Don’t Torch The Skin You Live In

After a lifetime of battling my body, I’m waving the white flag

Felicia C. Sullivan

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Me, 1980. Photos courtesy of the author.

TW: Disordered eating, eating disorders.

My first memory of food is my mother trying to pry the tines of a fork into my mouth. Her pleas were quiet and urgent, and it was a rare thing to see my mother cry. She was impenetrable, violent, and beautiful. Tears are the dominion of children, but it was as if I were birthed bone-dry — capable of sorrow, but unable to weep for it. That morning, before he woke before he would part the beaded curtain that separated their bedroom from where I slept before I would enter that room when my mother wasn’t in it before he would break me, break things, I remember staring at my mother as she tried to work food in me and feeling nothing.

I am five.

Back then, my mother was bone-thin. Body taut from waiting tables, charming customers, counting tips. Smoking through a pack of Kent 100s, fishing through it, finding a smoke, lighting another. This was before the cocaine and peach pies rotting under the bed. She was a woman who moved and I liked the look of her. The way she was thin, yet far from frail, and the possibility of her edging out of the frame.

And I wanted my magic tricks, wanted to disappear. Not to part the beaded curtain, not to remember how the lamps in the room lit them up like fire, not to remember the colors of the beads, even now, after all this time — the amber, aqua, and the blood of oxen. Not to remember the man on the other side. Not to want to wind the beads around his neck and tighten and tighten

Be slight, be small, fade from the picture. Better to feel nothing than to feel everything. Better to whittle down and deplete than to remember the thing that threatened to yank the last breath out of your mouth. Be small, Felicia. Never betray your paleness. If you’re lucky, you’ll blend into the scenery. If you’re lucky, no one will see you at all.

Here I am, 14, shoveling food into my mouth. Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate chip cookies, bagels soaked in margarine, fried chicken cutlets, and macaroni and cheese out of a box and a pouch. Pizza Hut pizza supreme, McDonald’s two-cheeseburger meal with a biggie fry, Wendy’s baked potato with cheese and bacon bits, Little…

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Felicia C. Sullivan

Marketing Exec/Author. I build brands & tell stories. Hire me: t.ly/bEnd7 My Substack: https://feliciacsullivan.substack.com/ Brand & Content eBooks: t.ly/ZP5v