The heat from the fire warms my cold toes, burns my skin until I pull back into the safety of the shadows. Back and forth, back and forth. Burning, cold, burning, cold. I can’t seem to find a happy medium, but for some reason I don’t mind.
I’m sitting in a circle around the glowing fire. My friends occupy the other chairs. I’m hypnotised by the flames, by the stars, by the different conversations that float in the frosted air around me and dissolve into my collapsible lungs. The fire sends me back to the summer evenings I spent in Canada as a kid, when we’d spend long evenings with neighbours playing tag and hide-and-go-seek in the dark.
I’ve stolen a top hat from one person and a sweatshirt from another, and there’s a mug of lukewarm passionfruit tea clutched in my hands. Top hat, too-big sweatshirt, tea. The bronze flames reflect in my eyes and my hair smells of smoke. I don’t look like a normal teenager, don’t act like one, but I never have and I’m not going to start now.
I’m eating s’mores and laughing with my friends. It feels good. Drooping marshmallows (slightly burned), melted chocolate, a graham cracker. About three or four find themselves in my stomach and the sugar tumbles through my bloodstream like the swirls and intersecting patterns of a zentangle.
This is new. I’m used to shrinking from sugar, calories, fat, carbohydrates. I still do, but this time I allow myself to take a bite and not start planning a workout for this evening. I can eat and not binge, eat and not never want to eat again. Some people here know my story and I pause before taking another bite, because what if they think I’m lying about the voices in my head because I’m eating chocolate and that I’m making it up for attention and that it’s really not that bad and that I don’t have bad days because today is a good one?
Take a bite.
This is what my recovery looks like. (It’s okay it’s okay it’s okay it’s okay.) Eating disorders are never easy, and recovery is different for everyone. My recovery is eating s’mores surrounded by friends in front of a fire the colour of bruised tangerines, with smoke in my lungs and a top hat on my head. I am recovering from anorexia. I am healing.
I’ve discovered that hope tastes a lot like a s’more. Hope is a worn cross, hope is the coral chrysanthemums that push their way through my bleached ribs on my skeleton days. Hope is the people who surround me and the stubborn belief that things will get better. I am the night and the stars and a child of God and the tiger strips of the flames, and that is all I need to be right now. That is enough.