TRIGGER WARNING: Not funny. Tragic, and a little weird.
I don’t know what to feel right now.
I’ve been hit with a serious twist, a stunning bit of information, and I don’t know what to do with it. If my dad died, I’d know what to do. My sister? Sure. Any family member, or loved one? Yeah. I’d know what to do. But I don’t know what to do about this.
Last time I went looking for an old love online, I found her… and everything went right.She’s a wonderful, beautiful woman, and she remembered me, and she wanted me, and, well, we’re still together. Not much to complain about there.
I’ve found old friends and lovers online before. Facebook’s a great place to start, but there are other ways.
So I googled a name. I’m not going to say what it was. I knew her back in the early eighties, when I was in college. And I loved her, once. Skinniest woman I ever had the hots for. She taught me that you shouldn’t necessarily trust someone just because you love 'em. She also taught me that the ladies will date the nice guys… but when it comes down to it, they like the bad boys better.
She messed me up pretty good for a while… but not in any way that REALLY matters, not when you’re looking back across a lifetime. She jacked me up plenty when I was eighteen, yeah, but my divorce more than twenty years later made it look (and feel) like a petty argument. And I suppose it was, really. Truth is, the worst thing I can say about her was that she had questionable taste in men… and she didn’t make the decisions I wanted her to make. And I was all of eighteen years old at the time, so I can’t say I was motivated by the finest (or smartest) of motives.
I’ll call her Norma Jaen, for the sake of… whatever. The unusual spelling of the last name winds up being important. And she didn’t look anything like Marilyn Monroe. Although, I do find the Elton John song floating through my head right now…
Last time I heard from her was back in '86. She’d tracked me down, sent me a nice letter asking how I was doing, talked about her recent graduation, and job hunting in her hometown, up near Galveston, so on and so forth. It had been long enough that the hurt had faded, mostly, and I sent her a reply, and I never heard from her again. And I went on to have a life.
And things came and went. Eventually, the Internet got invented, and I’d go looking for people I knew, back in the day. Google’s a wonderful thing. So’s Facebook.
And this evening, I thought about Norma. A post on another board I frequent got me to thinking about GI Joe, and in the GI Joe comics, there was this villain, the Baroness, and Norma looked EXACTLY like the villainess in the comics, and… it was the first time I’d thought about 'er in years. And for the heck of it, I decided to google her name again. I’d googled it before, but nary a peep. And Facebook hadn’t been invented, the last time I googled her name, which tells you how long it’s been since I last thought of her…
The first result started out with STRANGULATION MURDER.
I checked the link. A woman with her name… of approximately the right age… had been found dead of strangulation near the right hometown.
I felt an ugly greasy feeling swirl into existence in the pit of my stomach.
A few minutes later, I checked the obituary from her hometown. Right name, right age… graduated from SWTSU, our alma mater… right major… oh, hell, survived by her parents whose name I couldn’t remember, and her brother Redacted, who I remembered all too well.
It was her. She’d been murdered the same summer she sent me the letter… 1986. Her murder had been a local mystery until they picked the guy up nearly a year later on another murder, and he confessed to both of them. He’d strangled her and left her in the woods, in a plastic bag, in a shallow grave. She sat out there for nearly a year before they found her remains.
He was executed by lethal injection in 2000.
I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know how to feel. I had NO idea what to do, so I went and almost threw up, but didn’t. Kind of wanted to, but didn’t. I told you that no good would come of datin’ those bad boys, sweetheart, I thought to myself, and giggled a little, and then felt like an utter scumdog for having thought it and then giggled about it, and… rrrrrgh.
I loved her once. And then I hated her. And then, over time, I got over her. And we might have been friends again, if my life and her death had happened a little differently.
And I don’t know what to think. Did I really know her? Well, yeah… thirty years ago. She died 29 of those years ago, and I don’t know whether to mourn her, or … what. What do you DO in a situation like this? Truth is, I’d be having a harder time right now if one of the dogs or cats had died. And I feel a little bad about that.
You KNOW what to think and feel when a pet dies. What do you do when it happened back during the Reagan Administration?
It’s the same world it was yesterday. Except where it’s different… I feel bad that we never had time to patch up. And yeah, I feel bad that I just took it for granted that she was out there havin’ a life… when such was not the case.
I have a picture of her somewhere in the hardcopy books I use to chronicle my past. We’d got back from an afternoon on the river, and she was parked on my couch, wearin’ a pair of Daisy Dukes over a smart one piece bathing suit and smiling for the camera. I don’t have to go looking for the picture; I have a perfect copy in my memory. She looked great, and she knew it.
And she never got a chance to get fat… or go grey… or to develop any chronic aches and pains… or to change in any way from that picture in my album. I look very different from what I did in '86. She will never grow any older. And that’s a fairly heavy thing on my mind.
A few times when I was in high school, we’d have someone who took a turn too fast, or went out and got drunk and then decided to drive… and in one memorable case, a guy who opened his front door to a guy with a shotgun who thought he was messing with his wife. The shotgun guy was mistaken, but that did his victim no good.
And these are also people I knew who will never grow older, who are frozen in time exactly as I remember them. But they don’t bug me. They died a long time ago, and I dealt with it and moved on. I mean, I’m SORRY Joe got shot in the face by a jealous husband without even getting to have the fun that made the husband jealous in the first place. I felt that Joe had been dealt a major injustice, considering he went to the great beyond with no face and no guilt at age nineteen, for potato’s sake… andthe husband went to prison, and the wife and the actual cheater got off scot free.
On the other hand, considering it was back in '83, I got over it. With this, I guess I’ll need a little more time to monkey with it before the swelling goes down, so to speak.
I did notice that the sky seemed bluer today, and that EVERYTHING smelled terrific, and the air itself seemed… richer, somehow. I have a fine view of the mountains from where I work, and today they looked like they were painted by a crazed impressionist painter with an obsession with shades of blue.
And I wonder if the world doesn’t seem a little more alive today, because I realize what’s been dead for a long time.
Not really sure how to end this. Seems like it should have some closure, or a dramatic flourish or SOME damn thing. But durned if I can think about how you put a good face on this sort of thing.
Guess all those old GI Joe cartoons are ruined for me now.