Unknown Stories Behind Your Back

“Clarice, honey, dinner’s ready! Come downstairs!”

I spot a scrawny Russian girl with light hazel eyes and dark brown hair walk toward the door of her bedroom, push it open, walk out of the room, and scream down the stairs to the kitchen, “Mom, I already told you I’m not hungry! I had a snack, so I really don’t want to eat right now.”

“But honey, you haven’t eaten a snack, or anything for that matter, for the entire day!”

“Ugh,” she grunts, walks back into her bedroom, closes the door behind her, and lays on her bed. She stares at the roof for a minute, then mutters: “Nobody understands me. Nobody.”

I’ve been in this house since Clarice was a young child, hung on the wall beside her closet. I’ve grown to see her crawl around the room, pet her first dog Econo, try out the new clothes she bought, bring over her friends, and get ready for her first middle school dance. Now, she’s in her senior year, busy working on college applications and studying for her final exams.

Her life had always been balanced: popular at school, top grades, and financially stable at home. She also has a gorgeous boyfriend, Gary, one of the most popular boys at school. Her life seemed perfect from the outside, but that’s the problem: not all things were perfect in her shoes.

Just a few months ago, Clarice did something peculiar. She stood in front of me, wearing nothing but her intimate wear. She just stood there for more than an hour, staring through me to the reflection of her body. It was my first time I saw her shed a tear while looking at me.

From the numerous hours looking at and analyzing the documents on her desk, she slowly started to spend more and more time looking at me, reflecting and analyzing her own body. I swear, never in her life had she stared at me for so long. From that day on, everyday, when she got back from school, the first thing she would do is undress, stand in front of me, stare at her own body, and leave with tears in running down her cheeks.

Every time she would look, the smaller she looked.

— Jenny Lee

I hear Clarice arriving home; she’s back from school. I hear her voice amongst her friends’. Footsteps are getting closer to the room, and Clarice and three other friends open the door and step into the room. For some reason, the girls are all quiet, and a serious mood hangs over them. They gather around the bed, sitting in a small circle. One girl asks: “Okay, now speak, Clarice. What is happening with you.” I can see Clarice trying to hide her tears.

Tremblings, she speaks: “What do you mean?”

Her friends look at each other. The blonde one speaks up: “This is coming from a worried friend. I need you to tell me what’s going on with you, because you look like someone who hasn’t been eating for months. You’ve suddenly started to wear baggier clothes, and your legs are legit just bones. We’ve been asking you what’s going on for months. Clarice, you know you can trust us.”

Clarice looks down. She grips on her pants. She slowly stands up.

Her back facing her friends, she slowly starts to take her large shirt off. Her asian friend starts saying: “Clarice, what are you…” She abruptly stops talking.

All three friends stare at Clarice’s skinny back, painted with different shades of purple, pink, and red, embellished by the piercing, skinny bones visible on the sides. They remain silent for a while.

Clarice’s shoulders start shaking, and she starts speaking.

“It’s… it’s Gary.”

The three girls, astonished by the unexpected information, drop their mouths. Clarice finally breaks down, letting out all the tears she had kept in for so long. Her friends stand up, pick up her shirt on the floor, and help Clarice put her clothes back on.

I see them hug in silence. I see them look at each other. Clarice looks at me. She smiles for the first time. I see them leave.

Never again did Clarice shed tears in front of me.