High and Dry – Elaine Li

Celery for fourteen days, drop fourteen pounds. This happens every fourteenth week. It’s less noticeable that way. A test, a challenge, a ritual of sorts. Every fourteenth week, for fourteen days.

I wish I had microscope eyes so I could see exactly what was going on. We’re learning it in class, but only about as much as we would from an episode of The Magic School Bus. It’s a plant, so it would have plant cells. Plant cells are square, filled mostly with water. Water fills everything up.

If I fill myself with water, I won’t be hungry. If I fill myself with water, I won’t be hungry. I won’t be hungry. I will not be hungry.

The only thing about celery is that it has negative calories. That and it fills you up because of water. I don’t remember where I heard that. But it tastes like shit. Bitter medicine. Covered in little green strings that I imagine stretching in my body as I swallow, mapping everything out in veins.

“Why are you eating celery?” Michelle asks. “I thought you hated celery.” God, I hate celery.

“I don’t know. Not anymore, I guess.” It’s not her fault. She doesn’t know me well enough to ask.

“Apparently celery helps you lose weight.”

“That’s what I’m trying to do.” I meant to say it without the edge on it, just as a casual fact.

“I didn’t say you had to or anything,” she replies meekly. Like a mouse. Something small. I wish I was small.

The battle with celery is over. Next comes dessert. A prize, won from the battle with breakfast. I peel the skin off. Then the roughage. This, I let myself eat. The tangerine I leave alone. Michelle the meddler meddles as usual.

“Aren’t you going to eat that?” God, when did her voice get so damn high?

“No. It’s sour. It’s gross.”

“You didn’t even have any of it. How do you know it’s sour?”

Damn it. I break off a piece of tangerine and bite into it. It’s not sour. It’s sweet, sickeningly so. Sugar is calories. I’m going to gag. I’m going to throw up. I’m going to die.

I spit it out, along with an I told you so at Michelle, who doesn’t bother me again. I’m hungry. At the bottom of my lunch bag, there are ten ice cubes shaped like fish. Mom bought the tray two days ago. It’s very cute.

If I fill myself with water, I won’t be hungry.

I save them for dinner. Later, with the fourth fish in my mouth, I cry. Filled with too much water. Fish are leaking out of my eyes, I think. The fifth one melts in my hand, and when I swipe at my tears, I see salmon swimming upstream. The thought exhausts me.


It’s always such a long way up, isn’t it?