One hundred and ninety.
The scale wiggles a little bit, and the needle jumps.
One hundred and ninety-two.
I raise my eyes to the wall, unable to face what the scale says. It’s been too long. The dieting, the pills, the pressure. The women on TV, leering at me and waving their silky hair and telling me that nobody will ever love me unless I look just like them.
It’s been far too long. Years of struggling. I haven’t eaten so much as a candy bar in half a decade, and in that time I’ve lost a total of ten pounds. Doctors say it’s a glandular problem, and that once a woman gets past thirty it will become harder and harder for her to lose weight. They tell me the foods to eat and not to eat, give me the little pills that will fix my problem and bring me to my ideal weight.
I unfold the towel around me, my lip quivering slightly as I’m forced to look at the roll of fat around my waist that refuses to go away. I drop my only covering onto the floor and look back at the hateful little red needle. It dips down slightly, about half a pound. I stare at the needle as it wiggles back and forth, slowly balancing itself out as it calibrates to my new weight.
One hundred and ninety-two.
My scream echoes throughout the bathroom, bouncing off the tidy white tiles to attack me again, drowning me in my own shame. I stomp on the scale again and again, my chest heaving with my continued shrieks of rage and misery. I’ve done the work – I deserve the result, the reward for everything that I’ve done. I deserve it. Julia stopped eating bread for a month and lost twenty pounds, and here I am, five-foot-six and still struggling, naked on the bathroom floor and weeping like a child at my continued lack of success, hugging my knees against my chest and wallowing in my echoed screams of frustration.
But I won’t struggle anymore.
It all comes to me, like a flash – something I can do, something drastic. A new kind of therapy. Something that the doctors wouldn’t suggest, something that I won’t find in one of those miracle treatment packages that I get in the mail every week. Something that will solve my problem once and for all.
I pull the towel back around myself and run through the house, past all the pictures of myself that I had mounted, showing myself even heavier than I am now. They were supposed to be reminders of how much worse it could be, motivation to keep losing weight. They worked. I’m going to reach my ideal weight soon. Very soon.
I throw open the door to the garage, rifling through old vinyl records and the occasional tool, before finally finding it. The circular saw that my ex-boyfriend left behind from the workshop he used to have down here. Before he broke up with me for being “not the kind of girl he wanted for a steady relationship,” anyway. I wrap the cord around it and head back into the house, leaving the door ajar behind me.
I tell myself it won’t hurt, that it will all be worth it in the end. My eyes are open wide, seeming to take in everything in slow motion – shoving the plug into the bathroom outlet, the slight tremble of my hand. The bleak, white walls around me, judging me. Sneering at my weight and bragging about their slender wives and perfect daughters. How that girl from that show they watch is “sooo hot.” Not even glancing at me when they see that I’m more than a size four. I’ll show them.
I discard the towel again, throwing it at my feet and stepping on it as I flick the switch on the saw. It’s thunderous, that grinding, chewing, soulless sound that it makes. It echoes off the tiles like my voice had, magnifying itself and flooding my mind and my thoughts, making my ears and brain buzz as I feel the whirring teeth slowly start to dig into my thigh. I grit my teeth and squeeze my tear-rimmed eyes shut. The pain is intense, color draining from my trembling hands, but I can ignore it. I promised myself that I’d reach my ideal weight in five years or less, and if I didn’t, I’d risk my life to be beautiful. I promised myself, and I won’t let myself down.
The saw is taking too long, just the weight of it won’t do. I crush my jaws against each other and I think I feel one of my molars chip. That’s fine. I press both hands against the saw’s handle and push down with all the weight of my upper body, finally throwing my head back and screaming as I feel the blade dig and chew through my femur. The rest goes easily – thick red blood splashes hot against my face, stinging my eyes, salty on my tongue. The circular saw speeds through the rest of my thigh and soon the extremity falls away, pulling off the last little bit of stretched, ripped skin as it lands on the bathroom floor. The towel below me is soaked through with blood, now, and it’s leaking out onto the rest of the floor. It’s fine. The blood adds weight, too. I’ll be fine. I’ll make it there.
Whimpering quietly, my mind fogged from both the shock and my own determination, I grope tightly at the sink with both hands, pulling myself up onto the leg I kept. I pull myself onward, towards the other side of the bathroom. I lean both hands against the white tile wall and hop upward, onto the scale.
I’m dizzy from blood loss but I can see the numbers as I steady myself and balance on my remaining leg. I can see the numbers through the smears of blood and little chunks of torn, falling muscle. I can see the brand new numbers on the scale that I’ve despised for the last five years of my life. See the numbers telling me what I want to hear.
One hundred and forty.
My ideal weight.