Tonight while tracing patterns (I’m making my children winter coats for Christmas) I caught sight of my high school yearbook. I only own one from 1995, my senior year. It’s a rather underwhelming object and one day I will likely chuck it altogether. I can’t own the ideas in books – why own the books? I experienced high school – what does this tome do for me at all? As it is, the number of books we own is just a handful. Each month it gets easier to own fewer (hello, awesome library system!) and this makes me feel like I have less baggage, less to grip onto that I can’t really hold.
But tonight I remembered a young woman I went to school with, because if I had my facts correct she was brutally murdered a few years after graduation. Yeah, not just murdered, but tortured and beaten and half-drowned and worse. And I somehow knew this although – if I remember correctly – it barely made news up here and I don’t remember anyone I know talking about it. So tonight I found her name in the yearbook then I went online and found one pathetic article about her murder. One little article that talked about her death, and gave Hoquiam as her hometown, and mostly made a point about how soulless and terrible her killers were. And I couldn’t find anything else about this girl or who she was or who her family was / is. To all the rest of the world online at least – she never existed.
She was murdered the year I was first dating Ralph; a year I experienced as the start of so much in my life in so many ways. And what really haunts me about this girl is that I knew her, or knew of her, and she was kind of one of those people you don’t pay attention to very much because she was in a pretty low social class. Someone with little advantages and even though you (I) would never be as cruel as to look down on her for this, in some way I did let her get labeled as sort of less-than, and I didn’t give her much thought, not more than anyone else. And I think about how when she died she was truly all alone – okay, so we all will be, really – but I never took the opportunity to know her, or (in my memory at least) to look at her once and she could know, I see you, and we could see eachother, before we never had the chance again.
Usually we’re allowed to pass through life and our lack of kindness or notice – well, we never really know how it affects others, or conversely how its offering would have improved their lot. And I wonder how many other times I’ve failed to give anyone kindness or even my presence. What a gift it would be – maybe the only gift I really have – if I did so, more often.
For flip side experience try, Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father. Available on netflix instant.
Over the summer a friend of mine (once a close friend, but we had lost touch over ten years ago) was stabbed to death by his boyfriend. This is grim–maybe more grim than I can deal with on a day to day basis–but the real tragedy is that he made it to 29 without doing anything more magical than posing in an International Male catalog. I don’t really know how to process that.
One of the things I comfort myself with when I miss The Dead Guy is that I was indeed, truly present for him in his last months. Painful as it was, I was with him in body, mind, and spirit because I knew I didn’t have much time left. And I try to remember that. How important it is to BE THERE. REALLY be there. For someone.
A boy from the graduating class right under mine was murdered a few years back. It was over some kind of dispute about roommates, rent, or some such trivial thing. 🙁 He was someone I knew, we had many mutual friends, but him and I didn’t get along. It was a back and forth street where neither of us was particularly nice to the other, but in hindsight, it’s so sad and ridiculous and pointless. Mostly, I don’t know how to feel about his girlfriend of many years, also from our hometown, who moved back home when it happened (they were living on the east coast when he was killed)… I think about what he life is and what it might have been and them together and it’s all very disheartening.
M., I have that Netflix film in my queue. I put it there based solely on the ratings, which are as high as I’ve seen on a film on that site! Thanks for the recommendation!
JJ, I think that’s what bothers me about this murdered girl… there’s just no evidence of her anywhere from my perspective. However… really, if it’s that kind of immortality we’re looking for, none of us really find it. It’s just… I was searching for evidence of her and couldn’t find it.
K8, I would feel comforted by that too. I have similar experiences during the death of my grandmother, but especially my father – being very present. And you’re right, it is really worth the pain. Thanks for weighing in.
Jasie, I’ve always thought for those whose boyfriends / girlfriends / partners / spouses die a very YOUNG death must feel so cheated. Because it’s NOT supposed to happen, such an early death. My mom was widowed, but she was widowed at age 59… She had a good 35 years with my dad. (Still, it’s been tough on her, so who’s to say what’s easier or more fair).