What It Takes

What It Takes by Amy Dupcak

Tenth grade: 
Wake up and eat Special K without milk. Listen to “November Rain” on cassette while putting on your uniform: skirt, stockings, blouse, sweater. Scrutinize your stomach in the mirror. Tweeze eyebrows, apply Urban Decay shadow, sweep hair into a ponytail, and put on pit-bull chain necklace. Write your new symbol on the inside of your wrist: a capital F (for food) in a “no” symbol. Draw the diagonal line across the F super thick. Dissolve two Tylenols for your morning headache. Get a ride to school from Mom. Graciously accept the hearty vegetarian lunch she made. Don’t think about the salami sandwiches and Dunkaroos from ninth grade, which you ate without fear. “Accidentally” leave your lunch in your locker, or parcel it out to friends. Watch Rachel, Ariana, and Elise eat their food as well as yours. Chew gum ravenously. Allow yourself a few Twizzlers or Skittles. Look at all the girls’ legs and ankles; their legs are so skinny. Draw legs in your notebook. Sit through afternoon classes in pain. If it’s Tuesday, attend Driver’s Ed class in more pain: a pulsing in the pit of you. If it’s Thursday, attend Geometry tutoring, then hop in the Driver’s Ed car with three girls. Break out your bag of Blow Pops to share. Savor each lick. For dinner at home, eat a baked potato (no butter), a can of peas, or more cereal. Go for a “walk” in the basement. Pace back and forth, back and forth. Lift up your shirt to check your stomach in the mirror; does it look any better? Recall the photo from your Sweet Sixteen when it appeared rotund. That photo was the trigger: your first encounter. Write down your daily food consumption, noting grams of fat. Before falling asleep, prod yourself here and there. Make sure you feel the bones. 

Dupcak holds an MFA degree in Fiction from The New School and a BA in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence, where she studied Writing. She has worked with such writers as Shelley Jackson, Darryl Pinckney, Dale Peck, Nelly Reifler, Joyce Johnson, and Helen Schulman.

Dupcak’s creative nonfiction has appeared in Phoebe, Chicago Literati, and Sonora Review. Her short stories were published in Runaway Parade, Fringe, Slush Pile, Broken Pencil, The Dirty Napkin, and other journals. Dupcak currently teaches creative writing workshops to teens at Writopia Lab.

Learn more about Amy Dupcak at http://chicagoliterati.com/2015/12/14/a-break-by-amy-dupcak/

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