Now you may be asking yourself, did this poor girl have no other friends who could see how damaging this guy was to her? I did have other friends but they were the other people in Jim’s little cult. He told me once that we were his “experiment” in that he wanted to stretch his “leader’s muscles” and see just how far he could “take this thing” and he told us that he didn’t want us to have any other friends who were not in the group or, if we did and didn’t want to drop them, we should bring them into the group. There were about 15 of us in the group that year and every single girl wore black, had long hair, and most had green eyes, none of them real. Unfortunately for me, I was the heaviest of them all and was made to feel out of place and sometimes completely unwanted because of it. Sometimes it felt like Jim was dating all of us at once and I was not special at all.
Meanwhile, for three months Pop went from one doctor to another, trying desperately to figure out what was wrong, why he was so sick. By the time the doctors had nailed down that it was cancer, it was too late to do anything about it except make him “more comfortable.” Apparently, this version of comfortable included lots of drugs and never leaving the hospital again. It was hardest on my grandmother.
The four places I went that year were Jim’s house, the hospital, class, and work. And work was no great distraction because Jim would come and sit in the local Dairy Queen’s dining room and read until I got off my shift. I found that it is very hard to starve yourself while working in a fast food restaurant. Not only because of all the food surrounding you, but also because you have to have energy and I had none. One night I was working late and when making a fast turn from the drive-through window, the room suddenly began to spin and darkness closed in on me. I fell to my knees, catching myself with my hands on the floor. My stomach growled. After that I always made sure not to make too many sudden movements.
I thought Jim was as much a part of my life as my own heart was a part of my body; I couldn’t live without either. But it wasn’t all roses and happiness. No, Jim needed complete control in his world and when he didn’t get it he got upset. He had that magical power to say only the shortest of sentences and make a girl feel like she had just killed her own mother.
“You could lose a little weight” he would say in such an easy manner and then go on to compare me to someone beautiful and perfect like Julia Roberts and say that I could be like her if I only tried hard enough. I tried. I lost 35 pounds for Jim. Right under the noses of my family (and Jim), I starved myself. I would eat little things when people were watching or claim that I had already eaten and couldn’t possibly eat again, and only one person said anything about it.