In the interests of anonymity, I will say only that I work in health care. We seem to get more than our fair share of strange patients; one, specifically, has been on my mind lately.
The girl in question, a recent admission, had a story disturbing enough to run through the inter-department grapevine fairly often. Tired of hearing the same gossip repeated endlessly, I pulled and read her file, intending to debunk the rumors.
I wish I hadn’t.
The following is a cleaned-up version of her personal written account.
This is all a misunderstanding, honestly. I’m fine. I am not the problem. There’s someone else out there responsible for this - they’re doing this to torture me. I shouldn’t even be here.
I’ve had some issues with body image. That much is true. I was actually failing yet another diet when it first happened.
We were out celebrating Becky’s promotion. The five of us were at dinner - it was a really nice restaurant, but I can’t remember which - and my diet willpower was running on empty. We'd all had a glass or two of wine by the time my salad came. I’d resolved to eat only half of it, and only that much so as not to cause a scene on Becky’s night. The girls pestered me whenever I refused to eat…
Still, I couldn’t help but think it was no coincidence that the skinniest out of the five of us was the first to get promoted. We’d all graduated more than a year ago, and the real world was like slap in the face. None of us were really where we wanted to be.
Except Becky, of course.
Hunger filled me with constant pain, and hating myself for it stressed me to the limit… so when the waiter put cheese on my salad, I didn’t stop him. I wanted to throw the salad away, to refuse to eat, but I was so hungry…
And then, two bites in, angry but putting on a happy face for the girls, I found a long black hair. Wrapping around pieces of lettuce, it immediately disgusted me - I’d almost eaten it without realizing it.
We got our meals for free, and the girls didn’t even bother me when I couldn’t bring myself to eat. The hair had knocked out my hunger completely!
I was on cloud nine for the next day or two. I wasn’t hungry, I wasn’t stressed - it was amazing. I thought I’d stumbled onto some great new form of self-control.
But the girls thought otherwise - or maybe just Becky.
I was at lunch with Andrea when the hunger began to reach a breaking point again. Depleted, sad, I gave in and ordered a large salad. Andrea smiled and said something about being there for me if I needed to talk - I bet she was in on it. In my memories, her smile seems vaguely sinister and mocking, as if she anticipated what would happen…
I found a fingernail in my salad! A fake red fingernail!
Those things are disgusting - there are so many germs under fake nails - I know!
Lunch was free again, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat. The shock and disgust had, again, knocked out my hunger completely.
Part of me was relieved, and empowered. I was going on two weeks without eating, and this whole… disgust thing… was really helping me lose weight.
But I’m not crazy, or stupid. I know that you have to eat sometimes.
Another day or two passed, and I ordered a chicken salad while at brunch with Becky. She kept gloating on and on about her new job, about how her boss was vaguely hitting on her… I hated her so much, secretly, even if outwardly I was happy for her. I was mainly focused on my salad, though. It was sweet relief, finally eating…
…until I bit down on something hard and squishy.
I spit it out quickly; I remember Becky’s exact words.
“Oh my god, is that a toe?”
I remember staring at the thing as it sat on my napkin. It was mushed, ground up, red and cooked a little… but a bone clearly stuck out of it.
The entire place shut down temporarily after that, but nobody could figure out where the toe had come from. Obviously, none of the employees were missing it… but Becky basked in the attention from the scandal. She even got on local television, even though it was my salad that had the toe in it.
“This is a travesty. People can get seriously sick if they accidentally eat things like that,” she’d said to the reporter.
I was starting to wonder whether she had something to do with it…
The shock overwhelmed me, dispelling my hunger for a little under a day - but my relief and enjoyment was short-lived. I knew I’d have to start eating again, sooner rather than later.
Not up for any more of Becky’s sick pranks, I decided to scope the vending machines at the mall.
I hated myself so much, right about then, staring at candy bars and feeling weak… but I had to eat, and I had no willpower left. Chocolate would make everything right.
I bit into that thing… so amazing… sweet, sweet chocolate…
It was only two bites in that I saw something poking out between the wrapper and the candy bar, halfway down. Pulling the wrapper back, I couldn’t help but hurl it on the floor as I puked up what I’d eaten.
Pressed between wrapper and chocolate was what was unmistakably a flap of skin.
Had it been sliced off of somebody? Traces of blood still… god!
But how the hell had Becky done it? How had she known?
I was full on terrified and angry then, even if a tiny part of me had been relieved to throw up the two bites I’d eaten. Tortured, but still fighting my own urge to not eat, I ordered a slice of pizza at the food court. It came with a large bubble in the crust… sickly despairing, I ripped it open, finding what looked like someone’s cornea cooked inside.
Goddamn Becky - she had to be somewhere around, tracking me, doing this to me. Did she have the help of all the girls?
By nightfall, I ended up across the state line. I pulled into a backwater restaurant I’d never heard of. Relieved, I ordered a hamburger from the polite old man who probably owned the place. There was no way Becky or the girls could interfere with my food here…
The hamburger, slid in front of me on a quaintly decorated plate, looked like the most delicious thing ever. I still considered not eating, still considered continuing my diet… and I hated myself for giving in… but I didn’t want to die. People have to eat!
I paused before biting in.
Sliding back the bun, I investigated the contents. Everything seemed normal, until I lifted the tomato from the lettuce. I couldn’t tell what it was at first… a pinkish grayish blob, a bump in the ketchup… I lifted it up by a stringy bit and stared at it, until I finally understood.
It was a piece of brain matter.
I would have thrown up, but my heaving stomach had nothing in it.
I drove away from there as fast as I could, continuing in random directions. I don’t know how Becky and the girls were tracking me or predicting what I would eat, but I had to evade them…
Candy bar from a gas station - nope. Chicken nuggets from a drive through - nope. I still don’t understand how they did it! I even begged a younger kid to make me a sub from start to finish, watching the entire process, making sure nothing was in it - he handed it to me, I opened it up, and - oh god - I still remember his expression of confusion and horror as I screamed…
But a strange calm came after that. Three weeks without eating? Four? I knew I would die if I didn’t eat. I had this strange thought; I had this idea, of a place they couldn’t predict, couldn’t make disgusting and inedible…
I found it. I did - I beat them. I found the most delicious salad, and I ate it desperately, gorging, knowing I was finally saved… but I’ll be honest, that wasn’t what I expected to find the first time I did it. It makes sense, now, though.
When I cracked his skull open with that pipe, I almost couldn’t believe it. He fell, and chicken salad splattered across the pavement! Supple green lettuce, crunchy and stringy - strips of chewy chicken - and that dressing… that dressing was to die for! I was finding pieces of people in my food, no matter where I ate… so the only logical place to find something edible was… inside people…
We have to feed her intravenously. Normal food terrifies and disgusts her. The whole thing makes me wonder how, in this day and age, we can still let the media impose unreasonable body images so powerfully on us…
Though she’s not the strangest patient we have here, she interests me because of her ability to manipulate the nurses. Apparently - and nobody ever did figure out who helped her - she convinced somebody to sneak body parts into her food the first few times we tried to feed her. At least, that’s the only explanation of those incidents that makes sense…
Update: I read some more files, and they continue to disturb me...
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