Another piece for Alice Gross, UK schoolchild, body now found

I have a lot to do today but thought I’d write this up.

Piece for Alice Gross

Dear Alice,

We don’t know what happened, and you cannot tell us. There was speculation and much mystery surrounding your sudden disappearance. Of course, this leads to gossip of all sorts, misinterpretation, and perhaps, misreading of your voice, words, and actions.

You wrote songs. I was a musician once, too. I think written word is far more subject to misreading or misinterpretation than is music, especially music without text, but perhaps I am wrong about this. It’s been a while since I composed music.

Often, I used to listen to pieces such as Brahms First Symphony and wonder what the heck made it so powerful. Why did that particular piece have such a grip on me? I know I’m not alone in this. Other pieces, too, hit me rather strongly.

That bass drum and plucked strings really got to me in the opening movement. Was it a bass drum, or tympani? Boom! Boom! Boom! Like a heartbeat.

Much later in life, I heard another particular piece that struck me, for unknown reasons. I called it my starvation music. I don’t often reveal to people what it is. It’s rock. I looked it up once, that is, being curious and wanting more information.

The album was created rather quickly. In fact, the year it came out was the year my eating disorder began, 1980. Again, that driving beat. The ever-present temptation. How many more pounds can I lose? Can I even stop it now? The writers said the sung text was random and meant nothing in particular. Written on instinct. Probably, they were rather stoned at the time. No matter. It’s brilliant. The wikipedia article discussed the mixing that was done, which was new stuff at the time.

Does anyone remember that AOL voice, “You’ve got mail?” Who the heck’s voice is that? New, new, new, now past and gone, for the most part.

So you are gone now, Alice. I can, as writer, make up stuff, recreate a scene. Shall I do that? Just a picture. Just that.

So I will be 14 for a sec. A kid with an eating disorder. I have known many. I got mine at 22. But I’ll stretch my imagination right now. This is gonna be fiction and I hope you don’t mind. I’ll change a few things, but again, we fiction writers are in the business of telling tall tales. If our stories are realistic it’s cuz we have them cleverly disguised.

Know what I did at 14? Played hooky. That’s what we called it in the USA. I decided not to go to school one day. I hid under a tree, or rather, a shrub, right next to my own home. Just sat there, my back to the concrete part of the house wall, almost as if frozen in time, for the whole day. I had my journal with me. I sat there writing and thinking about things.

You wouldn’t believe what happened. Suddenly, my mom came. Right in front of me. She stood there and pruned the tree with a manual tree-trimmer. Yep, the tree I was sitting under. She never saw me. She finished, and left.

I thought of Anne Frank. Wasn’t she 14, too? Hidden.

Sometimes, my eating disorder was about disappearing. To get smaller and smaller and suddenly, no one can find me. I slip away. Unnoticed. Not that anyone ever noticed me to begin with, no matter how many waves I made. Or didn’t make.

There were times I walked in the local park, a wooded area enclosed between some back yards of a rather densely populated town. It was a public park and well-lit at night. We weren’t supposed to walk there once it got dark. This rule was never enforced. There never seemed to be crime there, although I heard once some people met there for a drug deal and one person got his stuff stolen, maybe an iphone, in the process.

I’d walk there at night. Avoiding the cops, who patrolled the streets incessantly. I hated the way those cops looked at me. I was known to them, but I suppose not all, just the regular ones. I wore dark clothing so I wouldn’t be seen. I never wanted to stand out. I never asked myself if the park was monitored by CCTV, but seeing as it was a potential crime area, I suppose it was. Nearby was a local speed trap over on Main Street. A cop always there, eyeing passersby. Their job. Monitor, monitor, monitor, for the sake of god-fearing citizens. All I wanted was privacy. No eyes upon me. I’d wonder if people peeked out their back windows and saw me walking. And yet, I didn’t do anything wrong. Having an eating disorder isn’t a crime, nor a moral issue. So many are wrong and think, in fact, that it is.

You did nothing wrong, Alice. Nothing. You are only 14.

What were you thinking just then? What did I think, walking alone? I wasn’t scared. Sometimes, I’d tell myself, “No one cares about me. Someone might as well come along and kill me, and no one will give a shit.” I felt like poking fun at god, or fate.

Many times, I’d be so starving I had no clue what on earth would happen next. Other times, I’d come home along that woodsy route shoving crap food into myself the whole time, trying to keep my activity concealed. The woods were better for that. Although, if it was rather late, 3am or 4am, not too many people would peek out their windows, so chowing down would never be noticed. If anyone was within eyesight, I’d put everything quickly into my bag, and for godsakes stop chewing.

I’d arrive near my home. If I thought it was at all possible that a neighbor was peeking out a window, immediately I’d hide everything. Once at my back door, I’d slip in, cross through the darkened “Community Room,” hoping no one was up late in there watching the Big Screen TV. They’d be so absorbed in their TV show, what did they care, anyway?

Up my back stairs. Only a few feet in the back hall, I had to cross over to my door while within view of my front door, where neighbors gathered to gossip. Just in case, I kept my bag behind me. I doubt anyone had a clue what I was up to.

Home. I could open the bags, all of them, the food out in front of me. Exposed. No one was gonna barge in during the wee hours. My shade was down.

I hated every damn minute of binge eating.

I’d collapse on my bed eventually. Hide the evidence as best as I could. You never knew who would show up, after all, when I wasn’t expecting them. The freezer was a good hiding place. It concealed odors, too. Crumbs swept up. If I had to toss anything into the trash, it would go directly into the outside dumpster, pushed as far back as I could so my snoopy neighbor who used to go through the building’s trash bin couldn’t reach it. I’d never leave it in the hall trash, nor did I ever want to be seen walking down the hall with it. I’d turn boxes inside-out so the label couldn’t be seen. Stuff plastic wrappers inside paper coffee cups, if I had any, and replace the lid. And the dishes, oh, the darned dishes. These I’d throw into a closet sometimes, or into the fridge, way back, or under everything, till I had a chance to wash them.

If I was thin, I often felt the need to hide my thinness. Cuz I’d get caught. I had only a vague idea of how or who would capture me. But I’d feel this. Just like that bass drum. Always there. Like death awaiting.

I love you, Alice.

Julie Greene

A piece written for Alice Gross, girl, 14, missing in UK now a week, has diagnosis of anorexia nervosa

 

Dear Alice,

I, too, walked alone. I walked alone many times. I walked at night, and during the day. Sometimes, I cried alone while walking, but hid my tears behind thick glasses or a scarf. I often had my little dog with me.

I had a favorite place to walk, a city park, and loved it most when it was empty. I enjoyed the privacy of that park, and the solace away from the incessant noise of the town. I worried sometimes, because it was adjacent to a large apartment building. I was afraid folks would look out from their terraces upon me and say, “Who is that skinny girl walking there?” But truthfully, it was only a worry during a couple of months in summer, when I was forced to take my jacket off. Then, folks saw me. I suppose that was scary to them, or challenged them in some way. I appeared strange to them. Like I wasn’t human.

Somehow, there was a secret power in all of it. Like I could do anything. Like I had the power to tell the entire world to fuck off, and in an instant, all would disappear.

I recall when I was a young girl, perhaps six or seven or eight, I swam in a lake with other children. It was a hot summer day and kids were having a good time, splashing around and shouting. I decided to take the Other Path, though. I wanted to see what was Beyond. Beyond the marker that contained us. Past this rope marker, no children were allowed. I wanted to see what secrets lay there, though, and what was to be discovered. That secret and very special world. No one would see, would they? There were so many of us…no one would notice and I could go peek and then come back. What was there, this forbidden land?

I took a few steps beyond the rope. Then, a few more. I am a short girl. The shortest in the class. So it didn’t take much before I was up to my neck, and beyond. I didn’t know how to swim, or did I? But the Other World was so tempting, so special. I and I alone would know it. I promised myself. I took a few more steps.

With each step, I became more brave, more special, more powerful and unique. I felt that I was shining, a bright star in the universe. I had never been there before. Now, it was all such wonderment. I took another step. I heard a drumbeat.

I have heard this drumbeat several times in my life. It is the incessant reminder. Death is near. Sometimes, I have been in those waters so deeply that reversal wasn’t possible. When I had anorexia, often, I was near drowning, and that drumbeat was loud and all-encompassing. “Come here, come here.”

I don’t know what happened next at that lake, specifically, only that I was being grabbed all at once by a lifeguard and she was yelling at me, over and over, telling me what a bad girl I was! How disobedient I had been!

I felt shame after that, embarrassment, and guilt. I never wanted to go back to that lake again. I wanted to be myself, and not be yanked about in such a manner. If I were to swim, I’d do so alone. And so it was.

I have walked alone and heard that drumbeat. “Come here.” Always alone.

At night, I walked in the park during wee hours. The police were out at night, and drunks as well, and I didn’t want anyone looking at me. I told myself the park gave me invisibility. I didn’t care if anyone killed me there.

I often said silently to these imaginary killers, “Okay, I dare ya. Do you want me? Take me. No one will even notice. I have nothing you want anyway.”

I knew they stole cell phones, cash, and whatever else they thought you were worth, then left you. I’d heard a few stories, but no one had yet been killed in that park. Any known violence was related to drug deals gone bad. I told myself, “I will be the first. And they won’t even know my story.”

What would they find? A skinny girl with crumbs on her shirt. Food wrappers in her knapsack. Maybe she’d be dead with the bits of crackers still smeared upon her lips. Last seen at the convenience store, paying for her loot with food stamps. On her way home.

“Come and get me, assholes,” I’d tell myself. All the way home in the pitch dark. I’d scurry up the back stairs and finish it all off in privacy. I didn’t even want my dog watching.

I walked alone. And no one ever knew. They never got me. I’d get skinny often, and no one cared, only a nasty or obnoxious remark. So it was rather easy and perhaps inevitable that I stepped onward, further into the dark waters.

I am alive. I don’t know why. I got lucky, I guess. Many aren’t.

Alice, please, if you are walking alone right now, know that I am right here. Walking beside you. I was that kid. And all of us, perhaps, have our secrets.

Walk alone. Be proud. Be alive.