Swimmers Club

6th February 2017


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Treading Water

Check which is the shallow end and note the point where you will be out of your depth.


Who: Elle Nash
Where: Arkansas, USA
What: Writer, Editor, Founding Editor of Witch Craft magazine

We Are Just Sharp Edges Bumping Up Against Each Other

There was the grid of city and then suddenly there was no grid, but an indeterminate amount of sky and water.

I feel such a sense of deflation at times. There’s like an energy that exists but I can’t tap into it. It’s like free space floats around in my mind or body thinking about writing or doing something productive and then the eating disorder latches on to it instead, filling the emptiness up with thoughts about my body or food.

I walk down the aisle of the airplane to the restroom and close the door. The girl in the mirror there contorts into strange shapes, first by touching her knees together and then bending her hips back slightly. A gap widens three fingers wide between her thighs and I think that I’m still normal yet, that I haven’t “lost” the two months I spent losing weight just from two days of over eating.

The girl in the mirror unzips her pants.

The girl in the mirror wraps her fingers around her upper arms.

The girl in the mirror sits on the toilet and stares at pictures of the girl in the mirror on her phone.

The girl in the phone is doing the same thing, contorting her body, in countless other mirrors she encounters, as if pieces of her are left in each mirrored place.

Everything is fine as long as we are fucking. The relationship becomes fucked when he forgets how to tell me what to do. And forgets that I am just trying my best to perform for him.

One of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder is ‘chronic emptiness.’ I learned this because I was consistently typing the phrase “i feel dead inside” into google as a way to fix this thing inside of me. I rephrased it over and over again so I could avoid finding reddit threads full of edgelords and find something closer to my actual lived experience. Eventually something popped up about this illness.

I always question the existence of this illness the way many do because of the movie or the book “Girl, Interrupted” though I’m sure many more people associate the movie with this illness than the book. I have not read the book. I have wanted to re-watch the movie recently because I find both of the main people in it so beautiful, but I felt I would not be able to relate because it also takes place in the 1960s which seems like a different planet to us now. However, like the era in which it takes place, many people still seem to believe this illness is not real.

Imagine a world where all your thoughts were searchable like web history.

I want to stay sick because it feels good until it no longer feels good.

I also want to be better because being sick makes me cruel and selfish. It changes the chemistry of my brain. It disconnects me. It makes me sexless.

On Saturday night, I got medium drunk at a bar with my old man. We went home. It was an uneventful night but I drank my last double neat and felt like a badass.

I got home and rubbed against his warm body in bed and we had sex in a way that felt like I wanted to have it. It has been a few months since I have initiated this way. Or even wanted to. I felt like I wanted to. That felt nice.

He says a word like “codependence.” The finger in my brain points to a chalkboard that says, “this is what codependence is.” The brain doesn’t know. It’s reaching. It’s looking for experience. There is nothing there anymore. I know that I have experience with codependence and have understood what codependence is in the past. Right now the finger in my brain is pointing to a word that looks like codependence so I can articulate that I understand without revealing that there is no emotional or mental reaction to this at all. I don’t really know it anymore. I just recognize and articulate.

I am afraid to tell him that I do not feel things right now.

I am afraid that it will mean the things I gave up in order to get better were for nothing. That leaving my job and making things harder on him financially didn't make things better.

I recognize that I am more content and less stressed out. But I am also still feeling empty inside.

Women are loud with their mouths. Men are loud just by existing.

The word ‘meal’ is such a gross word to describe the act of sitting down to eat.

I posted a picture of a youtube video on the internet that listed four of the nine symptoms of borderline personality disorder. They are:

 - intense mood swings

 - problems with self worth

 - unstable interpersonal relationships

 - impulsive, self-destructive behavior

These were the first four on the screen before the last five faded onto the screen also.

I captioned the photo with the phrase ‘are there people who aren’t like this’ as a way of somehow feeling less alone. Someone, but I do not remember who, commented “right? these are such generic characteristics though.”

The depth to which these behaviors describe my own is such that I question whether or not I do have this personality disorder. I wonder how generic my character traits really are, and if they are so generic, why they seem to fit me so neatly.

My brain is a layer cake. The place where I am most like myself is the very bottom layer. The top layers are filled with symbols, patterns, and acknowledged language so that I can replicate a person living in society.

Alcohol eats through all of that. It soaks through all those top layers, so that I can touch the most of myself that I leave unseen or have trouble accessing. There is another me inside of me, a real me that I can’t remember. There are things that my mind does that make me weird, for example did you know that I am irrationally afraid of lightning. I believe on a single dark day it will come down for me, for all the sins that I have made. When I am hung over I listen to classical music and it is only then that I realize how overwhelming and commercialized this world is.

All I can feel is my teeth grinding down over and over again until my jaw is aching. Until I can feel the very roots of my teeth raw in my cheeks.

Do you think my hunger for attention online in any way mirrors the attention-seeking behaviors of a person with borderline personality disorder, and if so, how has technology changed the way we interact with our illnesses?

I put my arm on the corner of the table and then I grabbed a bottle of conditioner and then I slammed the conditioner against my arm until the skin split against the wood of the table.

To write about eating disorders you need to have good bone structure. You need this because as soon as you say this: i used to have an eating disorder the whole of their eyes will roll down towards your feet, examining the width of the gap between your thighs or the protrusions of your breasts and belly. They will probably wonder, where was the skeleton that once resided here?

The girl in the mirror is back again but she is bigger now. There is a bruise on her left, or her right arm. It is hard to say which. The only thing that has shrunk is her thigh gap.

“you still have a thigh gap” is what he says, as if his opinion has any bearing on how the girl in the mirror should look. Only the girl in the mirror can determine when she is happy with herself, and the answer to when is never.

The girl in the mirror rounds her palms across the thick skin of her buttcheeks. Sorry. There is no romantic way to say “ass” in the English language. The body itself is as crude. The body, like most things, is amoral. The body, like most things, is a tool. The body’s morality depends on the user of the body. The body’s morality can be determined by the types and amounts of consumption it participates in. The body is a filter. The body is a filter for language. The body is a filter for reality, which it distills into image. The body filters image. The body is an image. The body is image.

The meat here is now more firm and less absent. When the ass is smaller the girl in the mirror feels the bones of where femur meets pelvis, only separated by several inches of meat. The fat cells, I guess, shrink. And the softness there, there is a softness to the skin that only happens when the body has been deflated. She felt the empty space, the way her body was there and then was not, and wondered how her old man felt when he felt this empty space, also, like a balloon filled with very fine sand.

In the mirror she bends over and looks for signs of the iliac crest, which is now covered in more firm meat. Today is not the day that she will see it.

The girl faces the mirror again and pushes back the femurs of her body, presses the pelvis towards the wall behind her, to see the space between her legs. The space between her legs is where a thousand moments lie.

Elle Nash is the author of the poetry chapbook i can remember the meaning of every tarot card but i can’t remember what i texted you last night (Nostrovia! Press, 2016). She is a founding editor of Witch Craft Magazine and a fiction editor at Hobart Pulp. She lives in the Ozarks with her husband.

This story first appeared in the Cassette 89anthology published by Dostoyevsky Wannabe and guest-edited by Oscar d'Artois.

Elle's next book Animals Eat Each Other is due out September 2017 from Dzanc Books and she has also been named as the guest-editor for the next Dostoyevsky Wannabe sampler anthology Cassette 94, also due out in 2017.