If We Never Met
Acceptance sets one free, my mom always tells me that. I have accepted the fact that I’m anorexic, and I’ve never felt more trapped. All I can think about is food, exercise, not eating. It consumes my thoughts, my life. Some people will say “I could never be anorexic, I love food too much.” I’ve heard people say that. Around me, even tome. To those people, I would explain the eating disorder like this; some struggling with anorexia continue to love food. Still, it’s not a daily battle to avoid eating, but a heartbreaking battle each time you choose or are forced to consume calories. It becomes second nature. You become good at deceiving people, lying, sneaking, faking your way through life, and so much more. I’m lucky nobody has noticed my strange and bizarre behaviors and new habits. I’ve become erratic. I know I might die, there’s a good chance of it, but I don’t care.
- Jordan H. Quinn
TUESDAY - 2/25/20
Parties were hard to come by in a town like mine. A town where the closest thing to a Walmart was a Herzen and Rockefeller's Market and our version of McDonald’s is Fire Fries Drive-Thru. It was a quaint place, most people knew each other. Events came only here and there, and high school gatherings were sparse. Even so, when my best friend of two years, Noah Adams, asked me to a party that Friday, I was hesitant.
“I don’t know. You know I’m not the party kinda girl.”
He scoffed at the remark as if what I had just said was out of his realm of possibilities. “C’mon, everybody is the party type. You just need a little pushing.”
If nothing, Noah was persistent. I knew I’d end up at that party, and because of the way he was, I’d have a good time.
It was sophomore year when Noah and I had first met. At the time I was sporting crutches around (nothing but the result of a poor combination of weak bones and cross country). I was very quick and agile with them and instilled the confidence that sent me tumbling across the direct center of the lunchroom. There had been two sections, and my fall was in the aisle between. Everybody could see, but I don’t know how many noticed. He had been the only one who had possessed enough sympathy to ask if I was alright. Perhaps it wasn’t sympathy, but his way of putting his foot through the door to get my number. He offered me his, flaming the futile attempts to win my romantic affection, but it ended in the best friendship either of us had ever held. That, in a way, sealed our bond tightly. Because of that same persistence he showed then again, I caved.
“All right, I’ll go. But absolutely no drinking.”
“You won’t need to have anything to have fun with me. Plus, I’ll protect you from all the weirdos.”
After a while of banter, we fell into a comfortable silence as I looked over the view we had over our town Applewood. After school, Noah and I snuck onto the roof of Applewood High to finish our homework, have a snack, (Well, in his case a snack. In my case, a Diet Pepsi.) and talk about anything and everything. Once we eventually ran out of things to talk about, which had happened often and is what happened that day, we sat in silence. I could see my old yellow house sticking out like a thorn contrasting to the surrounding brick, while Noah’s was on the other side of town. A real inconvenience whenever we decided to hang out. Though we were both seniors, our only mode of transportation was by skateboards.
Getting up to the roof was easy, but over the years there had been moments where teachers had been at the right place, right time, and caught us. They didn’t seem to care much. Honestly, nobody at Applewood seemed to care much about anything. They didn’t notice things, everybody’s eyes seemed hazy. Noah’s didn’t. Maybe that’s what I liked so much about that guy, he noticed things that other people couldn’t. Sometimes I thought they just wouldn’t. I snapped out of my thoughts when I finished my Diet Pepsi, which was considerably better than Diet Coke. We decided to get one last look over the view, which was always the same yet just as calming. As the sun dipped below the horizon, the fleeting colors of dusk began to fade away. It soon fell asleep, creating a black, silhouetted-outline of the city scrapers. Soon all that was left was the city lights. It really was quite beautiful.
When I arrived home to my thorn of a yellow house, my phone received two pings. One, Noah, and the details of the party. Two, Hadlee Ophelia posted on Instagram.
I’ve had a crush on Hadlee Ophelia for about two months. Ever since I saw her at winter formal dancing with her now ex-boyfriend Micah Claire. She was wearing a winter blue dress with her trademark white knee-high socks. The socks always had two stripes towards the top with colors matching her outfit. Her hair was curled, a nice contrast to the ordinary wavy blonde look. She bore herself admittedly well, dancing with Micah flawlessly. She looked flawless. As far as I knew, she was. Truly, though, the amount of knowledge I possessed of Hadlee Ophelia was far limited. Do you know how there are people in your grade who you’ve never talked to? You know who they are, and you presume they know who you are, yet not once have you conversed? That was me and Hadlee. As far as I knew, we’d never shared eye contact.
The picture she uploaded is a picture of her with closed eyes, her eyelids decorated in rainbow makeup. Starting from her right eye and traveling to her left (though the image was flipped). I had 898 followers while Hadlee had 1157, me being one of the contributors. The embarrassing bit is that she didn’t follow me back, furthering my theory that she didn’t know who I was. Or worse; she didn’t care. It had been three minutes since posted and I decided to wait to like it, as always. It had 27 likes and I doubt she’d notice. However, that wouldn’t change the process. I waited.
I walked to my room and passed the wall of family photos, one including me as a naked baby. (I had asked half a dozen times for my mom to take it down. She never would.) As I made it to my room and jumped on my Buzz Lightyear bedsheets, in the mindset to take a nap from the depleted energy in my body, my dad called my name just as my body slammed down. He got mad whenever I missed dinner hanging out on the rooftops of Applewood High. On the opposing side, I was always quite pleased with the coincidence. I would always say that Noah and I had eaten, and the conversation was always dismissed, but never over. I didn’t blame my dad. I never have. All he wanted was the best for me, and as oblivious as he was to my then-current conditions, he did a decent job at it. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said about my mom. It wasn’t as if she was absent, just distant. Cold. I knew she loved me, and she did all her motherly duties, but it was as if we didn’t share blood. When I looked in her eyes, they were the haziest I’d seen. She was there, but never present.
After going for my nightly run that I somehow conjured the energy for and mindlessly scrolling through my phone for about an hour, my eyelids grew heavy after the strenuous day. My bones ached as if there was no fat left on my body to rid and now I was slowly fading away, inch by inch. I gave myself away to the pursuer of exhaustion.
WEDNESDAY - 2/26/20
The breeze hit my bare stomach. I was cruising on my skateboard, listening to music that gave me chills the February weather couldn’t compare to, on my way to school. I passed a house I had not known then but would be of great significance in my near future. One of the tenants would change my life forever if truth be told.
It was lunchtime. There were circle tables about the room, nearly three dozen of them. Hadlee sat in the corner of the room, the spot of the number one person at Applewood High. My place was the top spot of the third most popular table. Next to me sat Noah, of course. He was near the bottom Sophomore year, but being friends with me naturally brought him up. Popularity isn’t something I care much about. When I moved here in the third grade, I became friends with one of the would-be groups that held importance in the school hierarchy. Of course, I hadn’t known it then. It was a natural occurrence. In terms of food chains, Hadlee and I were at the top. She was at the very tip, but we were still both the lions. (Yes, comparing social life to a food chain was vein. That’s just the way things were at Applewood, and presumably every other highschool in the country.) Third out of thirty-six isn’t bad, I thought. Not bad at all, but I could do better. I know I should have been thankful for my social ranking, but it was frustrating because I was just out of reach from Hadlee. The top two tables were her close friend groups, and my spot at third was the reasoning for our lack of relationship.
Though I wasn’t close enough for it to make much sense, that day I was worried for Hadlee. There in the corner of the lunchroom, the seat was empty. This is important because every single day over the years, there Hadlee sat. But not that day. It was February, so there were months, years of evidence stacked high to prove that Ophelia didn’t miss school.
THURSDAY - 2/27/30
That morning I found something that I had not known then but would become a day to day precedented event. Opening my locker, my thoughts were elsewhere. Worrying about Hadlee. I knew it wasn’t my place, but the thought persisted. Then it happened. A note. It fell right into my hands as the locker opened. It had said one very short message that hit me like a freight train. Burn. I knew exactly what it meant. Burn in Hell for being gay.
It wasn’t uncommon for me to receive hate concerning my sexuality, but never anything like this. This felt personal, almost intimate. Shoving the threat into my pocket, I walked down the long, buzzing hallway to class.
At lunchtime, I receive another note. This one I expected, since I received one every day in my dad’s ably made lunches. I almost felt bad throwing out the meals he packed me, but I never threw away the note. I had kept them in a jar on my nightstand, accompanied by figurines from places I’ve been to. That day, the note said “If you can stand on your tippy-toes you can see Friday! Happy Thursday Jelly Bean.” Jelly Bean was a nickname that came from a childhood memory I don’t even have. Apparently, though I doubted the event’s existence, I went a whole week refusing to eat anything but Jelly Beans. This had been after Easter, and my first time having them. I don’t believe it ever happened because Jelly Beans are not sustainable for a five-year-old. In obvious terms, they made it up.
Throwing away the lunch, I met Noah in line for school lunch. Since I never ate, I had time to wait with him.
He was wearing an arm cast, and my exact words were What the Hell could you have done? This was the sixth time he had broken a bone in his life (that I knew of) and the possible injury causes were dwindling.
“Fell off of my skateboard.”
When we sat down at our spot in table three, there was one thing I noticed promptly; No Hadlee. I knew I shouldn’t worry. Maybe she was sick, perhaps the flu. It was flu season, after all.
I need to get you out of my head.
The period after lunch was Mr. Martochio for World History. It was the only other class I had with Hadlee, so I had known it was not just her skipping lunch either. My mind was elsewhere, thinking about how far I would run that night, maybe skateboarding with Noah when I heard Hadlee’s name.
“Would anybody like to volunteer to partner with Hadlee when she comes back?”
Before I knew exactly what was happening, I shot my hand up before anyone else even had the chance.
The skatepark wasmy safe place, along with the rooftops. That’s where I found myself that night with Noah, despite the fact that he had broken his arm the night before doing said activity. Rarely, but still all too much, Micah Claire would sometimes appear there the same time as Noah and I. He never hurt me in any way, but the fact that Hadlee dated
him threw me off a bit. He was a cute guy, but just so dull.
I love the dance my heart does as I drop-in, the adrenaline caused by the unknown ending is part of the reasons I love skateboarding. (Another reason is it’s a good form of exercise.) It went fine that time, me rolling smoothly down and ending with a tre-flip. Noah followed, crashing badly and ripping his jeans into a bloody mess.
“Jesus, don’t break another bone.”
“Think about how cool I’d look with two casts. I’d get all the hot girls to sign it. Starting with you, of course.” and then he winked at me.
What the Hell was that?
Noah had formed a habit of jokingly flirting with me. I had no problem with it, and even though I wasn’t into guys, I would sometimes reciprocate. But there were occasions where it felt all too real. This was one of them. I would usually just laugh it off and forget about it until the next occurrence. Noah was a sweet guy, and he’d never purposely make me uncomfortable. Even if he did have feelings for me, I knew he’d respect my sexuality. It wouldn’t change our friendship dynamic and I’d treat him the same. I hoped he knew that. Still, the joking got out of hand sometimes. I decided to ignore the comment and we skated until sunset.
FRIDAY - 2/28/20
It was the night of the party and I had not seen nor heard anything about Hadlee. It was mildly concerning, but I was more stressed out about the party at that moment. I decided to wear a black skirt and a black button-up shirt, dressed with black Tims and high rainbow socks. I finished bruising my teeth when Noah pulled up in his mom’s used silver 2007 Volkswagen Golf.
“Excited for your first ever real party?”
“Whatever. I’m sure it’s gonna be just boring enough to where it’s not terrible.”
As I walked into the large brick home housing the party, I was punched with an overwhelming smell of what I could only imagine was the scent of cheap corner store-bought beer, (certainly either stolen or sold to a false identity) though I couldn’t be sure speaking to the fact that I’d never had alcohol. The music was decidedly horrible and most likely designed for intoxicated underage peoples grinding on each other. In terms of people, though Noah and I were considerably early, the crowd had already caused an almost unbreathable atmosphere. I could barely see the walls surrounding us. The color of white paint stained almost yellow peered through the cracks of dancing, tipsy but not yet drunk teenagers. The carpet matched the walls quite perfectly, not even being able to tell the original color. It was entirely stain riddled.
“C’mon,” Noah grabbed my hand. “The party’s not at the door.” And he pulled me into the crowd. We danced, me being hesitant due to the dreadful music. Within minutes I felt drunk off the stench of alcohol, and a drink had appeared in my had. I had not asked for one, nor had I the intention to break my sober streak. While dancing, I was all too aware of the smell, the burning sensation it left in my eyes, and the touching of the sweaty people surrounding me, continuously bumping into me.
As a song I liked eventually came on, I lost myself to the rhythm, forgetting all about the scene I was set in. The moment was quickly lost on me when I felt somebody grab me from behind. I turned around swiftly, praying to God that it was just Noah joking around, but as I turned it wasn’t Noah I saw. I stood there facing Micah Claire.
“What the Hell are you doing?” I asked.
Instead of a response, I received a disgusted look as if I was the wrongdoer in this scenario. Plus, I’ll protect you from the weirdos. Noah’s words rung in my head as I realized he was nowhere near the place he was dancing a moment ago. Micah shoved past me, spilling my drink in the process. I didn’t care, and I knew nobody would notice the new spot on the already dirtied carpet. I did need a drink, however. Finding my way to the fridge, I strongly hoped that there would be a diet soda of any kind. Pushing past the beers and condiments, which seemed to be all there was, I found a stash of Diet Cokes. It’ll have to do. I chugged one immediately.
Moving my way through now drunk partiers with a new can in hand, Noah’s nowhere in sight. Just as I spot him, somebody grabs me from behind again. Instead of turning around, I ran.
I found myself near the top of the stairs that I saw in front of the front door earlier. I saw a room to the left that comedically had a “MENS” sign as if it were an establishment instead of a pig-sty. I couldn’t handle it. I was not the party type. A headache caused by the horrid smell of sweat mixed with various substances filled my nose and combined with the thumping music, a headache raged through me.
As I barged through the room, I came face-to-face with a girl who had been crying. Her eyes were red and puffy, makeup streaming down her face caused by the flow of tears. She was unrecognizable. Everybody else at the party I vaguely knew from Applewood High, but not her.
“Hey, Jordan. I know, I’ve never looked better.” she chuckled. She has a beautiful laugh.
She quickly washed her face, (I had not moved since I was taken aback by the fact that she knew my name.) and looked back at me. I didn’t see a crying girl, most likely drunk, in the bathroom at a party. I saw the most unhazy and purest emerald green eyes imaginable. As far as I knew, we’d never shared eye contact.
“Hadlee” I whispered, and so much air came out I was sure she couldn’t interpret. Before the conversation could pick up any substance, she walked out.
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