JoAnna Novak


Awareness. Cool and detached, I swear. Nothing's bubbling over.
I'm stirring constantly with the bamboo spoon your mother gave
you on Christmas. For me, just a (light) string of barbells to trip over, mornings
when I stumble from bed, puffy from nightmares. Wrapped in red
lines like a pot roast strung up and dreaming glass cases, bejeweled
hand mirrors catching pockets of white squiggling beneath my skin.

Naturally, only the finest gear: black Nike dri-fit pants, a second skin
(we like them because they're more like tights), the same material but pink over
a Stella McCartney for Adidas sports bra (we like it because it comes in jewel
tones—that other one picks turquoise), gleaming emerald: Mardi Gras beads Father gave
after business in New Orleans. In the gym bag: a dog-eared Vogue, well-read:
during class, snuck inside text books, something to slump over, mornings

when I'm alone, out for coffee. I've stopped wearing so much black, mourning
Ashley. Between Butter and Marquis, she's only nagging: you're all skin
and bones. Eat a sandwich. A grilled chicken sandwich, split, if you've read
carefully. Keep it up: Annie Lebovitz. Red Twizzlers and diet coke with lime over—
just friends—a Knicks game with Mystery Man. The chocolate chip cookies I gave
away after stocking up from Starbucks and reading about it in the checkout line at Jewel.

My publicist said stop so stop. Quit it. Focus on the fashion show, white sheath bejeweled,
silver around the collar, at the hem, Imitation of Christ. Ignore the mornings
she's racing to the gym, SUV crashes, diet dr. pepper cans, airports, rehab. She gave
up on hiding it. Gone: a gnarled gray sweater like a robe. Yoga pants. She's sooo skinny:
In Touch re her in black tights-turned-leggings. Mary-Kate, back to bones! But what better. Over
and over again, she's sick of trying: a white Styrofoam box with half a burrito, red

fear filling her chest, matches the frames of her sunglasses. In therapy, tight fists and red
eyes. Who wants it? Equestrian therapy, art therapy, family therapy—pearls of wisdom, jewels
discovered between the lines: She's still not buying it. Her waistband's loose. Healthy is over,
done. Tracey Gold chickened out, not pretty enough. Karen went and died. You want more.
I say more power to her. Too many case study skeletons jabbing with feeding tubes under my skin,
Karen, sure, but Rosemary and Ruth. Marya, Lori, Anna, Cherry. Francesca at least gave

herself a new name. But now you're posing and I'm playing along, throwing my hands up, grave
attempts to cover face, common situations: grocery store parking lots. With frozen yogurt. More
likely traps we haven't yet discovered. At the gym, I really run on the treadmill. How fast I give
up on arms, stomach. In the throat, black coffee sludge for me. You're here, elliptical or stairs, red
face like red tank top worn strolling with boyfriend, David K. An iced coffee, purple straw jewel-
toned against the creamy tan. Tell me why my lines grow as you shrink. Did you have to take skin

caliper tests? 5th through 8th grade, over in seven seconds. Gave us girls a reason to pinch outside
the white curtain, outside gym class. Mornings, did welts blossom red on your upper arms? Thighs
dotted like a bad mosquito season. Bejeweled, skin powdered, has a spoon ever ruined it all?



JoAnna Novak is thrilled about Mary Kate's recent cover on W magazine.