I met her in real life at a train station I knew well. I spent the past summer working in that city, halfway across the country, in a fluorescent tube lamp factory, where I pretended to be an engineer. The city was unremarkable, apart from its drug tourism problems, and apart from the fact that she lived there.
I met her for the very first time online, both recovering from less than pleasant breakups. Her personality was vibrant, she was a teacher and part-time singer. Eloquent and educated, she seemed happy, in full control of her life, doing the things she liked.
Love at first sight is one of the most unique and pleasant emotions a human can have. Time stops, you just know that this person is the One, and it feels as if the entire cosmos, down to the last quantum fluctuation, conspired to bring the two of you together against all odds.
The opposite emotion feels more like your heart sinking into your gut and turning into a miasma. Then, you realize you are going to be stuck with this girl for at least an afternoon and dinner, especially when your 3-hour train ride doesn't make it likely you just came for coffee and company.
'Hello,' she said. I kissed her cheek, wondering how this girl could possibly be the one in the picture. Luckily, I caught a whiff of disappointment from her as well. Not looking like the stuff they show in Playgirl sometimes is a blessing in disguise.
Her company was pleasant. We walked through the city, where she showed me more than the stoners and factories I was familiar with. We talked quite a bit, and soon, the talk arrived at the elephant in the room.
Apparently, it struck her when she was still a teenager. Not eating while you are supposed to be growing into a mature woman has a devastating effect, she told me. She was eating now, she said, but the damage to her bones, teeth, muscles and hair was already done. Her odds at a healthy retirement were pretty much shot. Her vibrant smile and warm personality covered up the fact that this young woman was uncomfortably close to the grave.
Anorexia Nervosa, as it is technically termed, is a disease that often has multiple root causes, both physical and psychological, and once started, can feed on itself as it feeds on its victim. By the time it was time for dinner, we were talking about how she got ill. It was as if she devastated her body to match her psyche. My interest in her life and condition did raise her liking of me, and during dinner, which was copious for me and meager for her, my male hormones were fighting with my common sense.
Would there be sex with an anorexic chick?
Her pudgy face glowed in the candlelight under the remains of her hair. I wasn't worried about any physical damage, but breakup was a certainty, given the fact that apart from a broken heart, we had little in common, and I don't do one-night stands.
I thanked her for the night, for her company, and, in silence, for the insight she had given me in humans. The train took me away again from my past and a possible future, back to safety and solitude.