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.