Leah looked at her naked body in the full length mirror and smiled. For the first time in months Leah felt at peace. She had gone from “fat” to “chubby” to “svelte.” All her friends had noticed. Finally she was in control. The way she had mastered her own body had given her something to be in charge of. Something that she controlled. Not her parents, not her teachers, not the boys who tried to paw her at school functions. Leah was finally in control of her life.
Leah’s greatest joy came when she stopped menstruating. She felt pure. It was proof that she was superior to those sluts at school who were always taking about the disgusting acts they had performed over the weekend. She was above all that now. Her sacrifices had moved her to a new level of existence.
Of course, the old people were tying to take all that away from her. Mrs. Ryan, the Phys Ed teacher had been the first to meddle. Leah had been forced to listen to a lecture by Mrs. Ryan about Anorexia Nervosa. Why couldn’t that fat old cow just leave her alone?
Then Mrs. Ryan had done something even worse. She had called Leah’s parents to discuss the “situation.” That’s how Leah ended up at Overlook Hospital sitting here discussing intimate details of her body with Dr. Telesco. The only good part was that Dr. Telesco was really hot. He was tall and thin with a gorgeous face and a body like a marathon runner. He also had a really soothing voice.
“So Leah,” began Dr. Telesco. “Now that the examination is done, would you like your parents to come in while we discuss the case?”
“God no!” said Leah in a shocked tone. “Besides, Mom is in California on a big case for at least a month. The only reason Dad is here is that the stock market is closed today.”
“O.K.,” said Dr. Telesco with a smile. “Your rapid weight loss is not good for your health. You have gone far below what is normal for your height. The X-Rays show that this is causing a loss of bone mass. In addition, your body has trouble simply maintaining normal temperature. I notice you are wearing a sweater even though it is quite warm out today.”
“I just like the way this outfit looks,” answered Leah defensively.
Dr. Telesco leaned forward and said gently, “Leah you are putting your life at risk. You are literally starving yourself to death. I would like to put you on a program to help you get back to a normal weight. You should be seeing a Psychiatrist to help you through this. Your parents will need to be involved.”
Leah began to shake and cry. This is exactly what she was afraid of. They were going to try to control her. They were going to force her to become fat and ugly. She would develop big cow breasts like the other sluts. That disgusting monthly “thing” would return.
In the end, however, Leah had no choice. She either had to agree to see a psychiatrist as an outpatient, or her parents could have her involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.
So one week later Leah was back at Overlook taking to a psychiatrist named Dr. Grundy. He looked like he had not shaved in a few days, and his suit was very wrinkled. In her own mind, Leah immediately made up the nickname “The Grunge” for him.
The first thing The Grunge did was to hand Leah a picture of a naked woman sitting on a rock by a rushing river.
“Leah, describe to me in as much detail as possible, exactly what you think is happening in this picture.”
This was a standard test Dr. Grundy had used for several years, with varying degrees of success. It was designed to explore the patient’s attitude toward, body-image, sex and life in general. Although he had been a psychiatrist for 15 years, he had never encountered a response as remarkable or as detailed as Leah’s.
Leah held the picture in her hands and stared it it intently for several minutes. Then she began to describe what she saw in the photo.
“Her name is Lilith. She is trying to get the courage to jump into the water. She wants to jump, but the water looks dangerous and she is afraid. She has ripped off all her clothing so that it will not drag her down when she jumps into the water, but now she is too scared to jump.”
“What do you think of Lilith’s body?” asked Dr. Grundy. “Do you think she is pretty?”
“She’s fat,” answered Leah. “She is upset about being so fat.”
“Most men would call her beautiful.”
“Most men are pigs,” responded Leah. “Look at the size of her ass. That’s all men want. Big tits and a big ass. Something to grab on to while they do disgusting things.”
“Have any men done disgusting things to you?” asked Dr. Grundy gently.
“NO WAY!” shouted Leah. “My tits are too small and I have no ass at all! I like it that way! I am not like those sluts at school!”
Dr. Grundy was concerned that Leah was getting agitated and he was afraid she might storm out of the session. He decided to switch the topic slightly. “Let’s get back to the picture,” he said soothingly. “What will happen to Lilith if she does jump into the water?”
Leah immediately calmed down. She looked up the picture and smiled. “When Lilith jumps into the water, the current will rush her down and over a high waterfall. She is scared when she goes over the falls, but she does not get smashed on the rocks. After the waterfall, the river becomes calm and she floats gently downstream for a very very long time. Finally she comes to the shores of the Land Of Lost Girls. Other girls come to the riverside and greet her with smiles. They dry her off and give her a long beautiful pure white robe to wear. They brush her hair and give her fruit to eat and wine to drink.”
“What happens in the Land of Lost Girls?” asked Dr. Grundy.
“Nothing. That’s the point,” answered Leah. “It’s like in Peter Pan, but for girls. They stay there forever and don’t age. It’s actually better than Peter Pan, since there are no pirates, or alligators or weapons.”
“Or males?” asked Dr. Grundy.
“Of course not,” said Leah. “No annoying little boys. No dirty old men. No aggressive over-sexed young men. Just the beautiful girls.”
The time for the session was over, although Dr. Grundy knew they were only scratching the surface.
As Leah got up to leave she picked up the picture of the naked woman and asked, “Can I take this with me?”
“Of course you can take the picture Leah.”
“May I have an envelope to put it in? I don’t want my dad to get the wrong idea.”
Dr. Grundy found a large manila envelope in his desk and gave it Leah. She slipped the photo of the naked woman into the envelope, and then clutched onto it, like the envelope contained a bar of gold. Then Leah meekly said goodby and left the office.
Dr. Grundy spent the next 45 minutes writing notes about the session. He was very worried about Leah. He looked down at his notes:
“Leah’s identification of a healthy young woman as “fat” is a part of Leah’s distorted image of the female body. Leah has possibly been sexually abused, perhaps at an age so early she does not consciously remember it. The desire to jump into the water and go over the waterfall may indicate potential suicidal tendencies. The Land Of Lost Girls fantasy is an obvious desire to avoid sexual maturation”
That night Dr. Grundy and his wife celebrated their 17th anniversary at La Papillon. The food was exquisite but he hardly spoke at all. “What’s wrong John?” asked Celeste.
“I’m sorry. I was just thinking about all the young lives that have gone over the waterfall through the decades and ended up in the Land of Lost Girls. Maybe this time I can catch one before she goes over the waterfall. Maybe I can pull her back.”
Celeste smiled at her husband and did not ask what he meant. She had been married to John for long enough to know that it had something confidential to do with a patient. She wished that people who complained about how much psychiatrists earned could see the toll that the work took on them.
Just 10 miles away, Leah was at home alone, also having dinner. Her mother was still on the case in California. Her father was working late in the City. He had called and said something about the Greek Euro crisis and how he had to work up a strategy for how it would impact his firm’s portfolio. Leah pretended she understood what he was talking about.
“Have a good dinner honey.”
“I will Daddy,” said Leah as she hung up the phone.
Leah loved having dinner alone. No one to criticize or monitor her. She looked at her dinner plate and was very satisfied with it. On the plate were a small wedge of Water Mellon, a tiny cube of cheese, three cashews and a stick of celery. There was also a very large glass of expensive Chardonnay.
As Leah slowly ate her dinner and drank the wine, she looked at the picture of Lilith naked by the water. Leah had placed the picture on the table next to her dinner plate.
“Make the jump Lilith”, whispered Leah. “Make the jump and I will join you soon. Very soon.”