With the end of a comfortable long term relationship came a foray into uncertain territory and an adventure into the world of heightened insecurity.
The pale skin that stretched over unfit muscles and ashen bones was never home for me. There was always a disconnect that could never be shaken; something I would later learn was due to an early onset of a horrific mental illness that would then go untreated for almost a decade. For years, I could never look in the mirror. The violet lightning bolts that stretched across my soft stomach and arms made me want to gag. The bumps on my thighs made my nails tighten on my doughy flesh and regret the fact that nothing could seem to curve the image of a nineteen-nineties-heroin-chic super model that my mother seemingly wanted in a first-born daughter.
And while my first long-term relationship made me ambivalent to the bumps on my stomach and the lumps around my hips, I never learnt to feel anything towards them other than that—because I had someone to do it for me.
When my comfortable long-term relationship ended, the untreated mental health spiralled. A message to future lovers that I was not to be touched. Not to be loved. A broken toy in the lost and found.
A boy with black hair invited me over. It was a modern-day romance with McDonalds and nineteen-eighties comedy sequels. He peeled off my clothes between kisses and jokes, laughter vibrating against our swollen lips. He gripped my thighs and felt the indentations in my skin, raised marks that had healed awkwardly, separated skin that had formed like a groove drawn in pale sand. And I felt wet lips kiss the battlefield, like an activist putting a flower in the barrel of a gun.
In the morning, I left and we never talked again. Confusion engulfed me because of the tender moment that I was not used to. He was an almost-stranger, so how did he manage to care more for my body than I did?
I have never been able to work out why I hated my body so much. How I could recoil at the sight of any reflecting surface; to pull at the skin of my stomach and wish it was never there. I wish that I was a husk of what I was now, that I was a quarter of the size. A waif of a human, with lanky arms and legs, skin hanging from my bones like a silk shirt on a wire hanger. But that wasn’t the case. I could never look that way. And since I didn’t have anyone obligated to love me anymore, maybe, just maybe, I would need to learn to love my body, because nobody but me has to live in it. I would have to learn to love my violent stretch marks, to see them as flower stems or tiger stripes. To love my thighs for being a battlefield.
I would need to learn to love it all. For me.