I see my reflection in the mirrors at work, my image growing steadily as I walk closer. Wider, taller. Mostly wider. My hips expand to a disgusting circumference, my arms inflated to the size of fatness I fear every day. My stomach protruding, thighs bulging, chin sagging and neck thickening. I have to get away from the mirrors, go sit in the bathroom alone and free from hideous reflections.

I think about throwing up.

I’ve never done it before, though not from a lack of trying. It scares me to death. But being fat scares me even more. I sit very still, feeling the Wendy’s I had for lunch digesting loudly in my stomach. It would be so easy to just regurgitate it all, pretend it never happened. I never really ate all that food. It was just a dream.

I close my eyes, think back to the months in the hospital. The months of being led to a room at five thirty every morning, naked beneath a paper gown, turned around to face backwards and step up onto the scale. I hear the weights sliding, clicking, the number dropping each time. I feel the pride of sickness, the finality of suicide.

I long to be free of it. To go a single day without hating my body, without criticizing every curve and despising every limb my thumb and pinky cannot encircle. The hours I waste worrying about what other people think, what other people see when they look at me. To face the mirror without fighting tears of frustration and failure. To be able to eat without contemplating every single calorie and gram of fat and exactly where it will end up on my body as soon as I swallow it. To stop thinking of the calories I burn by twitching my leg, a habit learned from fellow patients down in Iowa. To not constantly hold in my stomach to make it a concave mockery of health, topped by ribs easily counted at a casual glance.

Three years, one month, five days.. That is how long I’ve been on my own, hospital-free, “recovered.” And yet I can’t get rid of the thoughts in my head. People tell me I should be a model, a stripper, a mannequin. I thank them politely and scream on the inside, You don’t know what you’re saying!” Guilt, horrible guilt. Did I just accept a compliment? Heaven forbid.

Alex, the guy who called me after seeing pictures my cousin had, offering me the phone numbers of modeling agencies, offering to help me, saying I was beautiful. The contradictions between the world’s reality and my own makes for some confusing interactions. I laughed off his compliments, said I was nothing special, had my picture taken with him and then left. My cousin, a mother of two who wears a size zero, tells me of the great fun she had while modeling for Victoria Secret a few years ago. I want to get away. Too much attention, too much of everything. I only want to disappear, quietly and permanently. Leave me alone.