I just woke up to the sounds of birds singing outside my window. I only hear birds like these when I’m visiting my mom in Alabama. I’m lying next to Riggs, trying to remember the last time I was able to stay in bed after sunrise. When is the last time he slept this late..or me for that matter? It’s 8:30. We’re catching up on the sleep we lost.
We both woke up from the thunderstorm around 4:00. It was so loud. The pounding rain and room-filling lightening. For some reason the storms in St Louis never sound the way they do in Birmingham either. They're louder. Deeper. I miss them. But they stir a familiar fear inside me. Riggs wakes up and peaks over the side of pack n play and looks at me. As if to assess my level of fear before he decides how to react.
He’s never slept in the bed with me. Except the very first night I brought him home from the hospital. Neither of us were comfortable so we put an end to that by night two and never went back. But just now he says he wants to sleep in “that one”..the big bed in my mother’s guest room on the second floor. Jason didn’t come with us on this trip. Riggs and I always make a mother-son spring get away so I can have some much needed time with my family.
After watching a Mickey Mouse video on my phone, he drifts off and leaves me behind listening to the rain and him breathing.
And in a flash I’m in my bedroom at my old house in Benton Park. It's April 2007. It’s raining here too and I’m looking out the window of my third floor bedroom in my South City row house. Staring at the rain sparkle as it falls beneath the street lamp. I'm listening to Jason breathe. It's late. My alarm clock is set for a couple hours from now so I can be at work by 3:30. But I can't sleep. I'm too preoccupied. Trying to figure out why this man beside me is still here.
It's a Tuesday night. I know this because that's the only night during the week we see eachother. He comes by on his way home from his job in Creve Coeur.
And he lets himself in and always finds me on the third floor. The rest of the house is empty. No furniture except a small breakfast table in the kitchen. I lost it in the divorce. But he's never asked about it. Not the furniture, not the marriage. He doesn't pry. I don't get it. Why doesn't he seem curious? When he sees me his face lights up and he knows all he needs to.
It works too. I mean if he knew what I did on those afternoons and evenings when he isn't here he'd probably leave and never come back.
I'm a closet binger. I have been since high school but it didn't really get bad until I moved to Spokane for a weekend anchor gig in 2000. When I say binger I mean binge eater or as the first psychologist I saw diagnosed me. Compulsive overeater. I don't throw up. Just eat. Non stop. Until I physically can't move. In Spokane, I can remember eating an entire box of pancake mix and staring at my stomach, convinced the skin was going to split right down the middle…or at least hatch stretch marks. I looked 6 months pregnant. This was at ten o’clock at night. I was convinced the boy I was dating didn’t like me anymore.
During my morning show years in St Louis, I can put down an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream, a large bag of M&M's and two 3 Muskateers bars in an afternoon. And I do most days after I get home from work. I get my fix at a variety of convenient stores around Soulard so the clerks don’t catch on to my disgusting addiction. I rotate which gas station I hit up on certain days. I don't buy it when I go to the grocery store because I tell myself every week…every day actually..that I won't binge again. But in the afternoon after I get home from work and eat some healthy salad or stir fry veggie meal.. the uncontrollable urge hits. I try to wait it out. Dirnk some water. Eat a bag of low fat popcorn. But most of the time, I end up driving my car to the store down the street. Sometimes I come home from my food run. Eat it all. Then go back for round two. After that I pass out in a sugar induced coma..sleep for a few hours and then get up and go to the gym to work out for two hours. If I didn't, I'd be 20 to 30 pounds heavier.
It's a constant obsession. I wake up instantly thinking about all that I consumed. My upset stomach won't let me forget.
It was worse. I remember shortly after moving to St Louis passing out in the middle of the night as I walked my dog Lucy. I had come home from a first date..went to the Schnucks on Lindell to load up on ice cream, pop tarts and M&M’s. I guess it was too much sugar and I blacked out right there on the sidewalks of the Central West End. Lucy licked my face to wake me up.
But now I stare at this face beside me and wonder why me? And why him? I mean what is it about him that makes me feel so safe and secure? That makes me crave to be a better person. To be normal. To be like him. It’s this night that I know he is the one. And even though God and I aren’t close I know He is telling me to stay. To wait it out. To trust that one day I won’t have secrets or scars to hide. That I will heal. My fear of betrayal and deceit will fade…and because of that I will someday have a different relationship with food..with my body…at least it won’t control my every thought. Every minute. Every day.
Back in Bama, Riggs is waking up beside me. I was up alone just long enough to remember that rainy night with his dad. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this comfortable and safe and relaxed. Those days of pain are so far but so near. So long ago..but the memories live deep down in my soul. They too stir a familiar fear. Until I remember that those days are gone. I listened to God and I held onto His hope and I trusted Him.
I hear the birds. The rain is gone. And there’s a beautiful gift beside me.