— for my sister

On our way back from a Mother’s Day celebration in Newport Beach
my sister turned to me & said, Have you ever thought about treatment for your
eating disorder? For years the only eating disorder in the house was hers.
She was fifteen. It was astonishing that shrinking could take up so much

space. She told the family she wanted to disappear. She said she’d been
gouging her shins with a nail clipper. Our father took her to a treatment
facility, her first time, where she cursed the therapists in a way I’d never
heard her curse anyone. I admit it made me laugh. It nearly made me proud.

Her hair was so long then, gigantic, swallowing her up. Over the years, her
disorder evolved from anorexia to restricting to bulimia to exercise bulimia.
She’d hold in her pee & drink bottles of water until the late afternoon so she
wouldn’t get hungry. My radiant sister, it took her four hours to eat dinner,

doling it out in teensy portions, bowl by bowl, burning her eggs in a butterless
pan, waiting until we were all asleep to binge on cake or candy, any sweet thing
that might be on hand. Once, she told me, calm, she’d purged & it was mostly
blood. That was nearly a decade later; we thought she’d gotten better, & she had,

just at the keeping of secrets, so back to treatment she went. We joined her
for the group family-therapy sessions, in which we met so many incandescent
girls & marveled at the way they advocated for each other; why couldn’t they
advocate for themselves that way? My sister stayed in touch with some

& not others as she chiseled away at the slab of stone she’d hemmed herself
inside of, while my own compulsive bingeing, ignored, forgotten, grew outside
the spotlight until my sister, whom I live with now, who makes me laugh harder
than anyone else, who has said things to her body that would horrify you,

said to me, Have you ever thought about treatment for your eating disorder?
& that was it, what I needed, & she knew, because she is much wiser than I. She
gave me permission to give myself permission. Sometimes that’s what it takes —
let’s not be ashamed, the tending of the self is not part of the standard curriculum,

we teach it to ourselves, & sometimes, if we are lucky, to each other — so I called
the next day, & yes, we ended up in treatment together & sat beside one another
in group therapy, bewildered, & our father was dead & our mother said she was
happy but we didn’t believe her & our lives were a mess & we were working

on it, we are working on it. Just before she was to leave for her first stay in treatment,
we did Fiddler on the Roof at a theater camp. I was Tevye, she was Hodel. She had
to sing “Far from the Home I Love” to me in the scene where I, playing her father,
bring her to the train station so she can go to Siberia to be with the man she’ll marry,

leaving her family behind for the first time. She was my hero then, she’s my hero
now. At one performance she couldn’t get through the song — she just wept & wept
& couldn’t stop weeping & the canned music played as she sobbed into her hands
& neither one of us knew what to do, but we did it, we did it anyway.