Today is the first day of my 3rd week here. My brother made the trip out here. His initial reaction was guarded and yet expectant. He was guarded so as not to expect too much, I suppose, pleasantries out of this visit, and instead expect the same old, same old, primarily because my parents were here. When we’re all together, arguments ensue. They plan to eat out and I either throw a fit, opt out, or opt in to such a degree that I alter the menu item to my disordered, unhealthy, and irrational preferences. The lowest-calorie option that isn’t Sushi-grade ceviche? Count me in.
My father and I stood up as the familiar fraternal face sauntered in with cautious eyes. My dad asked, “Hey, son, how are you,” before taking my brother in a bear hug. You know those hugs: The type of hug where bulging testosterone-laden vessel-covered biceps are extended outward at a height lower than shoulders, as if in Bras Arrondis Devant, or first position in ballet. My brother and I then hugged- he standing in an upright posture as I nestled the profile of my embrace in a Hollister- tee. I moved aside so he and my mother, still sitting down, could acknowledge each other. He walked toward her, and she reluctantly asked how he was doing before her maternal instinct bridged the space between them and they eventually hugged as well. My brother sat next to her. I sat on the bed. And my dad sat opposite of me. My mom and brother formed the base of a triangle, and my father and I formed the hypotenuse. But honestly, it was a lovely trapezoidal connection that drew us together.
I immediately leapt for the board game my mother had brought from home. It had bittersweet memories - that brainiac adult game my brother purchased on a whim sometime before my eating disorder really manifested itself. Back then, during the down-time in-between my turn, I would immediately recline backward from my cross-legged position on the floor to having my feet firmly planted on the ground in front of me with both knees bent. I would do crunches, counting in my head, my brother agitated that I was not paying attention, my parents, unsure of the gravity of my actions. I had not yet dropped too much weight.
My brother shrugged, my father not surprisingly, readily agreed, and my mother said no immediately. After all, we were expecting extended family to visit shortly. I then opted for the next best go-to time-suspender, the traffic or lack thereof. My brother swiftly silenced us with his short answer. Not much traffic, it turned out. He parked in the parking lot, no matter where the cost. In his opinion, it is a waste of time and effort to expend on looking for a more economical parking option.
I was flustered a that fact. My mother asked him if and what he had eaten so far. It turns out he ate a light breakfast, and a very early one at that. I remember having spoken to him several days prior and asked about whether he would consider coming into “the city” or what I made synonymous with New York City, the borough of Manhattan, since I could not venture out to his neck of the woods in New Jersey with my parents, as planned before my hospital stay. The post-Fathers Day celebration could be resumed at my penthouse overlooking the water body separating new-school hipster Brooklyn from the old-school hipster Lower East Side.
“What would we do there,” my brother asked somewhat surprised at his own question. After all, who would know most about what to do in a hospital room? My parents, me, or him - the M.D., a surgeon constantly rotating between hospitals in the Garden State. I reasoned that we could play Monopoly in the family waiting room area that I had only just discovered I could venture to as well, with my one-on-one chaperone trailing behind. That and my parents could take him out to lunch while I had my own multistage-lunch in the confines of my neutropenic hospital room - a room quarantined off for solitary confinement because the patient is immune-compromised. That is to say, my low neutrophil and total white blood cell count made me susceptible to catching contagious diseases. My lunch consisted of a protein shake, a wrap, a cup of coffee, and a smoothie. Rest assured, I would eat as they would in their choice of restaurant.
My parents ventured to a Thai place- unheard of in the past several years. It was located a block and a half away from the hospital. My brother quietly accepted the invitation at the mention of a dining experience. Yet my parents started saying that they would - as they always do - combine meals into a single sitting halfway between their sunrise-breakfast and sunset-scoop of Ice Cream. My brother was noticeably turned off and said that he would just eat whatever and head back early to his place. Clearly let down, I eyed my father who was pushing for a later meal in anticipation of visitors. He acquiesced and they quickly made their way to lunch/dinner.
I finished up my protein shake in their presence and began to eat lunch in their presence once more, at the happenstance moment when they returned. All eyes were focused on me as I consumed the wrap I usually loved to savor, void of any enjoyment. I later on hardly managed to finish my second smoothie of the day. Sickened at the thought of my next meal, I agreed to order early a starchy carbohydrate alongside a protein source in addition to the whey protein packet in my smoothie. I too was sickened at the thought of a protein bar. And then I was further sickened by the fruit containers thereafter.
I had a feeling that I did not eat enough, but my massive distention and nausea, pulsating blood vessels, double vision-inducing migraine, deceivingly made me think otherwise. The fullness was uncomfortable. It seemed like the absence of bowel movements and occluded shrunken stomach, would never make this feeling of post-meal satiety, dissipate. Even the nightly anxiety at having possibly not eaten enough to lead to next-morning weight gain, had done nothing to instigate consuming more. The next day, I had not lost nor had I gained. I plataued for two days but not before hearing my mother remark about signs of possible faltering again: Stopping when supposedly full - leaving little pieces here and there, snapping back with irritability, and lack of rest, like standing on already swollen feet as opposed to sitting and elevating it. I realized how quickly things could spiral out of control and like a rubberband stretched, quickly snapped back into place.
For I am gumby, hear me roar. Slinky, stretchy, and robust. I am ready to show my striped, to have my stretch marks, and to deal with the vicious hellish cycle that is recovery.