Kurt knows he isn’t sick. Whatever he’s doing isn’t nearly as crazy as the stuff he sees online. He doesn’t calculate how much he’s eaten, he doesn’t jot it all down in a special little notebook in sparkly purple ink. He doesn’t have a problem with how he looks, he knows that all teenagers have a little bit of chub that won’t disappear until he stops growing. He’s always been skinny anyway, it was just how he was built. Kurt was still careful about what he ate, though. What with his mom’s cancer, his dad’s heart attack, and cancer. The way he sees it, he clearly has potential to end up bedridden at some point in his life. So what’s wrong with doing what he could to delay that as long as possible? Kurt knows that he’s maybe taking it a little too seriously. Really, how male teenagers do you know who do yoga religiously along with a less-than-light daily workout for the cheerleading squad, along with a run or two in the morning to get his dad on his feet and exercising? Coupled with his extremely slight appetite, Kurt made sure he always ate plenty and drank enough to keep himself strong and healthy.
Until he didn’t.
It’s just around the corner to Nationals for both Cheerios and Glee and he feels stretched way too thin. Cheerios lets him escape from the petty drama of Glee, while exhausting him for the rest of the day. Sure, he feels absolutely fabulous after every practice but the constant munchies he feels from burning half his ass off really distracts him from the post-workout glow. On the other hand, Glee is anything but boring. Yes, he loves to sing. Yes, he loves all his friends. Yes, he …. tolerates Mr Schue’s blatant favouritism. But for the love of God, would it kill them to chill the hell out every so often? Kurt thinks back to sophomore year, where the Glee club first really gained some traction. It was fun. They had more time to mess around with music before everyone’s personalities fermented and all the drama really started. Now in their senior year, everyone’s just trying to tick all the boxes of what they thought would qualify as the golden high school experience. People like Rachel, trying to run for student body president (even if it meant running against Kurt himself). Kurt thought she didn’t have to try the martyr act again, though. He’s pretty sure that they all still remembered that time she protested with some classic black duct tape. People like Puck, trying to pass World Geography for once and actually graduate. Puck’s an interesting guy, Kurt thinks. He definitely has something going on behind the eyes and Kurt’s curious as to what Puck would find himself doing in five, ten years time. Kurt hopes it’s something good. And people like Brittany, who have finally found their ticket to a higher way of living and must make a big decision in very little time. People like Santana who have no clue what they’ll be up to after graduating, content to bask in the finality of everything.
Kurt wonders if he even has enough time to bask, everything seems to be flying by faster than he can catch.
He feels a little detached, to be honest. His daily schedule along with spending time with Blaine feels like it's leeching him of his will to live. Sometimes he really just wants to get away from everyone for a minute or two and catch a breather, what with how much they demand from him. Albeit his attention, cooperation, talent, energy. Honestly, he’s just tired. So it’s not a big deal if he spends a lunch period in the library, finding a quiet cubicle to get some shut-eye before he has to go to Glee for a last-minute Nationals brainstorming session. It doesn’t mean anything either when he comes home when the sun’s coming down and he decides that all he really needs is a quick nap before he starts on his homework. He’s a little frustrated when he ends up sleeping through the whole night but McKinley’s never really been the pinnacle of pristine homework assignments and squeaky clean attendance records, so he’s decidedly okay with handing that assignment in a little late. If anything, maybe the poster child of something stupid like “People who still avoid cracks in the sidewalk even though they should be too old to care”. So yeah. Other than the realization that he missed dinner and the sharp pang of worry that hit him when he realised he didn’t know what his dad had eaten for dinner either, he was otherwise unharmed. And he thinks to himself again, it’s not a big deal.
Kurt doesn’t know when it starts. No, actually. He does. August twenty-seventh, just over three months ago. That evening after his shift at the garage, he was going through his closet. There were a few pairs of pants that he’d saved from freshman year that he’d really liked. Those bright blue pants he’d worn when he tried out for Glee, for one. He’d saved a few shirts too, like that red button down from the first Don’t Stop Believin’ performance. Some things are just nostalgic, you know? He was actually trying to clear some space for the bulky winter coats that would come out of their boxes in a few weeks time. Somewhere along the way, he found himself pulling on pants, buttoning shirts, tying scarves around his neck. It was fun, rediscovering all his clothes in his freshly changed body. He took a look at himself in the mirror. Huh. The shirts stretched over his broader shoulders and they fit closely to his arms as well. The biggest surprise was that most of the pants were actually too loose for him now, needing a belt or just being way too big around his thighs and calves too.
Some days are worse. There are some good days, or as good a day can be when you’re tired, cold and a second away from snapping at everyone. Some days, he gets all his meals down and sits through a full Glee meet without pulling his phone out at all. Those days, he undresses and gets into his pajamas in the dark, falling asleep after a bit of tossing and turning thanks to the exhaustion of the day. Sometimes, he helps himself to some of Finn’s snacks when Finn invites him to watch that new episode of Suits on TV. He ignores the urge to press his fingers into the new indents on his hips. He takes another chip instead.
Some days he can barely get out of bed. Getting out of bed means walking past his full-length mirror to get to the bathroom and in the bathroom, there’s still a mirror on the wall. Why the hell did he ask his dad for such a huge fucking mirror? Damn. Lying on his bed, he puts a palm on his stomach. Adds the other palm. He pushes down. He realises that it’s been a few weeks since his appetite had dropped and he maximised his free time to exercise whenever he could. Even after all those long days, he’s still so big.
It’s scary how easy it was to start. Kurt had always ran on his own schedule, waking up and getting to bed at times vastly mismatched with the rest of the house. Thus, it wasn’t unusual for Kurt to catch a few meals on his own, leaving the rest of whatever he’d made in the microwave for Finn. Finn had no problem with this arrangement. In fact, he liked it. Kurt always made something fun, maybe some kind of spicy pasta or a rich broth when he felt up to it. Finn had something to eat when he got home from school and Carole didn’t have to start making dinner so early. It was a win-win situation. When no one saw Kurt skipping meals, they assumed he was having them. Easy. Simple. ‘Cause Kurt’s not that kind of boy, right? Breakfast and lunch were at school on weekdays, weekends spent between his girlfriend’s houses and Blaine. So it wasn’t a big surprise that Kurt managed to fly under everyone’s radar. Maybe they wouldn’t even have been looking. Maybe they wouldn't have noticed anyway. Would anyone have asked him how he was coping with his busy schedule, if he and Blaine were fine, if he was having any second thoughts about college? Would Burt tell them a funny story from the garage that week, would Carole tell them about the eccentric lady they had in the hospital earlier? Of fucking course. As long as he gave his usual smiles, laughed and snarked at the right times, he’d never have to answer any potential questions, ‘cause they’ll never be asked.
And then, suddenly, one day, out of the fucking blue, Blaine dumps him.
Well, that’s what it felt like anyway. He invites Kurt over and pulls out their movie, reclining comfortably on the opposite end of the couch. After several futile attempts at getting Kurt to come closer, getting into his arms, he accepts Kurt’s tight smiles and gentle touches to his knee as what it was. A rejection. He didn’t mean to blurt everything out while their movie was playing. He really didn’t. But he did. Every time Kurt turned his affection away, every non-committal answer to coming over and all the things which just pointed to one conclusion. Kurt didn’t love him anymore, Kurt wanted out, Kurt was just too scared to say it. What else could it be? Why else would Kurt not have even the slightest desire to just get fucking horizontal? He wasn’t expecting anything from him, God, they’d already had it before and the first time’s always the scariest right? Was Kurt running around on him? Was he just not his type anymore? Was there already someone else? At the least, Blaine thought he deserved a Talk of sorts, regarding their situation. But it never came. From someone who needed communication like air, Kurt was being really fucking weird. Why couldn’t he just tell him what was going on? Why did he leave him out of the loop of everything? Blaine’s sure he could have helped, if only Kurt had given him the chance. Now, he wasn’t sure if he even wanted to help. If this was the way Kurt would act every time something threw them off, how would they even make it to New York together?
“I just don’t understand why you can’t just talk to me! I don’t even know what I did to make you pull so far away from me.”
“I feel like I don’t even mean anything to you anymore, what could you possibly be going through that you can’t share with the love of your life?”
“I feel so bad for saying all of this out of nowhere but I don’t have a choice! Seriously if you’re not even going to say anything, I wouldn't even have bothered saying all that earlier.”
“I want to think that you’re still the same boy I met a year ago and I want to believe that we’ll be just fine but you’re really not giving me a lot to work with over here.”
“Kurt, you’re not even going to fight for us?”
I am fighting. Internally, I’m screaming blue murder and I want to tell you that I still trust you that I still want you that we can do this and please don’t leave me please dont I can be better I can be that boy again I can fight I can do it I ca-
“Maybe it’ll be better if we took some time apart.”
Blaine got up from the couch, switching off the paused movie and heading up the stairs. He paused, looking at Kurt. He was still sitting there, pale as a sheet and knuckles deathly white on his lap. Back straight as a needle, unmoved since Blaine had let out his first blow.
“The door’s open for when you want to go.”
He’s not sure how long it took and he’s not sure how fast or slow he was driving.
When he pulled into the driveway, the sky was a watercolour of oranges, reds and yellows. To have had the whole conversation sprung onto him like that had just made him shut down. Honestly, he wasn’t sure if he was even there for most of the conversation, if you could call it that. It’s not like it was a surprise, he figured it’d be a matter of time before Blaine would be suspicious of him and ask for some time. But he didn’t even ask. Kurt always thought that he’d be the one to shatter that idealistic soulmate theory of Blaine’s, he’d never thought that Blaine would be the one to get sick and tired of what they had. To grow weary of his taste. Kurt rested his burning forehead against the wheel, trying to gain some control over his body. His heart, his chest, his head, his ears. Pound pound pound pound. Yeah, maybe that was what he needed. Some control.
”It’s fine, it’s not a big deal.”
Until people start telling him it is.
Sam is the first to notice, naturally. He goes over to the Hudmel’s house that Tuesday, partly for some help with his auto shop assignment and partly to play video games with Finn. It’s not unusual for Sam to be seen at the Hudmel house on most days. Finn, Kurt and himself had formed a strange trio which was formed when Sam walked in on Kurt absolutely destroying Finn on Mario Kart. Things just sort of snowballed from then onwards.
Sam knocked on the door a few times, letting himself in when he heard Kurt call out that it was unlocked.
“Dude, isn't it like, dangerous to leave your door unlocked? There might be like, crazy people you know? You gotta be more careful.” Sam crossed the floor and took a seat at the table.
“Who’d come and rob me at 3 in the afternoon? I knew it was you from that first knock, Sam. Give me some credit!” Kurt grinned at Sam, rinsing the last plate in the sink.
“Okay, yeah you’re kinda right. No one would rob you right now. Maybe at night, or at weirder hours. But still! What if you start doing it all the time and take it to New York? I know for sure that people are crazy there, I watch Brookly Nine Nine.” He gave Kurt his signature raised eyebrow glare, trying his best to sound strict.
“Oh Wise One, I regret my previous foolishness and I hope to never be robbed in the future due to my lack of concern for personal safety." Giggle. "Yeah, New York’s scary but the only way to really see if I’ll be fine is if you come and visit lots, right?" Kurt rolled his eyes. Picking up a washcloth, he started to dry the freshly washed dishes.
Sam got up from the dinner table, walking over to the kitchen towels to give Kurt a hand with the dishes. He glanced over his shoulder at Kurt, really taking him in. He considered himself pretty lucky. Kurt usually opted for more comfortable clothes when he was at home and didn’t really like being seen in them, claiming he looked ‘unkempt’ and ‘messy’. Sam was allowed to see him like this, though, and you can bet it made him feel a little bit special. Kurt was dressed like that too today, a pair of sleep shorts and a faded T-shirt with a pair of ballet slippers on the front. Most probably a relic from his dance class days when his mom was still around. Sam frowned. When had he gotten so skinny? Sam looked at his calves, arms. Kurt used to be so lean, wiry, just a little bit muscular from all the Cheerio practice and dancing. Sam even remembered seeing pictures of a chubby cheeked Kurt from freshman year. But the Kurt who stood in front of him was different. His legs looked so much thinner from the last time Sam saw them, and his ankles looked so frail. Kurt had always been pale, of course, but now he looked a bit… sickly. Like a houseplant which wasn’t getting enough sunlight. His legs looked so skinny and his wrists were so tiny, he looked like he’d fall right over with a strong gust of wind. How had no one noticed?
“Have you had lunch yet?”
Pause.”Yes. Right before you came in actually.”
“What did you eat?”
“I finished the pasta Carole made last night,” Inhale. “It actually heated up quite well, considering it’s a red sauce and usually they get a little stale overnight but this wa-”
“Are you lying to me?”
“What- No! Why would you think that? It’s just food, Sam. What’s got you so tense?”
“I had the pasta last night before I left. I warmed it up in the microwave and washed the dish when I was done.”
Kurt froze. Froze. Froze. Froze.
“Kurt, have you been eating?”
“Of course I have, Sam. I guess I had something from a few days ago, not last night. It tasted fine so I really hope I won’t come down with anything. You know, some people just never get food poisoning at all? Ever? I swear, some people have such strong stomachs th-”
“Kurt.” Sam moved closer to Kurt, step by step.
Sam reached up and pulled Kurt’s hands out of his hair, holding his hands by the wrists. Kurt had been restless since Sam asked him about lunch. At first, pushing his hair out of his face but now he was downright pulling on it. Sam brought his arms back down to his sides, not releasing his grip.
“Are you alright?”
Kurt saw the look of pure concern in Sam’s eyes, felt his strong fingers encircling his too-thin wrist. Sam, a friend, had noticed before his closest friends and boyfriend. Sam had seen him. Sam is looking at him and seeing him. He’s also probably seeing the tears welling up in my eyes, Kurt thought.
Kurt let his head drop onto Sam’s shoulder and squeezed his eyes shut. Tears leaked out his eyes and ran down his face.
The sky reminds him of ink, swirling and murky. Kurt thinks of all the times he’s stared at the sky from his bedroom window, trying to block out the sounds of his family downstairs. It had become a habit of sorts. When he threw the Diva Off, he had sat by his window the entire day. When Karofsky kissed him? When he really just needed a break from everything? It was his go-to. Now, he finds himself sitting on the ledge six days of the week. He tells Sam about how he edges a bit further off the edge everyday, about how he wonders how badly he’ll be hurt if he fell off. If it would be any different if he jumped instead.
He tells Sam about how it all started. It was just a game, a daily achievement kind of thing. How many hours he could go without having anything to eat, how much he could exercise everyday. It was both a reward and a punishment for him, making him feel proud of how he was holding up while still exhausting him in the best way. Kurt told Sam how he liked that it could be both, it was flexible, it was free and it was easy for him to mold to his liking. If he wanted to hurt himself, if he wanted to feel good about himself. It was messy, it was confusing, it was dangerous. It was addictive.
“Did you… do you… want to hurt yourself?”
“Did I want to inflict pain upon myself? No, and I still don’t. I don’t have a high tolerance for that.”
“Then why do you do all that?”
“It’s more like… I don’t think I deserve to have nice things. To feel good things.”
“I don’t have anything for lunch because I don’t think I did that many things in school anyway, don’t think I did enough to burn off calories and feel tired.”
“I force myself to keep moving, keep working out because I want to feel tired on the outside, too. In my head I’m barely even here and no one even noticed. So I thought that I just don’t look tired, if no one’s said anything. Maybe I’m just not tired at all and I’m making everything up in my head. Maybe I’m just being dramatic. Then I get mad at myself for getting so worked up over nothing, and decide to get worked up for real. Maybe if I work myself harder I’ll feel tired and it won’t make me feel weak. Maybe if I have less at meals I’ll get thinner. Maybe if I just stop having anything at all, I’ll just be hollow. Maybe I could keep getting smaller and just… disappear. Maybe I could go somewhere and no one would be on my case at all, forever.”
“I’m just really not having much fun here, where I am. Treating myself like crap doesn’t make me feel any better either, no, really. It just makes me feel like I actually have a reason to be upset. I know I’m dramatic, you don’t need to tell me I’m not. But I can’t feel upset in peace ‘cause I know I have so much to be thankful for. I really do. So I do it to myself instead. So when I cry before letting myself sleep, I can say that it’s from exhaustion and nothing to do with the fucked up warzone my head is in right now. So what if I feel like nothing will ever change, like it’ll never get better, like I’ll never get the hell out of this place?”
“None of that matters. Nothing matters. It doesn’t matter what I do or don’t do to myself since no one cares anyway. There’s nothing left for me right now, and nothing translates to nothing. There won’t be anything for me in the future either. It all ends with me right here in this living room, Sam. This is all I’m ever gonna get. I’m sorry, I know I’m not really making sense.”
Sam ran a hand over his face, trying to hide the look of understanding on his face. It was all so goddamn familiar.