I know how you like me.

You like how I cut you with the sharp of my bones, when I am barely a silhouette, when my skin is stretched thin and tight around my skeleton. You show me off; I let you. I stagger after you in slutty dresses and high heels even though my back is killing me. When we’re at parties, I stand next to you. I smile. I listen to you say things like, “My baby is looking good. I keep her in check.”

You assume it is easy for me to stay the way you like, that it is easy for me to sit with you at the dinner table and match you bite for bite. You think I can eat bloody steaks and potatoes the size of our heads filled with sour cream and butter, that we can drink two or three bottles of wine and your mother’s coffee cake and I will stay the way you like. After we eat like that, you want us to dance in the middle of the kitchen, surrounded by our dirty dishes, me standing on your feet as you twirl us across the linoleum. I appreciate the gesture but there are matters requiring my attention after we eat. Romance gets in the way.

I see you watch me at the gym. You act like you’re really doing something with 100 pounds on the bench press. You rub your hands together, then straddle the bench. You rub your hands again and lie back, gripping and re-gripping the barbell. When you think the most people are watching, you raise the barbell into the air, hold it, arms trembling, and bring it toward your chest. Over and over you do this, twelve times, and then you drop the barbell back on those metal Ys such that it clangs dramatically.

You don’t fool anyone. While you recover from your exertions, you sit on the edge of the bench, legs spread wide, ogling me. Sometimes you don’t wear proper underwear. I can see that. Your eyes are greedy. You measure and weigh me. You approve. I hold onto the handles of the elliptical, even though my hands are sweaty and it’s hard to get a good grip. I watch the little red heart on the monitor blink every second, reminding me of the beating of my own heart. 144. 132. 156. 129. 164. I think about how much I hate you. I push forward. I get nowhere.

We watch the Discovery Channel together. You laugh and say mean things about the fat people who have to be cut out of their homes and taken to special hospitals to have their insides rearranged. I’m secretly jealous of those people because they have surrendered. Their heads are so big and yet so small, with sunken black dots for eyes, like God dug into the flesh of their faces, made two holes and dropped shiny marbles in. It would be lovely to wash the Discovery Channel people clean. I would be very gentle and kind to them. I would tuck myself into their heavy folds after I covered them in sweet smelling baby powder. I don’t tell you this because you would laugh at me too.

When we first started dating, you grabbed my ass and said, “Baby, you’ve got a lot of junk in your trunk.” You’d laugh like you had said something funny and charming. You didn’t care who heard you. You did it in front of my mom once. That’s why she hates you.

Your mother always tries to feed me, sending baked goods to our house. I tell you it bothers me; you encourage her. You leave her requests and wish lists and every day I get a basket of muffins or a plate of cookies. Your mother has never met a carbohydrate she didn’t like. I inhale the sweet scent of the basket or the plate to feel that sugary air soaking into my lungs. When I breathe deeply enough, I taste the goodness in my mouth. I never give in, not unless you’re around. There is nothing I can’t resist. And the wanting but not having, that turns me on. If you’re late coming home from work and I’m alone with your mother’s baked goods, I force myself to think of you and what you’ll do to me when you get home. That’s why I’m always waiting at the door with a high ball, wearing something sexy.

My co-worker Janelle thinks you’re an amazing boyfriend because you’re attractive. She equates beauty with good behavior. A couple days ago, we were in the break room. She was eating leftovers from home. I was eating one of those yoghurts that are supposed to help your digestion. I licked the spoon and pointed it in her direction. I said, “I’m thinking of leaving him.” She literally gasped. She said, “I won’t hear a word of this. That man is the best thing that’s ever happened to you.” I ate another spoonful of yoghurt. It didn’t taste good. Jamie Lee Curtis is a liar.

You think my life began when I met you. You don’t know I went to boarding school. A girl learns a lot at boarding school— how to use a tampon, how to sneak across campus at five in the morning, how to get a guy from town to buy my friends and I booze. The very last stall in Dunmore Hall’s second floor bathroom was for heaving. It was so designated for the practical avoidance of sitting down to pee and standing up with regurgitated bits of carrot or dining hall chicken sticking to the backs of our thighs.

My best friend Stella showed me what to do after I told her no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t bring my dinner up. She grabbed me by the hand, took me to the bathroom and swept her hair into a ponytail. Stella was so sexy when she did that. She had a long neck. Long necks are made for such dramatic gestures. Her boyfriend loved leaving hickeys all over her neck. Sunday mornings in the common room, she showed off the pretty bruises that circled her neck like jewelry. We were jealous because our boyfriends left ugly hickeys on our necks.

In the bathroom, Stella filled a water bottle with water from the sink and drank it quickly. She refilled the bottle and drank that water too. She went into the last stall, leaned over, and waved the middle and index fingers of her right hand back at me. She grinned and expertly slid those fingers into her mouth until she reached the back of her throat. Even with her mouth full of hand she managed to make sense in a guttural way. “Just go deep, deeper than you think you can. But be gentle, sweetie. Gentle. Don’t force it. Hold your fingers there until something comes up. It always will. After the first time, it gets easier.”

Sometimes, when we’re fucking and you’re on top of me and my hands are gripping your arms, I think you will break me. I think my body will collapse. I cannot breathe. I like it. You make me feel full.

You bite my shoulder and grunt every time you thrust. Your rhythm when we fuck kind of feels like the elliptical, rolling forward over and over, never really going anywhere.

After I started dating boys, I looked up the caloric value of semen—seven calories a teaspoon. That’s a good thing to know. You are an average lover but when you touch my breasts, you squeeze them so softly I throb violently between my thighs. You like to lick my nipples and suck on them and make sloppy noises. You know how much I love it; I can’t help myself. I get more interested in what we’re doing when you go there. I get wet and I hear you slide in and out of me and you fuck me faster and your breathing gets scary fast and you say, “Shit, baby. You are a hot lay.” You’re always so proud of yourself after you come. I can’t help myself. I like that, too.

I haven’t been to the dentist in four years. Dentists know things and think they are real doctors.

My freshman year in high school, I was chubby—nothing too serious, maybe thirty pounds overweight—but big enough to stand out from the blue-blooded girls I went to school with who were rail thin and wore sizes that defied mathematics. Miss Jay was a math teacher who lived on the third floor of my dorm. One day we were all playing charades in the common room. She puffed her cheeks out like a blowfish and held her arms out to her sides and waddled around the room. I don’t know which was worse—that she was mimicking me or that someone quickly shouted the answer.

Santiago, the boyfriend before you, regularly said I was too thin. This made me love him desperately. I couldn’t get enough of him saying something so kind. He also said he didn’t enjoy being cut by the sharpness of my bones. He’s a man; he got over it. He was a chef, French-trained. What broke Santiago’s heart is that the lovely meals he prepared never stayed with me for long. He felt like I was purging his love. Sometimes, after we fucked, me always on top, because, unlike you, he was afraid of hurting me, he would drag his fingers up and down my rib cage, clucking his disapproval. He’d say, “Querida, eres demasiado delgada.” It sounded just as good in Spanish.

The one thing Stella didn’t teach me was how good it feels to empty yourself. Getting there might be distasteful but it’s a small price to pay. I like to think she wanted me to discover the pleasure for myself. When I’m done, after I’ve cleaned the toilet seat, scrubbed the bowl, sprayed air freshener, brushed my teeth, I am light-headed and a little sweaty. I love to lie in bed with a bottle of cold water, sipping from it slowly. I press down on my hipbones and marvel at the minute details with my fingertips. Sometimes you come find me. There is no way you cannot know what I’ve just done. You lay with me. You rest your head on my stomach listening to my vital organs. I run my fingers through your hair. This is when I love you best.