The Gospel According to Saint Valentine
Daniel Riddle Rodriguez
—for Mia & D_____
The only weight-loss miracle is bulimia; everything else is product branding. Her real name is Valentine Jones, and it’s her favorite saying. Valentine Jones, beautiful teenager: she has high cheekbones and good hair, a mother tongue, long silent, that had sounded something French. Valentine. Valley Girl. She models clothes and commands a following, but mostly she just models clothes. I sit in the press row, follow her train down the hallways at school. Her second favorite saying is, Me and my mirror are best friends. Or, when she’s feeling clever, Me and my vanity are best friends.
Valentine says, Everything you want is on the other side of skinny.
She says, Thinner is winner.
Coffee, smokes, and Diet Cokes.
Never—not ever—never use your finger, Valentine says. Just pound cola and grab your ankles. The uvula you save may be your own. Remember, she says, breakfast is important (potassium potassium potassium!), but never eat anything larger than your fist.
Mind the gap, she says.
Feet together. Thighs apart.
She says, Fridge pickers wear large knickers.
Valentine says, Let them eat cake. Skinny tastes better. She says, I miss my gag reflex. I miss the 90s. I’m having Heroin Chic withdrawals. Cindy was great, Valentine says, but cover my altar with Kate. Saint Gia. Mother King. Father, son, holy moly, she says. You can poach my soul, but leave my face intact.
That is a scale, she says.
This is how you crunch numbers.
Size 2 is the new size 4 is the new size 12. 0 will always be 0, and 1 truly is the loneliest number. These are cardinal numbers, she says.
This is cardinal truth.
Of course exercise is a viable option, she says, but there are two types of girls in this world: girls who sweat out their perms, and girls who don’t. Question is, which type of girl are you?
In the eighth grade, I was invited to a “pity party” and didn’t know it. The girls took turns marking my flaws with Sharpies, my body a galaxy of black dashes and bullseyes, and I sat on a washing machine so they could watch my body jiggle and shake. Pity thy love handles. Pity thy cellulite. Pity those thunder-thighs. Valentine walked me home in my oversized shirt and slippers, and when we got there my mother said, Some people are rotten to the core. She scooped coffee bean ice cream into a large bowl and left it to melt under my nose. My mother said, It isn’t really about you.
Your mom is wrong, Valentine told me later that night. It’s always about you. Same way boys jack off and tweeny bops cut themselves, looking for a rush. She said, Whether you’re spilling blood or spilling cum, we’re all at the mercy of our bodily fluids. She held my hair while I eyeballed the sweet spot in the toilet where the water ebbs the porcelain. The worst abuse of power, she said, is failing to realize you have it.
Which type of girl am I?
I am the type of girl who knows that unswallowed ice cream is still cold, that it tastes the same on the way up. The type of girl who has cried at every Thanksgiving that she can remember. The type whose mother looks for traces of food in the sink trap. I am the girl who knows the scale will never tell a lie, even if the mirror does.
Daniel Riddle Rodriguez's real name is Daniel Riddle Rodriguez. A full-time student and father, he is from San Lorenzo, California, where he lives with his son. He is the author of Low Village (CutBank 2016) and Low Village: Rules of the Game (Nomadic Press 2016). Previous publications include Mid-American Review, Word Riot, Prairie Schooner, Fourteen Hills, and others. He is thrilled to be here.