It is 9pm.
It is 9pm, and I’m jogging through a graveyard in the middle of New Hampshire. It is 9pm, and I am optimizing my time by using this time to think about what I will do tomorrow to optimize that time. I decide I will wake up at 4am. I will wake up at 4am, and that will not be a problem because I will be starving (having dreamt of nothing but peanut butter and pork roast). So, I will wake up at 4am.
And eat a cup of plain nonfat Greek yogurt.
I will watch the sunrise from the patio of my aunt’s condo. I will pour myself a cup of coffee, guzzle it, and then another. I will study Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, studying although I’m no longer a student, studying for the sake of studying, for the sake of finding and solving some unknown equation that must lie between the lines and under my body.
Quote Aristotle: “Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim.”
So I will study until 8am, when the sun will be high enough so that I can go running again. This time with tanning oil on my arms and on my legs, with tanning oil on my back and shoulders and chest and cheeks and palms, because I am a Jersey girl at heart, and Jersey girls are not unlike plants in that they need the sun to thrive.
I’d rather my blood be chlorophyll, sometimes. I’d rather the dihydroxyacetone of the oil absorb that which I myself do not. Plants have it easy. Stomachs are challenging.
So I will run, and then I will shower. Then, I will walk two miles into town go to work at a Brazilian café, which has hired me under the pretense that I have experience sautéing chorizo. I do not have experience sautéing chorizo. But they do not know that. Nobody in this town of 9,000 knows that because nobody in town, besides my aunt, knows me. So despite my inexperience, I will work. I will study the calluses that form on my hands like they’re battle-scarred footnotes to Marx. I will spatula-prod that gross, gross log of chorizo. I will watch that milky fat squirm down the pan from 11am to 3pm. Then, I will skip my discounted lunch and go straight to Crackskull’s, the local used bookstore and café, which already calls me a regular.
I’ve lived here two weeks.
I will sit in their café and try out a few more equations, read between a few more lines. I will write pages and pages on Aristotle’s notion of that “some good.” I will recall Charlotte’s webbed remark: “some pig.” I imagine the spiders above me with their fly-empty webs, writing “some good” for me, but “some pig” seems more apt. Taking a breath from Aristotle, I will discover Schopenhauer’s concept of “wille zum leben”—the will to live—and I will doodle “wille zum leben” in the margins of my notebook as though it were a crush’s name. I will finish my third cup of coffee in 15 minutes. That is okay because I will switch to decaf after 5pm, I tell myself. But I don’t, because dihydroxyacetone is no chlorophyll and my thoughts are running incoherent. So I propose that if, if my leaps of logic lose their coherency, if my will (my wille zum leben) gets the best of me, if—I will allow myself to purchase a single overpriced biscotti. Just one overpriced biscotti.
I will allow that, but only if–
If I can just make it to 6pm when my aunt will pick me up and take me to vinyasa yoga (vinyasameaning flow, from pose to pose: breathing, always breathing). My aunt will pick me up after she gets off work at the library, and we will go to yoga together. She’ll make small talk with the teacher while I test to see if my thighs touch when I stretch into downward facing dog. I will compare the circumference of my calves to the girl next to me, and halfway through class I will have to lay down in child’s pose because I will want to vomit. Afterward, we’ll drive home. My aunt will suggest that we learn a new recipe together, and I will squirm in my seat and tell her that sounds like a good idea. She’ll suggest I make friends my own age.
We will get home at 8pm, and I will tell my Aunt I am exhausted. She’ll say that reason I’m tired is probably because of my diet. I’ll add more protein tomorrow, I say.
I say I will add more protein tomorrow. I won’t. I will go to bed. I will not sneak back down the stairs and into the kitchen and have a banana because that will lead to two bananas. I will not sneak back down the stairs and drink half a gallon of chocolate milk because I’ve lied and told my aunt I’m lactose intolerant. I lied and told my aunt–
My aunt, who has taken me in—who still thinks I am nothing less than a promising academic—who does not know that I cannot stay in New Jersey because New Jersey means treatment and anywhere else means rent, and I can’t afford to pay rent and stick to my strict regimented workout schedule, and where else is there to go in the world but New Hampshire?
But, if—I won’t—but, if I do drink a half-gallon of chocolate milk, my aunt cannot know. She cannot know that I am “some pig”. So, I will pray that my aunt won’t notice the missing chocolate milk. I will pray she won’t notice the way she doesn’t notice The Scale in the upstairs bathroom has been moved or the dark, dark circles under my eyes, the bulge at the bottom of my belly I know all the world can see.
I think about this all while I run, breathing in variations of three-quarter time–in two three,hold two three four five six, out two three, in two three, hold two three four five six, out two three—I think about this as I run through a graveyard in the middle of New Hampshire at what is now nearly midnight, must be midnight, and as I run through the graveyard, I will hold my flashlight out in front of me because I am manic-depressive, not stupid, and I did think this through enough to bring a flashlight. I will shine the light on the path I’m on, the path that I must, must follow, and my steps will echo off the headstones, rising ahead of me and falling behind me, headstone after headstone.
By time I get home, my aunt will be in her room watching The Daily Show, and I will collapse onto the air mattress in her guest bedroom next to my philosophy books, piled high like a house of cards ready to topple over with one exhausted blow. The ends of my nerves will be vibrating with the nauseous ticks of a wound-too-tight clock. My nerves will be running, running too hot because, before I made it up, up the stairs, I will break. I will break and I will have finished off a quart of cold gazpacho and a sleeve of dry Ritz crackers.
I will have stolen them. I will have gorged on what was not mine and did not deserve.
But I could not control myself. The hunger was, simply was. Dihydroxyacetone is no chlorophyll and I am no plant.
So, I will collapse onto my air-mattress bed. I will try to calm my nerves, which will feel fat. The nerves will stick up out of my skin. I will want to vomit, but I won’t. I will want to drink, but I won’t. My aunt doesn’t allow alcohol in the house, which is fine because alcohol is high in calories, and the last time I drank I finished off a whole bottle of organic blueberry wine from Whole Foods in one sitting. So instead I will count my quick, quick waltzing breaths (my chlorophyll, my chlorophyll, my chloroform), and I will feel the most repulsive part of me slosh around inside my gut. I will feel with my hands the mound of biscotti-gazpacho-Ritz-cracker gloop as it forces its way through my digestive tract. I will see the gloopy mound snake between my sharp hipbones poking out from my loose gym shorts. I will fall asleep, fearing that I might not have the energy to wake up.
Quote Aristotle: “…for possession of virtue seems actually compatible with being asleep, or with lifelong inactivity, and, further, with the greatest sufferings and misfortunes; but a man who was living so no one would call happy, unless he were maintaining a thesis at all costs.”
The next morning when I do wake up (miracle of miracles), I will go to The Scale (sinner, sinner). I will weigh my soul before a Target-purchased, spring-loaded God, and, despite everything (despite the running, the starving, the withholding, the massive upheaval of my life all for the sake of a number) The Scale will tell me that, despite it all, I have gained two pounds since yesterday, and I will think, well, you should probably just kill yourself.
Quote Aristotle: “Must no one at all, then be called happy while he lives; must we, as Solon says, see the end? Even if we are to lay down this doctrine, is it also the case that a man is happy when he is dead?”
I will step off The Scale.
I will put my back against the cool tiles.
I will slide down to the floor. There is no way out.
There is no more weight left to lose.
This, this is the bottom of the bottle, and there is no more wine left to drink.
I thought I picked the least of all evils. I thought the runner’s high was my way out. I thought dieting was my way out. I thought these were good, good things. But even distanced from the world through the high of starvation, even in the middle of New Hampshire, I am here. No matter where I go, I am there, and the problem with being where I am is that I am not yet good.
Quote Aristotle: “Is nothing other than the Idea of good good in itself?”
A glass of wine is good and I will drink it and feel its goodness (its goodness evidence in my attraction towards it), and I will want more.
Quote Aristotle: “…for that which is added becomes an excess of goods, and of goods the greater is always more desirable.”
But a bottle later I will be on the ground with my 12-year old sister holding my head, stroking my hair, telling me that it’s okay. And that will not be good. So I won’t drink.
But if it is not drinking, it’s running. I will feel the goodness of running, and I will want more and more of it until I’ve burned 1250 calories on the treadmill at the gym. And if it isn’t running, it’s starving. I will feel the goodness of a fasting mind, that nearly religious high, and want it constantly. And if it isn’t starving, it’s binging. I will feel the goodness of sugar giving me a rush that might, if I’m lucky, leave me comatose. And if it isn’t binging, it’s smoking. It’s passing the bowl, around and around and around, inhaling long after the others have stopped.
And if isn’t smoking, it’s Orlando Bloom.
When I was 13, I had six Orlando Bloom posters in my bedroom and a cardboard cut out of Legolas, the elf he played in Lord of the Rings. I could tell you how Orlando Bloom lost his virginity and the chronological order of the movies he’s appeared in since 1998.
Some good. Some good that was. I don’t know the meaning of some good. I don’t know what good is, but I know now what is at the bottom of my broken equation. Addiction. I am an addict and exchanging one variable for another will not give me a solution, for Aristotle was wrong. Good on top of good does not beget more good.
It will not matter whom I’m with or what I am doing. It will not matter what state I’m in. It will not matter. I will find that which seems good in and of itself and I will follow and chase it with all of my wille zum leben (my wille zum leben not being good enough). I will chase it and then run and run as it chases me, and we will keep running (and running and running), and running was supposed to be the least of all evils, but even the least was too much. So now, I will walk.
I will get up from the bathroom floor and I will walk. I will walk into the hallway. I will walk to my air mattress bed. It will be the longest walk. And I will crawl under the blankets my aunt has provided for me. I will call my mom. She will answer after three rings and I will tell her, knowing I’ve finally run out of places to run, I will tell her, the words will take a moment to come out because I know once they are out it will all be over, I will tell her, knowing once I say it I’ll both regain my freedom and be enslaved again, I will tell her–
“Mom, I think I need to go to rehab.”
Amanda Claire Buckley is a writer of both stories and songs. She’s performed her work in Chicago, nationally, and abroad. She received the Next Generation Scholarship from the National Storytelling Network in 2015. To learn more, visit her website www.amandaclairebuckley.com.