By Taylor Smith
To the girl on the treadmill,
I ate a piece of pie for you today.
I don’t know your name. We haven’t even had one of those awkward gym conversations — red-faced, outta breath, fumble for the iPod pause button.
But if I can take a shot in the dark, I bet I know part of your story.
It’s a story of feet hitting a revolving rubber belt that is getting you nowhere.
It’s a story of buttons,
and glowing yellow numbers, the ones that you watch creep up as you go for
another quarter mile,
another dozen calories burned.
They are, perhaps, the only numbers you are OK with increasing.
Right now, life is a lot of numbers — numbers that you hope will lead to happiness.
But when will happiness come?
When you drop another five pounds?
When you fit into the jeans you wore in middle school?
When that centimeter gap between your thighs turns into an inch?
Stupid thighs. Stupid body. Who needs to feed you, anyway? You’re strong. You can go without breakfast. Just keep running; just keep going for another mile, or three.
I want to reach up and lay my hand on your shoulder. I want to turn down the speed and lower the incline. I want to sit with you on the scuffed gym floor and let tears tear through silence.
I want you to know that I care,
that I was there once, too.
I want you to know that you can stop running now. I want you to know that you can come home.
You can donate the scale and throw away the 100-calorie pretzel packs. You can curl up in your blanket with a bowl of mac & cheese, the way you used to love to.
You can do all these things, when you are ready.
But until you are ready, I want you to know that I will keep you in my prayers.
My first prayer manifested this morning, right after I saw you on the treadmill.
It took place in a pie shop, one that you’ve probably passed by a dozen times, looked at the menu, and kept on walking.
Today I decided to go in. Not just for you, but for me, too.
The Hallelujah Chorus began when I saw the plates of strawberry rhubarb and lemon meringue.
Those pies looked just like Grandma’s, like the coconut cream one she taught you how to make.
Today, my prayer for you was blackberry raspberry streusel baked in pastry dough served on a chipped porcelain plate.
Tart, sweet, broken,
When fork sank into sugared oats and purple berry juice, I thought of you.
I thought that someday soon, this might be you, eating one of those before-noon-on-Monday slices.
I hope that when you take your first bite, it’s so delicious that you know you can’t turn back.
I hope that flaky crust is instant memories of 5-year-old you, twirling in summertime dress and dreaming of swimming pools made of Jell-O.
Maybe you’ve thought of all this before,
and maybe you haven’t.
But I believe you are worthy this plate-of-pie euphoria.
You are also worthy of being nourished by breakfast, lunch, and dinner,
by a man holding the door open for you and singing you love songs,
by a warm shower where you don’t care if you use all the hot water in the tank.
You deserve not just one slice of pie. You deserve the whole thing, a la mode.
You deserve all that and more.
Taylor Smith is a tree huggin’, deep-conversation lovin’ Oregonian with a passion for listening to people’s stories. One of the greatest joys in her life is helping women celebrate the beautiful individuals they were created to be.
Editor’s note: Taylor was a features intern at The Oregonian last year, working out of the Hillsboro office, so I got to know her as a professional colleague. Her back story is pretty extraordinary so I invited her to share it in a guest blog earlier this year. Read it here: “Meet my mom.”
Tomorrow: “Chicago’s mind-numbing numbers” by Tim Akimoff