Powdered donuts. Not the Hostess kind in the white bag, because last time I got those, some were too hard and some were too wet and none were just right. I want Krispy Kreme powdered donuts. They’re a little bigger, a little denser, and they’re always just right. I’m like Goldilocks, only I now know which ones to buy because they’re just what I want. And right now, they’re just what I need.
Powdered donuts. I blink against the thought and tighten my grip on the steering wheel. It’s 4:51am and I’m navigating in the dark toward an office with my name on it, hoping to clock in by 5:02am. I pass a Speedway gas station and do not stop for sugary goodness. One down, two to go.
The light turns red as I come to the next gas station. I’m stuck in the left lane, staring at the second Speedway gas station out my side window. Speedway carries the Krispy Kreme donuts; they arrive between 2 and 3am and they’re moist and sweet and not too crumbly…. I wipe some sweat from my forehead and contemplate turning when the light changes, to pick up some damn powdered donuts.
But I had powdered donuts yesterday. I can’t have them two days in a row. What am I, a monster?
Why isn’t this light changing yet? I rarely seem to hit red lights at this time of the morning, but here I am, stopped in front of the Krispy Kreme dealer. Gripping my steering wheel so tight my knuckles are turning white, because only a loser would stop for powdered donuts at 4:52am.
My stomach growls. I frown. It’s too early to be hungry. My need for donuts has nothing to do with physical hunger. Yet it growls again, signaling the need for fuel. That’s what my therapist says, is constantly reminding me – food equals fuel for my body.
The light mercifully turns green and I leave the scene of the almost-crime. One more gas station to go, and it only carries the Hostess donuts. It’s not as tempting. But as I near it, I’m overcome by a wave of queasiness. Hunger pangs. I groan. If I don’t eat now, I’ll be nauseous and light-headed in two hours, and lunch isn’t until 10:30am.
Forget it. I turn into the B.P. station on the left and head straight for the powdered donuts. While I’m there, the swiss cake rolls and cinnamon streusel cakes call my name. This is what I get for getting hungry. I load up on sugar and, as an afterthought, a bottle of orange juice. Put in all on the counter without looking the sales clerk in the eye. Add a couple of Cadbury crème eggs to the pile and swipe my debit card wordlessly. Another ten dollars of sweetness comes out of my bank account.
In the car, I now feel the familiar food frenzy coming on. I rip the donuts open before my seat belt is on and have one in my mouth as I pull away. It’s perfect, a little powdery pillow for my taste buds. This is what a powdered donut should taste like. I have a two and a half minute drive to work from here, and I cram as many powdered donuts in my mouth as I can during that time. I stuff the remaining goodies into my oversized purse, letting only the orange juice show. Walk through the doorway and swipe my badge at 5:00am exactly and then turn my attention to my clothing, wiping powder off it frantically before a colleague comes into the room.
On the way to my office, I pass two employee bathrooms with a poster on the wall between them. It’s one of those motivational posters, achievement, I think. I turn sideways when I pass it, staring at my curves in disgust. Every day, every time I pass that poster, I use its reflective surface to criticize myself. But I’m not even sure what it’s supposed to be motivating me for.
My office is dark. Because of frequent migraines, I don’t use the overhead lights and instead opt for a lamp I brought from home with two small-wattage bulbs. Some patients comment on the dimness of the light, but I just shrug and say “migraines,” and they get over it. The migraines are horrible, awful creatures that cause me to threaten my very being when they become chronic. But the dim lights also keep me from checking every picture frame on my wall for my own reflection.
Ty’s office is across the hall. He calls out a friendly “hello” and I return the greeting with a forced smile. “How was your weekend?” he asks. Ty and I are friends. Small talk is a given.
But all I can think about is powdered donuts. Powdered donuts and swiss cake rolls, tucked away secretly in my purse, waiting for my door to close so I can devour them.
“Good. Played with the kid all weekend. And yours?” Powdered donuts.
“Worked Saturday. Rode my bike thirty-five miles yesterday and cleaned my apartment.” He appears in his doorway, khaki pants and a button-down shirt and hair that’s almost perfectly coifed but has a little rebellion right at the top.
I feel my stomach flip-flop at the sight of him, my friend, this terribly attractive man with bright blue eyes and a thousand-watt smile. In a second, my thoughts flit away again. Swiss cake rolls.
I smile and close my door slightly to hang my purse on the hook behind it. I can hear the rustle of the plastic bag inside. “Time to make the donuts,” I say lightly, a reference to an old commercial my ex-husband used to quote.
Ty laughs. “Open the zoo!”
We smile at one another again and retreat into the safety of our offices, doors shut tightly against the swarm of patients who will need us within seconds of their arrival. Door shut tightly so no one can see me. I ignore the first two knocks on my door because my face is covered in sugar dust and my hands are sticky from swiss cake chocolate. The patients slide notes under the door with their requests; they are both easy to handle and I’ll take care of them this morning. But first I guzzle down my orange juice and throw the plastic bags away, hiding them deep in my trash can so that no one can see them, making sure they’re in the middle so the bright blue lettering isn’t visible from the side of the white trash bag when it’s pulled out of the bin.
I sit back in my chair with my hands on my bloated stomach. It feels like nap time already, and it’s only ten after five.
How could I do that to myself, again? After having a rotten stomach yesterday morning from powdered donuts, I told myself I would be a little kinder, a little gentler, with myself. I’m an idiot for falling prey to the temptation again so quickly.
I suddenly feel ancy. I have to move, to get rid of this too-sweet feeling in my gut. I grab my 32-ounce water cup and head for the break room to refill it. Across from the water machine is the motivational poster. Achievement, or something. It must not be that motivational to me, apparently. I stand with my now-full water mug and turn from side to side, watching my reflection move. I cringe. I’ve put on so much weight since I started working here. I touch my stomach just as the door opens and a colleague enters the room. I smooth out my shirt like that’s what I was doing all along and smile at her. We part in silence.
Back at my desk, I try to take care of my patients’ requests. But my mind keeps retreating. Streusel cakes. I eye my purse, big and orange and chevron hanging on the wall. More powdered donuts. They’re gone but not forgotten, and I can never really get enough.
I fumble with the computer, at which I am a whiz, because my mind is not focused. Moist donuts, creamy filling, cinnamon topping…. I blink and continue. Butter cream icing, meat lovers pizza, two pieces of white bread smothered with Welch’s grape jelly and extra smooth Jif peanut butter.
I take my glasses off, setting them gingerly on my L-shaped desk, and put my face in my hands. I’m not wearing makeup, because that would indicate I took pride in how I looked this morning and wearing makeup is the opposite of blending in. So when I cry into my hands for the first time today, nothing runs or smears or smudges. It’s a safe cry, a familiar cry, and I’ve learned to keep it quiet so Ty does not tap on my door and ask if I’m okay. Anymore. I cry while the images in my head stack together to make the food pile from Column B in Disney’s Aladdin. I cry while they lay out on the table with the dancing furniture from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I cry while I remember last night, stuffed and disgusted and laying on the bathroom floor wishing I could puke, just this once. This is my first cry of the day, but it won’t be the last.
Debbie is an addiction counselor and yoga teacher in Indiana. She is an avid reader of any genre, and has published fantasy short stories; she is still working on the elusive novel. Recently, Debbie has ventured into non-fiction writing, in hopes that discussing her life with an eating disorder will help someone in need. Debbie’s loves include her niece Lillie and her girl-cat, Emilio Estevez. She is passionate about mental health awareness, especially related to addiction and eating disorders.