Incident on the Roof

After so many years of crash diets and food binges, I feared I was beyond help.

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Incident on the Roof

The last thing I wanted to see that night was some teenaged guy in a baseball cap. But there he was, standing by the exit door on the roof.

I looked away, trying to give off a vibe: Do Not Disturb. What did he want anyway? Guys weren't interested in fat girls like me. He wasn't scary or anything. He just stood there, staring into space. I'd never seen him before. What was he doing on my roof?

I often came to the top of the parking garage at night. It was quiet. I liked being alone up there, above everyone else, feeling the cold wind off Casco Bay blowing across my face. I felt safer, closer to the stars, closer to something better.

Sometimes I'd pray. All I could ever think to say was, "Help me." But after so many mixed-up years of crash diets and food binges I was beyond help. I simply didn't have faith in myself or in anything else.

That night I decided to jump from the roof. The unknown had to be better than anything I knew. I didn't have a future, and this was the only way to block out the past.

I had been a chubby kid. My brothers laughed at me when we went to the beach. They'd yell, "Watch out for the beached whale!" I didn't make many friends. I mostly kept to myself.

Food was my secret comfort. Food never yelled at me, hurt me or called me names. Food was always there for me, something I could rely on. I kept this belief, yet somehow I hoped it would change once I was grown up.

I was grown up now, just out of college. Night after night on the roof I'd tell myself, "Rosemary, act your age." I knew I should take responsibility for my actions. No one forced the food down my throat.

But I could not control my behavior. People wouldn't understand. "Come on," they'd say. "Get a life." But somehow I couldn't.

I stared down into the darkness and then up at the stars. This was it. It would only take a second. I stepped up onto the roof ledge.

"No, no!" I heard. The kid in the baseball cap was by my side in an instant. "It's going to be okay," he said. I stood still. Dumbfounded. Angry. Get out of my face! I thought.

He reached out to me, but stopped. I didn't like to be touched and he seemed to know it. He shoved his hands in his pockets. His face showed kindness, concern. "Go home," he whispered. "It's going to be all right. Really, I promise."

I hesitated, but he kept his eyes on me. I glanced at the exit door. "Go on," he said. I took a deep breath and stepped down from the ledge. I walked slowly toward the door. I felt a sense of surrender, not in defeat, but in letting go.

I don't know if it was to take a last look at the stars or to thank the kid, but I turned back. I was alone on the roof. Where is he? There was nowhere he could have gone.

I stood there, trying to understand what had just happened to me. I knew I hadn't imagined the guy in the baseball cap. He was as real as the wind off the bay.

But something had changed. The wind was still cold, yet I felt warm, as if someone had wrapped a blanket around me. The guy's words had been like that, warm and kind. I started to believe him. Maybe it was going to be OK after all.

The next day I went to Overeaters Anonymous and found people like myself struggling with food issues, body image and depression. Eventually I reduced my weight significantly. I've kept it down ever since. I didn't lose the weight, I let it go.

It's gone, just like the past. I believe in the future now because of a stranger who helped me surrender to a faith I didn't know I had.

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