Empty Surfaces by Laurie Kolp

Three squares a day. Hungry or not; breakfast, lunch, dinner. The four of us at the kitchen table predictably at six. Mom, Dad, sister and me digging into gristly round steak mashed potatoes, peas–which I smothered in ketchup (I didn’t even consider vegetables until my teenage years, but by then I vomited every day)–perfectly balanced meals perfectly served. We talked surface at the dinner table and cleaned our plates for clear tomorrows. I wanted clear days where I didn’t feel like a misfit, judged by classmates for my body shape. I longed for transparency from my parents about questions no one ever answered. So I emptied my plate. Full or not, I ate the generous slice of chocolate pie served to me (because portions were signs of love and Dad shunned leftovers) then fled to the bathroom to regurgitate. My days lacked clarity, but colleagues said I looked good. I learned to use food as a way to cope. All the hours I spent thinking about eating, what to eat, how to eat discreetly and finally eating kept me preoccupied, so it wouldn’t matter what I needed to do to make my boyfriend love me, or why I felt so empty inside. Dad once left a Dear Abby column about bulimia in the bathroom. I felt betrayed and violated, but never acknowledged receiving it. Nothing ever said, no lecture. Things just went on as usual, as usual. Three squares a day. Out of desperation I revealed my problem to my boyfriend, then minimized it a bit. He said just don’t do it. End of conversation. Soon enough my eating disorder took over. Roommates called my parents long distance and told them their concerns while I sat on the toilet bawling my eyes out, disgraced and… relieved. A brief conversation during which the bossy one spoke, and the sweet one knelt beside me with a box of tissues before the phone landed in my hand. Mom assured me everything would be okay, later made arrangements with dieticians and therapists, but we never talked about my problem again.

laurie kolp headshotLaurie Kolp is an award-winning poet with more than three dozen publications worldwide, including the 2015 Poet’s Market, Blue Fifth Review, Referential, Pirene’s Fountain, contemporary haibun online (cho) and Diane Lockward’s The Crafty Poet. Laurie’s first full-length poetry collection, Upon the Blue Couch (Winter Goose Publishing, 2014), is available on Amazon. Learn more about Laurie here: http://lauriekolp.com.