Catherine

Featured Artwork: ‘Anxiety’ by aaakeith

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Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders

. . .

Catherine comes over the night before 

Thanksgiving with her mother

 

She was my first best friend

my unofficial older sister

the girl I wanted to be when I grew up

 

I was six

She was nine

 

We had just read Peter Pan,

tied quilts and pillowcases to our shoulders

and pretended we could fly

 

My parents watched me flail about from a few feet away

 

“She thinks she’s a fairy. She thinks she has wings,”

my mother shook her head lightly

 

My dad smiled.

“And she does, until you tell her she does not.”

 

Catherine moved away in middle school

I saw her only once every few months

 

The last time she came over,

she showed me that 

she could fit her thumb and index finger around her left wrist

 

I couldn’t fit my thumb and index finger around my left wrist

 

I had just turned thirteen when

my mom got a call from Catherine’s mother

 

She had just been checked in to 

in-patient treatment for anorexia

 

Why?

Why would she do that to herself?

I asked

 

She does not think she is beautiful,

my mom replied

 

Her mother came over for dinner a week later

Catherine wasn’t getting better

 

I found myself in the bathroom after the meal

brushing my teeth so hard

I could taste the iron of my blood

but nothing could get rid of the taste of stomach acid in my throat

 

I swept the floors

wrote “get well soon” cards that I never sent

and made sandwiches without

mayo, turkey, brie, fig jam or bread

 

I could fit my thumb and index finger around my left wrist

 

I look over at Catherine now

her arms wrapped around her tiny body

like an infant she is cradling

 

She looks like a dream

ethereal and wispy

beautiful and evanescent

 

She looks like a bird

lithe and gossamer

 

limbs delicate like 

she could drift away

with the next breeze

 

her face gaunt

a ghostly mask

where once was a beam

 

the hair I used to braid

cut short and feathery because 

most of it had fallen out already

 

She looks like she can fly

 

She already looks like she is flying

 

floating from table to table

as fleeting and as ephemeral as a first crush

never fully present

never lingering longer than a moment

 

There’s nothing about her now

that is reminiscent of

the girl I used to love

 

I think to myself,

this disease has taken from her

so much more than just 35 pounds

 

Her eyes meet mine

 

Brown eyes the color of 

chocolate

cinnamon

chestnuts

beef stew

squaw bread

 

Brown eyes the color of 

wooden chairs in a hospital room

hair that would rip out in fistfuls

bruises that looked like watercolor art

mascara running from her mother’s eyes

 

My lips form the question

I have wanted to ask her

since my mom got that call

 

Who told you that you don’t have wings?

jessica liu

Jessica is a freshman in college, studying mathematics and creative writing. She is a reporter for her university's student-run newspaper, the University Times, and her words have been featured in the Los Angeles Times and Overachiever Magazine. In her free time, she likes tending to her (honestly excessive amount of) houseplants, and making really good turkey, fig and brie sandwiches.

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