Alice* stopped eating at the same time that I couldn't. Ever. I woke up with a candy bar and snacked on microwave popcorn until breakfast. When my appetite eluded me, I'd light a joint and conjure it back, at least long enough to eat a pint of ice cream before dinner.
Reports of Alice's thinness started coming in daily, outraged calls from our friends back in Chicago telling me how bad it was getting, how skeletal she looked. She wore jeans so tight they revealed pubic bone and nothing else. "Aren't anorexics supposed to hide their bodies in baggy clothing?" I'd say, indignant, eating my fourth doughnut in 20 minutes, lighting the glass pipe stuffed with weed, inhaling surreptitiously while the person on the other end agreed. Alice was starving, and she was shoving it down everyone's throats.
Alice used to be my best friend. She was the family I wanted to have, the girl I longed to be. She was naturally thin, pretty, funny, smart, a good Jew. She knew all the Shabbat prayers, even the ones after the meal. My family is Israeli, but I didn't even know there were prayers I was skipping. We lived together for four years after college, had all the same friends, the same jobs, the same dreams, the same voice. Our own parents couldn't tell us apart over the phone.
Then she dated my ex-boyfriend, and the sameness of our worlds didn't seem so fucking delightful. When Mike** started calling for her, I could feel his anxiety as he tried to figure out which one of us had answered the phone. "Hiiiiii," he'd stall. "It's Mike." Then I'd have to go, "Hi Mike, it's Tami … how's it going?" Sometimes I'd volunteer, "Let me get Alice for you." Sometimes I'd act like I thought he was calling for me, just to force him to ask for her. If I could taint their joy for one second I would. I spit in the Gatorade she kept in the fridge. I read her diary. I kept a brave face around our mutual friends and tried not to fall apart at the workplace we all shared. I thought I'd lose my mind. I ended up moving out, eventually to Los Angeles. She ended up living with Mike and getting promoted to my old job.
And then she just lost so much weight.
* * * * *
Despite the endless updates on her wasting away, I wasn't prepared for the Alice I saw two years later in L.A. She came for pilot season and she wore her disease proudly, defiantly; a hunter cloaked in his prey's skin. She looked like a gutted deer. What really shook me, though, was her face. While mine was receding into a vast pillow of fat, the left side of Alice's chin had disappeared. Her body had given up on food and had begun to feast on itself.
She got lost on the way to my office, and I had to go looking for her. I asked a security guard if he'd seen a tall brunette, thin. "Really skinny?" he asked, two words never uttered in Hollywood.
When we did find each other, I struggled to look in her eyes, to not stare at her chopstick thighs. She wore high-heeled boots so that she towered at six foot, and sideways almost nothing. I was chattering away, but all I could think was, How did she find clothes? Alice is five-foot-nine and at that point had the hips of an eight-year-old, yet manufacturers were churning out stuff that fit her — and fit her exactly. Her outfit was as revealing as an X-ray. Yet I, five-foot-five inches, overweight, yes, but nevertheless a supposedly average American — I couldn't find a pair of jeans for all the diuretic tea in China. I cast sidelong glances at her lopsided chin and her razor-sharp clavicle, soothed myself with thoughts of all the Skittles and M&M's I'd eat when she left. All the weed I had waiting for me at home.