, switches off her music and finds her way out of the bedroom.
Summer is quite relieved but not her anxiety. She's sobbing and rubbing her hands roughly all over her face. She wants to be like Belle. She wants to wake up normal, smile with contentment after looking at herself in the mirror and smile at the world once she gets out of the house. She misses the old her that was so much just like Belle.
When does it end? Summer thinks.
It's just six in the morning and she's already had one mental breakdown.
It's one in the afternoon. The rain has quite calmed down. It's drizzling now. Summer can hear the pit patter that's dripping on her bedroom window. After the sobbing and pitying herself early in the morning, she calmed a bit down and slept the pain away for a few hours. As they say, sleep is nice. You don't feel shit... you don't miss anyone, but when you wake up, it all comes back.
She's not planning on getting out of bed today. There's really nothing to do. She has no job so all she does all day is sit at home, reminiscence about life and cry about it. That's her everyday life. She can't remember the day she lost herself and up to now, she still doesn't want to accept that she has a mental disorder. She's just sad. She preaches that to herself.
Aunt Barbara's voice echoes in the corridor.
She's moving close to her room and opens it. Summer is in bed lost in thoughts. She doesn't notice the door open.
That question brings Summer back to reality. She's startled and her heart starts racing. She has always feared her aunt. It's not like she molests her but because she's a very principled woman and wants things done her way. You need to put your emotions aside and do what she wants.
“I...” She has no excuse
“Are you sick?” Barbara questions with concern written all over her face. ‘I've been told you haven't yet gotten out of your room since morning and you haven't eaten. Are you skipping meals?’
“No, not at all aunt.” She nods her head.
Of course she isn’t. Barbara thinks.
She enters in her room and sits on Belle's bed and starts the pep talk that Summer doesn't want to hear.
“Then why haven't you had breakfast or lunch either?”
“I just had no appetite.” She gallops.
“So when do you think you'll have appetite? Summer, I don't want you cooked up in your room all day. Stop being lazy. Get out of bed, make yourself useful. Do chores. I told you when your in my house you have to do work.”
“Yes auntie. I'm so sorry.”
It's a genuine answer and it's not like Aunt Barbara is yet contented. But she's happy that Summer is at home and not roaming around with friends and coming home late. She hated it when Summer was extroverted. She wanted her to calm down. The world had a lot to offer Summer in the future.
“Help Tasmeen with work here. I don't want to hear that you don't cook food. Tomorrow I want to eat your food.”
“Go to the kitchen and have something to eat. You say you eat but I don't see you. That's the reason why you're too small.”
There it is again. The “small” word that pierces every vein in Summer's body. It hurts like a prick. Sometimes she just wants to bark at her aunt and tell her that's how she was created. It's their family's problem. It's a gene, but she can't. Sometimes she just wants to tell her there are days people just don't have appetite. And it's not because you just want to dodge food... you just don't feel like eating it at that very moment but you will eat... but she still can't say all that because despite the conviction, Aunty Barbara will never believe her. She has her reasons though.
“I'm sorry. I'll go have something to eat right now.” Her face is racked with pain.
She's talking with confidence though but her hands are trembling. She hurriedly gets out of bed and walks to her wardrobe and picks out a long dress to wear. Her aunts' gaze is piercing. The way she looks at her body, making her feel like she's just rangy bones. Once she's done dressing, she gets out of her room and walk runs to the kitchen.
Just as Samantha Camargo says in her Night Drive poetry book “So many of us have been taught to be people pleasers, but maybe that's why so many of us are so unhappy, because we know how to make others happy but not ourselves."
So literally Summer does the same thing. She picks a plate from the rack and starts serving herself. One big spoon of rice is enough for her. She serves chicken soup and heads to the dining. Luckily her aunt doesn't come to check on her.
She takes a quick glance at Summer and before she heads out of the house.
“Make sure to help Tasmeen with the dishes. I'll be back tomorrow.”
“Yes auntie. I will.”
And she's out. There's a relief in Summers breath when her aunts' not around. There's no tension, no doing things rapidly. Once she's done with lunch, she takes her plate to the sink and washes it, placing it back in the rack.