She cheats her right hip toward me, then her left, shifting her weight back and forth from one leg to the other, crossing her ankles so that her left hamstring is stacked deliberately on her right quadricep. Sitbones planted evenly, she flexes her right foot first, exaggerating its arch, sending a sharp stretch up her calf muscle and shin which she seemingly mitigates by placing both of her hands firmly on top of her outstretched limbs.
I fidget with my abstract yet boldly patterned dress, creasing and scrunching its green and black material. Just beyond the fabrics reach, my fingers graze my collarbone, finding reassurance in its presence. As my hand slips habitually to my upper ribs, a whisper of a loose, silky thread tickles my finger. Immediately self conscious, both of my hands dart to the affected area as I pray that I alone have discovered this imperfection, which (though minute in nature) appears to be permanent.
Glancing to my left, I notice that the portable air conditioner has begun to whir unsteadily, its usually rhythmic respiration replaced by a crippled, asthmatic wheezing.
In a singular, swift motion, she uncrosses her legs and places both feet firmly on the ground, visibly tightening her core as she expends herself from her seat. In three steps she's walked over to the labored apparatus and unplugged it, tossing the cord and its two silver, electric prongs onto the carpet. Her gaze shifts intentionally to the box of tissues to my immediate left, and I can't help but visualize glue stuck beneath her feet as she pivots around and grabs a kleenex from the box.
"I can never seem to get the temperature right in here," she apologizes, as though her medical training ought to extend to the treatment of inanimate objects. "Let me know if you get too hot - I am absolutely freezing." As if on cue, her entire body shivers, which she embraces further by wrapping her arms around herself, hugging her elbows to her hips.
"Oh no, it's ok," I say, returning her pseudo-apology with my own. "I'm always cold. Right now, I'm sweating, I think from walking here, just from the changes in hot and cold and outdoors to indoors. I mean, not right now, I guess, but I'm usually cold," I confirm.
As I hear myself say it, I parse through my own language for subtext. Is my declaration of lower internal body heat too boastful? Too self-assured? Redundant, given that every girl seeking therapy for an eating disorder is likewise afflicted by the universal inability to warm herself from the inside-out?
Crossing my own arms over my chest, I am aware that I am mimicking her exact body language, and wonder if she notices this as well. I try to visualize an image of myself in a mirror, and wonder how my arms look in this position compared to hers. An overwhelming pang of emptiness rushes into my stomach, gaining momentum as my mind churns with what-if's and fantasies of what It Could Have Been.