Full Text: marshmallow poster

Content Warning: disordered eating, recovery

My partner & I went together to get tattoos. He already knew what he wanted in his skin, and got it put there. But I had been so uncertain. I needed it to be important, symbolically, it felt like a spell I was having put over me. After a while of moping around the waiting area, I found on the ground a flower, a white creamy flower draped with little pearls, it almost looked like a brooch. A marshmallow. I pondered it for days, holding it up to my arm, to my stomach, my soles, my throat. I felt the only place it made sense was in / on my mouth. I smoothed tissue paper onto my lips to see what it would look like, onto the opening and insides, like a door-jam painted bright white. I felt strongly that this was what I was supposed to do, this was an action I could take towards healing from my eating disorder and it’s recent enveloping of a compulsion to purge.

But then I thought of my partner, and how he holds me, tethered as he is, to the reality of other humans; ones that aren’t mad as I am. I thought of how this would mean being looked at by other humans, I would have to suffer being asked about my marshmallow mouth. I thought of jobs and outings and family, and suddenly felt as though this thing I should do was impossible. I left the tattoo parlor.

I returned again & again, feeling certainty and uncertainty. I was tortured over this decision about where the marshmallow should be folded into my body. I felt somewhere along the gastro-intestinal tract could perhaps create a similar regulating effect that I knew it would on my lips. I wondered if I was avoiding recovering by placing it elsewhere. I wondered if placing it on my throat or my back would turn it into a symbol of not-recovery. I considered other symbols, other places. But I couldn’t walk away, as that would also be choosing un-recovery. Besides, my partner and I had decided to do this together, we had made a promise to the artist.

I took lots of slow walks through the city. Sherbet-orange cherry blossoms sometimes got matted in the creases of my sneakers, got folded up into my books. I stopped by to say hello and consult, again, with the artist. They weren’t in that day, but had left a package for me in lieu of their presence and labor. It was a wooden box, about the size of a recipe box, filled with little things that I understood to make an against-bulimia working kit— flowers and herbs, dried and gently packed and labelled. There were little vials and envelopes and extra labels, and a notepad with well wishes and vague instructions written on the first page; I was meant to fill in the rest. I took out a dried flower and inspected it.