We were in our early 20’s — she, 21, and me, 23. We worked at an Acapulco Mexican Food Restaurant in San Jose, CA. I thought she was pretty young to be married, but she seemed like such an old soul in her mannerisms and outlook on life.
Michelle and her husband John had “met cute” when he, a cop, busted a Halloween party that she was attending. She was dressed as a French maid, and the two struck up conversation, hit it off, and within 6 months they were married.
John came into the restaurant and sat in the bar one night while Michelle and I were working. A somewhat quiet, yet personable guy, I chatted with him a bit about his work as a police officer. A good-looking man, I thought he and Michelle made a nice couple; she with her dark, wavy hair, mischievous brown eyes and radiant smile, playing up against his blue-eyed blondness and chiseled features .
Most times Michelle and John had conflicting schedules, so it was understandable that they would sometimes socialize separately; she with her friends, and he with his. Michelle and I hung out with a couple other people from the restaurant. After our evening shift we would sometimes head over to TGI Fridays with our friend Chris, who was dating a bartender there. He would make us weird concoctions and we would happily imbibe. Michelle had big boobs and was always knocking over our drinks with them. Hilarity would always ensue.
One evening Michelle came into work all depressed, and after our shift she pulled me aside and said that John was having an affair. She wasn’t really tearful about it; just very solemn and confused. She said she had already moved out, and in with her mom and younger brother.
Michelle rallied pretty well after the separation. She started using her maiden name, even though they weren’t divorced yet. She lost about 20 pounds, which was a big deal, as she was only 5’1.
My roommate Nate and I had a room available at our apartment and Michelle came to look at it. She seemed interested at first, but then a couple days later told me she was going to wait. About a month later she confided in me that when she was visiting our apartment she noticed a book on Bulimia in my room and it caught her off guard, as she suffered from the eating disorder, herself. She confessed that the reason why she chose not to move in was because she feared living with someone who was familiar with it would blow her cover.
I took a certain solace in knowing that both Michelle and I suffered from such an awful disorder. I was deep in therapy for it at the time, but she apparently was suffering through, while getting no help. I wanted to give up binging and purging, but she wasn’t ready.
We became closer after that, however, and we started talking about moving to L.A. together. I had wanted to move there for about a year, but the timing wasn’t right. It turns out Michelle had sights on L.A. as well, so the idea of being able to go with there with a friend was especially enticing for me. We didn’t start diligently making plans, but the prospect was discussed quite frequently.
One night a really cute guy came into the restaurant by himself and sat in my section. Michelle, immediately smitten, asked me if she could deliver the nachos he ordered from me. Of course I complied, and later I felt like a matchmaker, as she and the guy, Pete, started dating.
Michelle gave me a sweet Thank You card a week later, saying how she had me to thank for her meeting such a great guy as Pete. They were having the time of their lives, and she later told me that her Bulimia had subsided for the most part. I knew from my own experience that extreme happiness was one of the best cures for the disorder, and I couldn’t help but share in her joy.
Meanwhile, Michelle’s estranged husband had a change of heart and decided he wanted her back. He pleaded with her on the phone to come back to him, saying how he and his 6-year-old daughter (from a previous marriage) missed Michelle and wanted her to come back home. He apologized profusely, but Michelle would not succumb to his begging. He even told her he was thinking about taking his own life, feeling so guilty about his previous actions, and missing her so much. Michelle, although sympathetic, made it clear that she had no desire to rekindle the marriage, and that he needed to get some form of help that would help him move on.
One evening I came into the restaurant to pick up my paycheck and the hostess informed me that Michelle had died the day before. John had lured her over to his house, under the pretense that he was sick, and his daughter needed to be taken to the doctor. Michelle and her 11-year-old brother went in the house and John immediately grabbed Michelle around the neck and pointed a gun into her temple. Not surprising, John’s daughter was not there, after all.
John ordered Michelle’s brother to leave, but he wouldn’t at first; he wanted to be able to help his sister. John told him if he didn’t leave immediately he would kill him. The boy ran from the house to the next-door neighbor’s for help, but before reaching the house, he heard a gunshot — and then another gunshot.
Michelle struggled in the ER for about six hours before she was pronounced dead. John had died immediately from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Many people are fortunate enough to get through life without losing a special someone so suddenly and so tragically.
I moved to L.A. on my own a year later.