Content warning: eating disorders.

Isn’t joy something to be so surprised by?

I find it in the curling of the husky’s tail, her jaw agape against the sunlight twinkles of the

passing day. Until the teeth bare from smiling, instead of


I cradle joy in the nights that my arms fold onto the sides of my thighs,

like they belong there.

Instead of picking at the scars and the pores

of my underbelly.

Joy was a young girl in the eating disorder facility with me.

She coached me how to drink three ensures,

So I could “finally get out of this place.”

What about you? I’d asked.

“What about me? I’ll be here forever.”

She’d said it daintily, pricking apart the doilies on the


She told me later, her stepfather abused her,

And she called me, months later, on the phone

Saying I was the only friend saved

The digits she remembered from repeating them on the mattress, when they took away

Her sharps.

There’s a joy in being the one she dialed;

And sorrow that I was the one she found,

When I’d barely been able to eat a meal on my own yet.

Tell me I am worthy, she whispered, crying, into the keys. Tears falling into the 9’s

And the 1’s

And the 3’s.

You taught me how to swallow grief, and flick sweetness of chocolate inverted

On my fingers, splaying. You turned me away from porcelain and found me in the spaces

Between my ribcage, I almost said.

I only see a few of my ribs now,

I said on the phone, instead.

Not knowing what to say to save someone’s life.

I used to see almost all twenty four.

Alpha, Beta, Delta.. I’d named them after greek alphabet letters.

Learning a new language along the way as I was turning skeletal,

as I slept.

Now it’s just Zeta left.

Just Zeta, like some sort of greek goddess,

She’d murmured.

Grab some tissues, I’d whispered across the cables.

Pretend that those are my hands,

Protecting you from what

You’re seeing.

About the Author

You can find Leslie Cairns on Twitter @starbucksgirly.