Sunday, July 29, 2007

540 days, 5 hours, 18 minutes, 58 seconds

Maybe it's the heat. Maybe it's being in the city all summer, around more people than usual. Maybe it's her skin all broken out. But she's been thinking of summer camp. How, when she was seven or eight, she scratched mosquito bites to the point where her legs were covered in sores. Horrified, her parents dragged her to the doctor. "See that, now you won't be able to go swimming," they told her. They knew she couldn't swim. They might or might not have known about the buddy system, how always two people had to stay together, and no one wanted to stay with her in the shallow water.

That's when the scratching habit started.

Just last night she was recounting the horrors of sleep-away camp, when a message would come over the loudspeaker every morning telling the kids how to dress, and counselors would yell at her for not putting shorts on. Then today she reads of a Shanghai company asking workers to wear shorts and tee-shirts to work to help save energy. Sitting a foot from the air conditioner replaced two years ago, she breaks out in chicken bumps. This is as bad as it was in the doctor's office when they tried to show her how to give herself insulin. She couldn't. Wouldn't. Won't.

And steroids, of course, would cure the rash.

Most years, in May, when anorexic women in the city wear less clothing, she walks around feeling ugly. Then, in June, she goes upstate, sees fat women with dirty hair and baby carriages in the supermarket, and starts to feel good about herself. But she's locked in the city this year. Maybe that's what depresses her.