Three or so Instances of the Scale

She had been lost for a while now. She could feel herself losing control of every aspect of her life. On her report card, she got an A in math instead of an A+. And the thought of not being the best frightened her so much that she became numb. It’s like that feeling when you dip your feet into the icy winter waters and suddenly, you don’t have toes anymore. Not really, at least. She tried to write how she felt; she wondered why being superb instead of exceptional was too unbearable to think about; she wondered how her friends could get Bs and be happy. And she was jealous. They could go about life, not feeling like one bad grade would create a homeless future. But her, anytime she received a 96, she knew she should prepare for her unpromising future. She began preparing for life on the streets. She learned to play the guitar. She would need those skills to earn money as the privileged passed by. She wore shorts in the winter—she needed to adapt to the feelings of the cold. For in the future, she would have no blanket as she slept under the dark, snowy sky. But then, out of nowhere, she saw it. In her mother’s bathroom, it sat there, promising her a way out. She saw a scale for the first time. She was terrified that she would not have the best body as she stepped on anxiously. And the numbers did not satisfy her. But, at least she could control them. And she would make sure the numbers would be as low as her test grades were high. The scale was her way out. It gave her power; it gave her self-worth.

        She was on a quest. Now, she had to juggle schoolwork and her new extracurricular activity. It was hard to say the least, but at least she had control. Her bright future was within her reach. She thanked the scale for a way out of the tunnel; for being the star in a black sky. She began to skip meals, saying she was too busy studying. For the first few weeks, her parents did not act upon their suspicions. She was probably just stressed, they thought, nothing more. But soon, missed dinners twice a week suddenly became everyday, and supposedly, she was now buying lunch at school even though she had always hated the cafeteria food. When her grandmother baked her famous chocolate chip cookies, her eyes filled with sadness instead of lighting up. And soon, she was wearing baggy sweatshirts during the heat wave. Something was terribly wrong. This was not her in control, but something controlling her. It was forcing her to kill herself—for what? For the delusional belief that she would become homeless if the number on the scale was too high? If the number on the paper was too low? But soon, she would see the scale once again.

        Her parents figured out that something was terribly wrong. As if the lying, the refusal of food, and the baggy clothing were not enough, she soon decided to open up an online cupcakery. She would spend hours a day by the oven, baking complex cupcakes from recipes she found online. But, she never once tried them. All that time spent baking those extravagant cupcakes, and she couldn’t even take one bite. She was so busy feeding others that she forgot about herself. It was time to take her to a doctor, her parents decided. Enough was enough. They could not spend hundreds of dollars on baking supplies anymore in hopes that one day, just one day, their daughter would allow herself to take one bite of her own creation. And that was the second time she encountered the scale. It was in the hospital that smelled of decay and sickness. A doctor forced her to step backwards onto the device so she couldn’t see the number. The scale that used to be her only friend now taunted her.

        “I know something you don’t!” it bragged. “I am better than you!”

        She blocked her ears and scrunched her head into her lap. She could not bear not being the best—not knowing everything. It meant that she was going to be homeless. When the doctor left the room to let her put her clothes back on, she decided she could not let the scale win. This time, she stepped facing her enemy. Her heart crumpled and her stomach shattered. All this time, all this time starving herself, and she still wasn’t the best?! How could this be? Maybe homelessness was inevitable. Maybe she did not deserve a home. The doctor came back, and her parents looked crushed. The doctor told her if she had gone on like this, she would have died within the next month. The doctor said the only choice she had was recovery or death.

        She struggled. Each bite seemed to poison her tongue, and her self-worth dropped a little more with each calorie she consumed. Her baggy clothes were not as baggy now. She was not stupid. She was not smart, but she was not stupid. She knew that meant she was gaining fast. But losing was far preferable than gaining. She spent her days arguing with her parents. Why did they feed her? Why wouldn’t they want their daughter to be the best? She spent her nights crying. Her stomach was an expanding balloon, and she was gaining faster than a pregnant woman. Her heart ached for the scale. She missed it so much that she began writing letters to it. The only hope she had was the hope of reuniting with her friendly enemy. And she did. Six years later, after countless arguments and countless nights spent crying herself to sleep, she saw the scale once again. But this time, she knew the scale was a back stabber. She knew the scale had tricked her into killing herself. She knew the scale had taken control of her. It was time to say goodbye.

The flames burned, causing her eyes to water. She threw the scale in quickly, before she changed her mind. And she was free. She was not the best, but she was free. She had control. She chose recovery. She realized the scale was not her true friend. It took three or so instances of encountering the scale, but it was finally gone.

“Goodbye, old friend,” she whispered. “Goodbye chains.”