A few days later, I was in the employee restroom and heard someone retching in the next stall. I asked if she was ok.
“Yeah,” she said and puked some more.
As I was washing my hands, the stall door opened and out walked Lucy. Her face and eyes looked pink from vomiting. She still wore her work apron. A vicious stomach bug had been going around a couple weeks earlier. I’d spent two days in bed with chills and fever. I thought Lucy had the same.
“Maybe you should take the day off,” I said.
“I’m not contagious.”
“Are you sure?”
“I was making chocolate cakes all day and kept tasting the batter. You know how when you eat too much, you just have to puke to feel better?”
I shook my head no. But I was alarmed. At the time, most people weren't familiar with eating disorders but in high school, a friend of mine lost a dangerous amount of weight yet kept complaining about being fat. None of her friends understood what was going on until her family had her hospitalized and her illness was given a Latin name.
“Have you ever heard of something called anorexia nervosa. It’s this . . .”
“I know what it is,” Lucy snapped. “I said I’m fine!”
The two of us stood awkwardly side-by-side at the sinks, trying not to look at each other in the mirror. I kept washing my hands. After an absurdly long time, I turned off the taps.
“Lucy, I’m sorry about John," I said. "When we met, I didn’t realize he was your boyfriend or . . .”
“We broke up a while ago,” she cut me off.
“And you’re okay?”
“How many times do I have to tell you? I’m fine!”
She wiped her hands on the front of her apron, butted the restroom door open with her hip, and walked out.
(Memoir: Overland about a trip from Europe to India in 1974 @ellowrites)