Your Daughter Is Watching You Work On That Beach Body

Exhibit A: Eat an apple and a wedge of cheese. Only an apple and a wedge of cheese. Cut them into razor thin slices so that you take one hour to eat, two if you are truly in control. Pretend-savor each bite because everything, now, tastes like the thin communion wafers that dissolved on your tongue as a child. That is, like flour paste. Soon after your furtive, spartan meal, you will have to throw up what you have eaten. You are aiming for negative calorie tally. SO:

Run, obsessively, five miles a day, every day, even when your knees and hips hurt, even when your heart becomes a battering ram inside your chest, even when the doctor insists on a heart monitor because he’s worried about arrhythmia. And sit-ups. One thousand at night. Though each day you add twenty-five more. More means less. Less of you taking up space, less of you filling clothes, less of you to hug and love.

EXHIBIT A: 2008, Serifos, Greece

Consider Exhibit A again: You’re in Greece on a beach in Serifos with your daughter. That’s right. You don’t remember because your starving brain was devoted to keeping you alive, not inscribing memories. You look happy enough in that green bikini you bought from the Juniors’ Section (a juvenile 35 years old!). You wore those angles of deprivation with a soldier’s determination: ribs a visible cage, spine a knotted rope, and a face that was all sharp hollows.

Your daughter mimics your pose. How much she wanted you to see her, for you to get well, for you to start eating again, smiling again, laughing again. Momma, she said. It’s hurts to hug you. Your bones hurt me. Which is also what your then-husband said during sex. He’d shift, trying to find a place for his body against yours that didn’t hurt, too.

Do you remember that? How you pretend-smiled so wide that your head split in pain at the end of the day? How one night, you left your then-husband and sleeping children in the hotel room and walked to the beach, oblivious to the stars and honeysuckle and wild thyme, and waded into the sea—calves, thighs, hips, shoulders—intending to swim, to keep swimming until the sea took you out too far to return? When you returned from that vacation, exhausted (rumination, deprivation, annihilation of joy), you believed you would never be able to share a meal with your family again, so you swallowed all your pills, and when you woke up in the ICU, you agreed to an inpatient treatment program. And then another. And then another. And then another. And finally, one last time.

Do you remember what you promised? I will do whatever it takes to have the life I want.

Exhibit B: 2017, Pennsylvania

Exhibit B:

You took this photo as a Baywatch parody. Rather, your son took the photo, directing your pose (Wider mouth, Mom! You need to work it!) while your daughter laughed at your silliness from the beach blanket where she was drawing in her sketch book. On the blanket is an empty bag of Doritos (yours), an apple core (yours), and Sour Worms (also yours). Of course, you share these with the kids. After the beach, because you’ve declared it a mostly-junk-food day, you’ll get frozen custard. Medium cones. Chocolate and banana swirled together.

Kerry Neville
Kerry Neville
Kerry Neville the the author of the short fiction collection, Necessary Lies, winner of the Sharat Chandra Prize in Fiction, and the forthcoming collection, Remember To Forget Me.. Her fiction and essays have appeared in such journals as The Gettysburg Review, Epoch, and Glimmer Train, as well as in online magazines. She is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Georgia College and State University, and a summer faculty member of the University of Limerick/Frank McCourt International Writing School. You can also find her writing at The Fix and The Huffington Post.

Related Posts


Recent Stories