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Chapter 2: Frank Frank Frank Frank...
He had a fauxhawk, the buzzed sides bleached. Choppy long bangs that swayed to the left side of his face. His beautiful face. He had a jaw line I'd punch babies to touch, and cheeks I would pinch and squeeze if it wasn't completely inappropriate and weird to do to a stranger. Perfect eyebrows, and the complexion of a corpse. It was fitting, though. And his eyes, my god his fucking eyes. I feel like I should be taking pictures of him, because if I look away, if I blink, he'll be gone. He's obviously a work of my imagination. No one looks that perfect.
"Okay, two things, who are you, and why are you staring at my face like that?" He asked, shutting the door behind him and standing with impeccable posture. His coffee eyes were mesmerizing but I’m nearly positive I can’t just say that.
"Um hi, I’m Gerard you must be Frank." I introduced myself, trying to peel my eyes from his.
"Yeah, I’m Frank, Frank, Frank, Frank, Frank, Frank, Frank, Frank, Frank, Fr-fucking Christ." He said and pinched the bridge of his nose with two fingers. That was really quite strange.
I raised an eyebrow at him as he took a few deep breaths. I could see his ribs (and a feeding tube) move under his tight shirt and felt nothing but pure jealousy. He looked tiny and on the verge of disappearing. If he lost one more pound he’d just poof out of existence. There was a gap the size of the Grand Canyon between his thighs and he had absolutely perfect collar bones. Jealous was a vast understatement to describe the emotion I felt when looking at him. I felt like a fat failure. I felt greedy.
I felt angry because I’m not punishing myself like I should be.
"I’m sorry, I’ve got fairly severe OCD and I have issues with names with five letters. My sister says it’s a kind of cosmic joke that I was named," He paused and breathed. “the name I was.” He finished.
"I have to repeat them ten times if I use them in a sentence. I’m glad your name doesn’t stop at ‘r’." He said, and proceeded to turn around to the light switch, cover his hand, and flick it on and off. On off on off on off on off on off on off. I could hear him mumbling numbers and when I thought I heard 82 before he stopped and sat down on his bed. "Are you okay with talking about your disorders?"
"Um, other than an anxiety disorder and clinical depression I don’t think I’ve got a problem, so yeah mostly."
"What’re you talking about you don’t think you’ve got a problem?"
"I don’t know, I don’t need help because what they’re calling restriction is just me trying to avoid guilt and anxiety attacks from my weight or wasting food someone that needs it could be eating."
"You’re really tiny though. I mean if they have to put you on bed rest you’re obviously in a danger zone in your weight."
"They’re liars and over-reactors. I am an obese whale."
"So you’ve got body dysmorphia?"
"I do not have body dysmorphia. There is nothing wrong with the way I perceive my body, I see my body the way it is and that is that."
"And I don’t have overbearing compulsions, it’s totally normal." He scoffed.
"What makes my habits an illness?"
"It’s your behaviors and mental state. You’re scared of weight and food and that is unhealthy. It can and will kill you if you don’t do anything for help at all. What makes my compulsive habits an illness? All I do is count and check stupid shit. I organize shit that doesn’t matter. What makes that a disorder? What makes that any different from patting your pockets twice to make sure you’ve got your wallet or your car keys, or counting the cash in your pocket twice before making any final decisions on what you buy, or cleaning your room because you like things clean, tidy, and pretty? The fact that it interrupts your daily existence is what makes it a disorder. The fact that your relationship with something is off. Whatever happened to make you scared and anxious lingers in your chest and rots you from the inside out. It makes your brain work differently. I don’t see numbers as shit in math, or a tool to measure quantity. They’re necessities for any type of physical order, they’re good or bad, positive or negative, even or odd, even or odd, even or odd, even or odd, even or odd, even or odd, even or odd," He took another deep breath and balled up his left fist and bit the lower knuckle of his index finger. Removing his finger from his mouth, he continued. "They make symmetry possible and do nothing but temporarily relieve overwhelming anxiety. All they do is satisfy urges I can’t shove down, but then they’ll come back eventually. The fact it’s ruining my life and prevents me from functioning makes it a disorder. Eating disorders of the same. They are problems because they ruin your life and make normal function and living comfortably impossible. But OCD probably won’t kill you, whereas you will die from an eating disorder if you aren’t recovering. Unless you are perfectly capable of function and could eat a three course meal right now and not have the urge to slit your throat because there is and always will be too much weight on bones that have already supported a weight much more than this, and what you can’t realize, or at least rationalize the possibility of, is that a weight this low will cause you to cave in completely."
What he said hit me like a truck. I feel like I want to die, but this is a problem I have that I should at least try to recover from, and it's shitty it took this to figure it out. This is another realization of a spot on diagnosis that I would otherwise deny. I hung my head an nodded.
"You’re right." I said, which I immediately questioned saying after the words left my mouth. I never admit it when I’m wrong. I will ride any convoluted fallacy until the wheels fly off even if I know I’m wrong.
"Please don’t be upset please please please please please please," He paused and gritted his teeth, and let out one last weak please before a frustrated whimper of "stop stop stop stop saying that" to himself as he vigorously shook his head. He paused to collect himself and continued, "I’m not mad you just have a serious problem and it will be good for you if you recognize it."
"Can we start over?" I asked and he nodded. There was a brief silence before he looked up at me with inquisitive eyes and his head cocked to the side slightly.
"What’s your poison?" He inquired.
"What do you mean?"
"Restriction, binge/purge, obsessive with clean foods, whatever."
"I restrict. What about you?"
"B/P.” He shrugged.
“How long have you been here?” I inquired, leaning forward toward him.
“About nine days. Why?”
“Can I sit with you during lunch? Unless you've got a group of friends already, I just don't wanna be alone.”
“Yeah you can sit with me. We can encourage each other to get better. Recovery buddies.” He smiled. I smiled back, only because he was fucking adorable when he smiled. He had cute teeth and cuter lips. His skin was smooth and ashen, but he lit up like he was competing with the sun to see who was the brightest when he smiled. This is the first time I've seen it on his face again, but I never want that expression to fade. My heart began to hurt. I don't want to be encouraged to get better, but he needs support. How can I turn him down if he looks that happy when he simply smiles? How can I turn him down when he has the potential to be happy all the time, and the only thing keeping him from it is his relationship with food.
“Yeah, recovery buddies.” I agreed, nodding slightly, and I could feel the smile I was giving Frank fading into a look that was more distressed than happy. I proceeded to straighten my face out, and lie back down completely.
Frank. The thirty minutes have been thinking about Frank. I'm asking myself what is the allure of him, and at the same time I'm asking what isn't? I can't pick out one thing that could possibly be wrong with him, and I don't act like myself around him. If I did, I can guarantee he wouldn't want to be any kind of buddies with me, let alone recovery buddies. Why was I acting differently? Was it because he's gorgeous? I've seen gorgeous people before this point and I don't act any differently. Do I feel pity for him? I do feel bad he's suffering but I'm not treating him differently out of pity.
I don't understand how his face can be so expressive, maybe that's it. I've never seen someone communicate emotions like he can. When he was going on about what makes this a disorder and not just a normal every day occurrence, you didn't have to hear the words he was saying to know he was passionate about them. When he was frustrated over not being able to stop repeating 'please' you could tell how he felt about what was going on in his head. You didn't need to understand the context to be able to tell this was something that was painful for him. I don't understand why I can feel this insane gravitation toward him. I don't like people, so what makes him any different? He walks, talks, and breathes just the same as everyone else, what makes him deserving of special treatment?
Frank would periodically look over at me, stare for a while, and then look back to the television and become engrossed in How It’s Made. I don’t know what he was doing exactly, there’s nothing to look at other than me being bundled up like I was preparing to be shipped to Alaska in an ice box trying to do some sleeping.
"Is every day like this?" I asked, rolling over to face him.
"Hm?" He said, his head turning slowly. "Is what?"
"Do you just usually sit around in here with the exception of meals and therapy?"
"Well there are classes, like you can do creative writing or art, they’ve got a music class. You can take schooling courses if you’re still enrolled for like, you know, your regular school stuff. There is a cooking class. But a lot of the fun stuff comes after you make progress and gain weight and don’t break rules and you’re quiet and obedient." He shrugged. "You’ll get a schedule at some point today and you’ll probably have mixed classes like art and writing and writing and writing and writing and writing and writing and writing and writing," Cue pause and deep breath. Frustration etched in his face, he continued. "And nutrition. That’s at least what I got."
"Can I ask about your OCD? Not to judge I’m just curious. If it’s too much just tell me to shut up." Did they medicate me? Asking for permission isn’t something I do. Ever.
"You repeat words a lot, why do you do it? Because of numbers?"
"I don’t feel like I said it right the first time or the second or the third and I feel like something horrible will happen to me if I don’t, or sometimes I just get stuck on a phrase or a word. I’m sorry, it’s probably really annoying."
"No no, no sorry. It doesn’t bug me it just looks really hard for you to stop yourself and really frustrating to not do it."
"It is. I’m denying myself the easing of compulsions that I’ve been able to fulfill for years. Now I’ve got to get used to stopping."
"Well you do a really good job at stopping, I think you’re going to get better with only the smallest challenges recovery presents." I said.
"You’re really really really really really, FUCK." Pause. "You are really nice." He said through gritted teeth. "Thank you. It doesn’t really seem like it to me but I’m down from only being able to stop myself at forty six to being able to stop myself around eight or ten, so I guess as long as I’m not spending two minutes repeating the same word before I can finish a sentence that’s a little improvement."
"Well when I," I started. "If I talk about addiction it's not going to bother you or upset you will it?" He shook his head. "I used to take my dad’s OxyContin. When I went from abusing them every day to holding off and doing it less, once a week didn’t seem like I was doing much. I was still mad at myself and felt ashamed of myself for it, but now I look back and think any decrease was good. I’m not saying you should be ashamed of your OCD or anything, but you probably don’t brag about it and it doesn’t make you feel great to talk about, you know?"
I think I am in love with talking to him. He listens. You can see all of what you’re saying sinking in, and the cogs in his mind turning to process it.
"I think I get it." He said and smiled slightly. "You are pretty nice, seriously."
I shrugged, knowing that’s really not the truth. I’m nice to him, and no one else, but he’s never seen the things I’ve done and said that make specification necessary. He doesn’t know that I’m an ass to everyone regardless of how long I’ve known them or who they are and I can’t help my hostility and I don’t know how to try and be different. All I know is I can’t be a dick to him. I don’t like the person I am but I don’t know what change even means.
"You look sad." He observed. "You don’t accept nice things people say." There was a moment of silence before he spoke up again. "How much do you hate yourself?"
"On a scale of 1-10?"
"Yeah. I don’t like myself at all."
"I’m ugly and fat. Worthless, useless. I failed school completely, forced my parents to pay for anti-everything prescriptions, therapy, and psychiatrists that didn’t make a damn bit of difference since I was 10. Broke into the alcohol cabinet regularly at 14 and got sent to the hospital multiple times for cutting too deep after I got drunk on my parent’s liquor, at 15 I started attending parties with upperclassmen that needed an easy hole to fuck, and when everyone was too plastered to think straight I let them take advantage of me in exchange for prescription pills like OxyContin and Vicodin that they stole from their own parents, and a few months later when those parties stopped, I started stealing pills from my dad without the decency to use them for a suicide that I deserved to commit, I’m a little brat to my mother and strangers without cause as I always have been, and I treat my brother like he’s a tumor when I’m the cancerous lump in the family. I sit on the computer all day and do nothing with myself. I honestly don’t care about any human being on this planet and I refuse to acknowledge that anyone but myself matters. The only good thing I did ever is went from getting angry and yelling at people to getting angry and hurting myself. I’ve tried everything possible to get rid of the pain and nothing works but cutting and restricting. I feel I have no purpose beyond losing weight and I deserve to rip into my skin open for simply existing."
I could fear my tears coming back and I didn’t remember asking them for a rematch. I tried to blink them away but the longer I existed the more tears came around and trying to blink them away was only going to make me start to cry fully. I couldn’t look up at him now. I don't think I'll ever look at him, or anyone else again. Why did I have to be completely honest about everything? The entire time I spilled my guts I stared at the floor in front of me so it's possible I fucked myself because now I can’t bare to look up and see his reaction. I don’t want to be judged and I just opened myself up for a lot of judgment. A lot. But then I saw his feet on the ground and he stood up.
"Can you sit up?"
"W-What do you m-mean?" I cleared my throat and mentally cussed at myself for stuttering like a baby.
"Can you sit up without hurting yourself?"
"Just trust me." He said coolly.
I did as I was told, I sat up without looking at him. He approached me slowly from the looks of his feet, bent over, and to my surprise gave me a hug. He had his tiny arms wrapped around my shoulders and I immediately began to cry.
I wished all of it had been a lie, I wish it had been some sick day dream that that’s what I’ve been doing for the past two and a half years. It was all a big vomit inducing blur, drinking until I couldn’t feel how deep I cut, plowing through prescription painkillers until I was positive someone would have to call a poison control center, and sucking off any dirty motherfucker that had my poison of choice. My mind didn’t work some time before I started destroying my brain with substance, obviously. My body didn’t want to function like it should long before I started taping my mouth shut and getting to know razors. I was always dependent. The booze, pills, blades, starvation, meaningless hookups. They’re things I need, I feel gratification when engaging in these activities. I crave control desperately and only feel like it's in reach when I'm spiraling out of it?
My sobbing hadn't even reached it's fullest potential, as I was not only sobbing but half whining and choking on my own tongue. His boney fingers rubbed my back and I threw my arms around him in return, pulling him slightly closer and continuing to weep.
“Let it all out, shhh, it's okay Gerard.” He said, plopping down beside me on my bed.
My face stayed buried in his shoulder for a good 15 minutes of crying, stopping momentarily, and having the memories crash over me again and send me into another episode. When I could finally pull away, I covered my face with my hands as not to have him looking at my puffy, red, teary post crying face. Out of all the unattractive faces and I can, have and will ever make, that has to be my most horrifying.
I heard him grab a box of tissues and set them on my lap.
“I don't know you but I'll say this, Gerard. You don't deserve to rip your skin open or hurt yourself for occupying the space you were born to take up. Not every day will seem like a gift, but all of these things will define you in some way. They'll either make you this spectacular dude, or make you your problem. They'll define some parts of you, but do not become your illness. Do not become a walking disorder. You don't deserve to feel this bad, or hate yourself.” He said, his hand lingering on my shoulder. I finally looked up at him after grabbing a tissue and cleaning my face up, and his eyes screamed sincerity.