What am I supposed to do when Ed comes to dinner?
I showed him the door already — twice. But he’s back again.
The first time we met, I was barely 18. He must have noticed that I needed a companion. He approached me during a late night walk back to my dorm and, while I now know I should have been terrified, at the time he felt like family. And in the years that followed, for countless hours he would sit with me quietly at the Off Campus Deli while I tore the edges off my turkey sub and contemplated life.
He would walk with me in silence until 3 a.m. on Spring Street, and College Street, and through the Quad near Sigma Chi — all over campus, just so I wouldn’t be alone. I found that so very thoughtful at the time. Every mile on each run, he ran just a half pace off, urging me to go faster. 10 miles a day, 7 days a week. And on Friday nights while everyone else was having pizza and beer, he would lie in bed next to me wrapped around my tiny frame and would whisper sweet nothings to me. But over time, everything became so very small. I could no longer go anywhere without him, and I could hardly breathe with him nearby. I finally asked him to leave.
We crossed paths again by happenstance when I was 37. Adults now; and we had both grown. He already knew my rough stuff so there was no need to start over. We just settled in where we left off. It was easy and so familiar. He would sit with me while I sketched with charcoal. He would wait in the car so he could offer his perspective to me after therapy to be sure he had a say. He would entertain me with his stories each night while my fork chased the food around my plate. But each of his stories had the same through line — that he was my sustenance — as if I were invisible without him. The irony. So, again, I asked him to leave.
My time with Ed was always productive. It gave me a sense of calm. A sense of power over circumstances that were otherwise unthinkable, like the fact that at barely 18, I had just been raped. Like how at 37, I was leaving a horrific marriage.
Ed was my best friend through all of it, but in the end, he nearly killed me. In fact, I came to understand that this was his intention all along.
Often personified in this way, Ed is my Eating Disorder.
Now at 48, that bastard, Ed, has found his way to my dinner table again — this time without my invitation. He is courting my barely 18-year-old daughter while she picks the potatoes out of her clam chowder and pulls the crust off her grilled cheese, rearranging it to appear as if she has eaten anything at all. She has a slight smile and I can almost hear his voice whispering those same sweet nothings while he tries to kill her, too.
So I find myself walking in silence until 3 a.m. on the nights I don’t have the children, wondering how to save my daughter’s life — again. On Parker Street, and Main Street, and through the village near the Baptist Church. All over town, trying to figure out what I am supposed to do when Ed comes to dinner again tomorrow.
And as I contemplate how to solve this unthinkable circumstance, I find myself wondering…
…maybe if I just lose some weight.