Issue 62 Jul 2018
On the day Priya got the strange message that would change her life forever, she returned home from school at the usual time (around three o clock), climbed into bed, propped her tablet PC on her belly, and began watching streaming TV shows. She preferred the shows about zombies, where dead people chased after living ones and tried to eat them. She watched the shows until Amma got home from work, which was usually well after 8:00 PM. By then, Amma was too exhausted and irate to bother about anything. It was best to stay out of Amma's way when she got back. If Amma asked her questions about school or homework, she just told Amma that everything was going well.
After Amma and Appa got divorced, their lives had become tough. Priya had been eight years old when it happened, and that whole period of her life was just one terrible memory after another — Appa and Amma fighting, court cases, strangers and relatives visiting.
Soon after the divorce, Appa got a job somewhere in Saudi Arabia and left India for good. For a few months after that, he stayed in touch, but his calls grew less frequent over time. Now he no longer called. Amma told her that Appa had married another woman and was living with this lady in Saudi Arabia. He had a child, too, another daughter. Which was probably why he had stopped calling.
Amma worked hard because there were bills to be paid — the rent, school fees, groceries, and so on. They lived in a cramped two-bedroom apartment on MG Road in Sri Nagar. (Priya's bedroom was a little larger than a closet). Amma drove an ancient, beat-up Maruti and said they had two hefty bank loans to pay off. Amma often complained that her job barely paid enough to sustain their lives. (Amma worked as the company secretary and receptionist at a real estate firm). Amma also hinted ominously that men did not behave well with divorced women, although she never went into details.
When my mom picked me up from the airport last night, she didn’t say a word. She had taken one look at me, grabbed my suitcase, and threw it in the back of the car. We drove home in silence, the heat and unsaid words steaming up the car windows. I had expected her to at least ask me how my trip was, but her lips remained closed. It didn’t matter though ‒ I was tired, and I understood her reaction. She was upset, because of me.
Stepping off the plane, the details of the trip were still fresh and swirling in my mind. I remembered the colors of the countryside, the electric rush of people in the city, the smoggy Paris air. I recalled smelling the incredible French foods: the breads, the soups, the desserts. Foods I never actually ate.
I, once again, have let my anorexia relapse.
My month-long trip to France should have been one of the best experiences of my life. The sites, the language, the food. I should have enjoyed it all, but there was no one there to watch me eat. There was no one to hold me accountable for consuming the recommended 2,000 calories a day. So, I didn’t. Everything had started off so perfectly ‒ I loved France! ‒ but of course, whenever anything is going right in my life, my brain always has to revert back to my old ways. I had tried so hard to still enjoy myself despite not eating, but I quickly became too tired to leave my hotel most days. I had wasted the biggest opportunity of my life.
Now I’m sitting at the breakfast table, where mom has put waffles and fruit and a glass of milk in front of me. She stands in the kitchen with her back turned to me, pouring batter into the griddle, lost in her work.