Inspired by 'Being Mary Jane": Her Name Was Shelique


Lisa is saying farewell to life. After a delicious meal, a fresh shower, and a sexy neglige, she climbs into bed and pops  pills like popcorn, chasing her cocktail with a goblet of red wine. Then she waits.

The wine falls from her hand, she foams at the mouth, her body trying to expel the drugs from her system.

Lisa is gone.

The remainder of the episode is dedicated to how those who loved-- and hurt-- Lisa most cope with her death and prepare for her homegoing.

It was a heavy episode for me. A friend committed suicide when I was 13. And last night, BMJ brought a lot of stuff up that I hadn't thought about or dealt with in years.


Tomorrow, I will write a proper recap with the play-by-play of what happened on BMJ and how. But before we get to that, I want, no, I need to write about something, someone else.

Her name was Shelique. No alias.

Maybe her name had two "Ls". I can't believe I can't remember anymore.

She was two grades above me, but we were a year apart in age. I was 12 in the eighth grade (I'd skipped a year). She was 13 in the 10th grade (She'd skipped two years). She fit in and everyone liked her, which I didn't get. Not that she wasn't likeable, I got why they liked her because I liked her. But being the youngest by two years didn't seem to bother her. I was always aware that I was younger than everyone else in my grade and it always made me feel awkward. I hung out mostly with the girls the grade below me.

I was round. She was one of those teenage girls that filled out a dress. She wore fancy clothes, that in retrospect, were probably designer.  She had this maroon sweater dress that was one of her favorites.

The year after she died, her sister started at our school. She was in 7th grade. She wore her sister's clothes to school.

I remember her sister in the dress too. She was coming down the hallway in it, and I "saw" Shelique. Freaked me out, but I recovered for her sister. I didn't want to make her feel awkward or weird. I mean, her sister just died. I imagine now that wearing her sister's clothes was part of the grieving process.

Shelique used to pin her hair up in a French roll, as was the popular style of the time (93?). I tried to imitate it once and my french roll, which I'd stuffed with my father's black dress sock, unraveled in the cafeteria. Shelique pinned my hair back together in 5 minutes, sans sock and better.

I heard she died while I was at a party just before school started up again. A girl who lived in my neighborhood and was a close friend of ours, had cousins that lived close by and were throwing a party. The neighborhood girl had invited me, and another girl from our school to attend. She was in Shelique's class.

After the party,  we were sitting at the living room table unwinding and rehashing the night's events. The girl from the same grade announced that Shelique was dead, that she killed herself.

The girl knew and came to the party and pretended like nothing was wrong because she didn't want to ruin everyone's night. She was Shelique's best friend and the only girl in the circle who read the suicide note. She didn't ever say what it said, and I never asked out of respect. She had a meltdown in the Main Building hallway once about how selfish Shelique was.

The last time I saw Shelique alive, we were sitting on the steps of our school waiting for our parents to pick us up. She was fretting because her folks were late and she had to get home and get dressed to go to a Jodeci concert that night. She was in love with DeVante like every other girl who loved Jodeci. She was all smiles and nervous anticipation. When I think of her, most often I picture her in that moment. To this day, whenever I hear a really good R&B song, I wonder if Shelique would have liked it.

My mom drove me and the girl from the neighborhood to the funeral. The girl went up to the casket to say goodbye. I just couldn't go. The casket was open, and I could see from the back of the church that the wig was bad. Shelique never would have worn her hair like that. But the funeral parlor had to hide the bullet wound somehow, I guess.

We sat in the balcony. When the funeral director closed the casket-- the slowest process ever, but  it would be wrong to just slam the lid on somebody, right?-- Shelique's sister had to be taken out of the sanctuary. Her mother who had sat quietly the whole time, wailed something like, "you're with grandma. She'll take care of you." Jesus. It was the words, as much as the agony in her voice.

Everything about Shelique's death was surreal.  I understood death and the finality and that Shelique was never coming back, but I didn't grasp the complexity of it all. Like, at 13, you don't realize how young 14 is. I didn't get that a baby just died. I didn't understand depression. Or the extra depths of a girl killing herself.

The story I got was that her father was having a birthday bash at the house, and she went upstairs and put a gun to her head. (I've always wondered about the timing of that.) Her sister ran up to the room and found her.

Her sister was all legs, kinda like Malia Obama. She ran track. At her first meet, the gun went off to start the race and I heard she lost it. I was cool with her little sister until she transferred schools. We never talked about Shelique. I never saw or heard from her after she transferred.

Many years later, I was in a college, in car on Route 50, headed somewhere toward DC with my BF and his cousin. The cousin was talking about some girl he was dating, a girl with the same name as Shelique's sister. I knew he was talking about her.

All this stuff came flooding back and I looked out the window and zoned out, trying to hold it together. All that I'd missed before about the complexities and depth of what happened finally hit me, about seven years later.

My BF asked if I was okay.

I didn't want to explain.

"I knew her sister," I said.

Cousin: "This girl doesn't have a sister."

She hadn't told him. I guess I could have guarded her secret. I mean, I get why she wouldn't tell anyone that tragic backstory. But I didn't want to pretend like my friend never existed. She wuz here. Her time was short, but she made an impact.

"She does. She did," I insisted. "Her name was Shelique."