48 essays by Elizabeth Shé

Essay #21: jill

In Love on July 25, 2011 at 2:25 pm

My childhood friend died last week. Jill. She had a hard life: anorexia, substance abuse, broken marriage. She had a 7-year-old boy she adores. Adored. Adores.

I’ve known Jill most of her life (she’s three years younger). Our physical therapist mothers met when we were little. When Nita (her mom) took maternity leave to have Jill’s baby brother, my mom filled in for her at work. During my baby brother’s funeral, I stayed with them.

Jill had the most gorgeous red hair, Celtic red, coppery red. And beautiful freckles, all over her body. We used to dress up in fancy nighties, adorn ourselves with jewelry, and put on plays. We laughed ourselves silly.

A few times a year, the four of us met, mothers and daughters, in downtown L.A, halfway between our houses. We’d eat at the same Chinese restaurant, Man Fook Lo, then go to the symphony or the theatre. We saw The Nutcracker together every Christmas.

At one point when we were kids, Jill had a pony. I was so envious. She had everything: a pony! A swimming pool! Parents living together!

But ponies and pools and married parents have little to do with happiness.

One year my mom and I got to the restaurant first. We snagged a booth, and a few minutes later Nita came in, followed by Jill.

She was beyond thin. She was skeletal. Her usually pretty face was merely a skull covered with skin. If she hadn’t been with her mother, I may not have recognized her.

We weren’t supposed to talk about it. No one said, anorexia. No one said, Jesus Jill! What the hell is going on?

If you can’t discuss the problem, you can’t offer to help.

Her father was an eye doctor, yet her vision of herself was so distorted that even as a size-2-wearing-woman (she was about my height, 5’8”) she was convinced she was fat. Too big. Taking up too much space.

A few years later, Jill visited me in San Francisco. She was marginally healthier then, though I still wasn’t supposed to talk about it. So I ate for both of us.

A part of my childhood died last week. Jill. About a month ago she ‘friended’ me on Facebook. I wrote her back immediately, happy to hear from her. I don’t know if she got the message.

  1. I’m so sorry. I wish I could hug you in person. Love, Chris

  2. Me three, Suze. You and Jill were fortunate to have each other through the years, together or apart.

  3. Thank you. Can you give me any advice on how to help her son? Is 8 too old for the book Tear Soup? Can you recommend other books that might help him?

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