A thin line of blood streams from my nose to my mouth, and I can feel Anna roll her eyes beside me. I let the blood spread into the seam of my lips, and I pretend that she’s not there.
I try to remember how long I’ve known Anna.
I’m sixteen and stretch my arms across the cafeteria table where my meal should be. The fumes from a hundred school lunches rise and mingle in the air, and I want to lap them up. The girl next to me unzips her sandwich bag and tears into it without fear. I watch her raise it to her lips, again and again. Anna squeezes my hand.
At home, I eat anything. Grease. Carbs. Sugar. And then I stand and bend in front of my bedroom mirror. I fold myself over my waist, and Anna traces lines down my back, tapping every bump along my spine. I take mental notes.
I’m twenty. Anna laces her fingers over mine when a boyfriend says, “You just don’t look like a runner.” She closes her fingers around my throat and laughs because I can’t. When he doesn’t look, I run until I taste blood at the back of my throat. Anna helps me gargle it away.
I make myself ignore Anna whenever I can. I eat bread, chocolate, meat, and pretend I don’t think about her when I swallow it all. She jogs on the treadmill next to me an hour later.
Now, the blood seeps from my lips into my teeth. We have another forty minutes on the road, and Anna decides to run through our greatest hits.
The day I eat a cream-cheese danish and spit it into the trash can, bite by bite, while Anna holds my hair.
When I make myself eat another. And swallow it. And she wrenches her hand away.
When I gain weight.
When I lose it.
When I push Anna away.
When we’re alone in dressing rooms. How she latches the door behind me and sinks her nails into my stomach, scattering angry red crescents across my skin.
I merge towards my exit. Anna sulks in the passenger seat while I steer and bleed next to her. Ahead, a billboard model smiles at me with paper eyes and an airbrushed waist.
Before I can deny her, Anna wipes the blood from my lips and rests her scarlet hand on mine.
Kate Koch has synesthesia, which means she sees every sound and thought around her as a color. Because of her vivid condition, she enjoys reading and producing writing that makes the world a little more colorful. She is currently an ALM degree candidate at Harvard Extension School, and is fascinated by all things macabre.
A Song for Kate