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"Living on the Edge" by Louis M.

CW: Eating Disorder

I slid into his DMs with a burning fire at the tips of my fingers.

I rushed to type a message that would remain vague, yet not so vague to signal we were similar.

I wanted him to notice me.

I wanted him to know that I knew what he was talking about.

I wanted to hear back from him, as though his words would lift a weight off my hunched body.


At 11, I was already taller than most boys in my school. Every month that passed, I grew a few inches taller, bringing my plump figure and baby face closer to the grey skies of my hometown. In a crowd of indistinct, small pre-teens, I was an easy target: the mannerisms in my voice and hands did little to help. I seemed to grow faster than everyone else. Somehow, my body wanted to stand out, while my mind desperately sought to hide. The curvature of my spine is but the compromise between body and mind. To the skies, I preferred the tarred school grounds and the laces on my shoes. Head down, I tried to blend in as much as possible. Your nails are so pink, you got nail polish on or what? what brand are your shoes? don’t look when we’re changing! have you even kissed her yet? why do you always hang out with these girls? why aren’t you showering after PE? My head down, I tried to disappear. I failed. Food quickly became my savior. Not only did it provide mental comfort, it also added shielding layers to my fragile body. For a while, I thought I was protected from their blows, but in reality, I had turned into memory foam. Each insult landed against my skin with force. Each blow buried itself deep inside me. Unable to push back to my initial form, for years I carried their violence and my excesses.


When he replied to thank me for my kind words, I realized I had not revealed enough. My words were indeed supportive and expressed sympathy, but they weren’t enough to engage in the meaningful conversation I had so hoped for. I could have replied to clarify. I could have said Hey, I’ve been through it too. It’s so rare for men to share that it felt quite liberating to read your story. I could have written my story then to an audience of one, to someone who would understand exactly what it means to hate one’s body and oneself so hard that only binging and purging offers peace and solace. He knows how good it feels to be full to the brim, to extend the borders of one’s stomach to breaking point. He knows how good it feels to have control for once. To finally decide that enough is enough and you can fight back. You can expel all the pain; let it all out. And, empty you’ve never been so full of yourself and happy. I would have told him that the so-called perfect body and its many iterations on social media don’t affect me as much as they affect him. Somehow, I have enough self-awareness to know that I would never be satisfied. That only a scalpel could really bring me contentment. I want a full-body lift. I want staples and stitches. I want to be so tight that living tears me apart.


Outside of PE, I enjoyed running. Far from everyone’s gaze I would move my legs swiftly and elongate my strides to experience that millisecond when both feet are off the ground, when your heart fills with joy and possibilities, when the gravity of life dissipates. I ran fast so that life would not leave me behind. I ran fast to save my life and hers. M. was standing in front of a precipice at the local park and the thought of losing her terrified me. M. is my everything. Tired of dealing with P.’s drinking problem and his violence, M. wanted to put an end to these inconsolable years, to make one with the void. But she heard my tearful plea. She stayed and held my hand. As she finally sat on the bench next to me, she wiped off my tears and hers. There I vowed to always keep the void far away from her, whatever the cost.


I started dieting during senior year of high school. On my way to class, I changed itineraries to stay away from temptation. Buttery and flaky pastries fresh out of the bakery’s oven were both a distant memory and a close reminder of the past I needed to erase. I stopped eating junk food, said goodbye to take-out, and began a new relationship with my stationary bike. Before dinner, I would work out for an hour and take stock of my slow but real progress. By the time I went to college, my body shape had become more pleasant and acceptable. People looked at me differently, and, for once, living was not so painful. Yet, something was still brewing inside me. When I left home and moved abroad after college, I experienced new depths of solitude. M. was a quick flight away from me, yet far enough that her absence dug a well in my heart and stomach. For some time before my departure, I had tried to help a friend dealing with a severe eating disorder. It seems I picked up cues along the way. I do not blame them for my slip up. I realized that whatever advice or support I was providing them, I needed it for myself first. Alone in my bedroom, the only support I found lay in grocery bags and junk food. I would sneak out of the house, rush to the store, and pile on all the bread, butter, cookies, cheese, and soda I could afford on my meager salary. I would sit on the bed, turn on the TV to muffle the sounds of my binging and ingest days’ worth of food to my heart’s content. Comedies were never as funny as when I was full and on the verge of exploding. I could not contain the irrational rush of ecstasy taking over my body. I was the last one laughing until the time came to rid myself of this burden. After all, I couldn’t ruin my past diet efforts by keeping it all in, by bottling up the food and the feelings. Purging became the way out, out of the overwhelming sadness and my inability to belong in the world. My gastric efforts yielded a greater weight loss. My skin getting closer to the bone, I was renewed. And, so long as I kept swallowing the sea and the land between M. and I, I could protect her. Every day, I swallowed the world to be on that bench once again, close to her, away from the precipice.


I slid into his DMs with the exhilarating confidence that my secret would be safe, that the world around me wouldn’t change, and that no one would look at me differently. I don’t have the courage to come out of the pantry and lay out my truth for all to judge or pity. Would everyone pay closer attention to the content of my plate? Would they be suspicious of my visits to the toilet? Would they feel sorry because they never noticed anything? Would they be kinder, more hypocritical? Would they trust me when I say it’s in my past? One thing is for sure, I don’t like change or losing control. Once the story breaks out, it is no longer my own: my narrative is up for grabs, for interpretation and appropriation. Living with my disorder, I have mastered the art of secrecy and deception. Am I ready to be exposed?


From kindergarten I remember well the story of a mouse who rode a bicycle around the toilet bowl. This funny little creature – competing in a championship – lived life on the edge. The risk of falling and the treacherous, slippery surface added tension to the story. I cheered for her with passion as M. or I turned a new page. Today, I find myself on that same bike, my feet locked in the pedals. On that same enameled surface, I hope to complete a lap, just one, without falling in. I’m now competing against myself. But who will read my story? Who will cheer for me if I don’t tell anyone I need support? Who will help me turn a new page and make it to the finish line if I don’t tell anyone that this book is too heavy for me to handle alone?


According to the National Eating Disorder Association, “in the United States alone, eating disorders will affect 10 million males at some point in their lives.” I am literally one in a million. My suffering may be singular, but I am not alone in that race. That same study also notes that a significant majority of teenage boys want to bulk up because the muscular body is the ideal body. I wonder why bulking up was never an option for me. I could have increased my muscle mass and, perhaps, my peers’ respect along the way. I suppose it was never actually an option for a boy like me. I would always stand out, so I chose thinness to try to disappear. As Édouard Louis’ queer narrator writes in The End of Eddy, the crime is not so much to engage in marginal sexual acts – as many straight men do – but to be marginal and to look like it. I found myself doubly marginalized growing up in a society where homosexuality wasn’t quite accepted just yet and where bisexuality was considered worse. At 15, I sat quietly around the table at my grandma’s house while the adults talked about gay acquaintances or cousins. They all agreed that they were acceptable people, not so deviant after all. Bisexuals, however, were not to be trusted. If you can’t make up your mind, there’s something wrong with you. You don’t choose to be gay, but bisexuality is a sick choice. What was I supposed to think as a young man who had always felt desire and lust for both the women and men leads on my favorite television shows? I couldn’t like both, so I had to pick one. By default, like many, I hid the extent of my desires and focused on women with more or less success. It is nevertheless hard to succeed when you’re hiding half of what makes you, you, and, even more so, when everyone is convinced that they know you better than you know yourself. Like binging and purging, men and women go hand in hand in the realm of my satisfaction.


I slid into his DMs and wrote to him in the present tense because the past is never distant enough to not be a threat.

I typed a message vague enough to retain control while the ground was slowly slipping beneath my feet.

I slid into his DMs to give myself some space to explore and redefine the contours of my body.


I write in the present because I am scared to animate the past and unearth a hunger like no other.


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