Rebirth

Twenty-five years ago, my friend Tina was stabbed to death walking home from school. They never found the killer.

I was a freshman in high school, and it was after that I wanted to become invisible, much more so than the other times.

I wanted to be invisible because I was afraid that I would be next. I have a strong hunch that I knew who her killer was, or that I knew the people involved. I told the police all of this, and gave them many leads, but the mystery remains unsolved.

I was afraid that there would be someone waiting in the bushes for me, with a knife, as had been outlined through out my freshman year in varous forms of threats, including the one time two girls really did jump out of the bushes as Tina and I walked home from the bus stop, and the long way, I might add, to avoid pending violence. They’d been waiting for us.

“Would you like us to kick your ass today?” they asked. “Or do you want us to get the gang?”

I opted for the gang, and of course they took that the wrong way, and accused me of being a smart ass, and it was only through gentle negotions that Tina and I were able to make it home that day unscathed.

In hindsight, I resent them for such an accusation, when I was trying to preserve my life. I mean, seriously, fuck those people for thinking wanting to live is such a bad idea.

I bring this up today for two reasons. The first is that last night, I had my Annual April Nightmare, which goes something like this: a couple of people are explaining to me that they are going to kill me and it’s going to be painful, and while they can offer no rationale for it, it’s going to happen, I’m not going to like it, but I’m going to have to deal with it. They have to be violent about it, because getting a person’s heart to stop beating is highly labor intensive, so it’s going to get physical, I will want to resist, as that is human nature, but it’s not going to work.

The scenery changes from year to year. This year, I was chased by a gang of Cadillacs and gold chains and knives.

The outcome is the same. I wake up in a sweat, and once awake, I have to go to the bathroom badly, but I’m too afraid to walk down the hall to the bathroom because someone might be around the corner. It takes several minutes of breathing, and the sound of my cat running around the room attacking invisible flies, meowing at me to get her her treats, to remind me that I’m not in Pleasanton anymore, that I live downtown, and the sun’s going to shine tomorrow or at least in a few days.

The other reason is that today is Easter Sunday. It is a pagan holiday fused with Christianity to celebrate the rebirth of Jesus, bunny rabbits, and hardboiled eggs. It coincides with the beginning of spring, when the flowers come back into bloom, when the leaves come back to the trees. Women wear spring dresses in ghastly yellow and pink combinations, but this is forgiven, because it is understood that today, we celebrate rebirth, starting over.

Today, Easter Sunday, I rode my bike around what we call the “Paradise Loop”. If you ride around it enough, it’s easy to grow numb to it, because it’s a local ride, you can take it for granted, but if you pay attention, you notice that it takes you through downtown Tiburon, with its boutique shops on “Arc Row” — the buildings were literally once little boats — and take in views from its harbor of San Francisco and Angel Island across the San Francisco Bay. You can stop at the Italian bakery there for a pastry and espresso, then head around the back side of town, and along the bay, up and down rolling terrain,  ’til you fly down a hill to the final sprint under the bridge at the Montesorri School.

I thought about Tina today, on my ride, about why am I still here, and she is not?  What would she be like? What would she think of me? Would we be friends? Would she laugh at me on my bike?

After she died, I wanted adults to notice me. I wanted someone to jump in take me out of there, move me to a new school, or a new town. I tried getting bad grades, I tried getting good grades, I cut off all of my hair, I wore black, I wrote dark poetry in English class, I painted spooky pictures at my Boppy and Grandma’s house, just to get someone to notice, to ask me what was wrong.

No one noticed.

I thought about Tina, and how I got here, to this beautiful place. Swimming got me here. After Tina died, I swam. I was not very good at it. I was the slowest one on my high school team. My senior year, I joined the year round swim team, so I could finally swim varsity.  For two hours every day, and then three and four, I put my focus underwater. It was quieter there, in the pool across town. There was no talk of knives. The kids on this team, all years younger than me (I was too slow to swim with kids my own age), liked me. They thought I was funny. I got to relive junior high. The coaches didn’t know where I had come from. I swam from Pleasanton, to Hayward, Bakersfield, and even Prague. I was even voted captain of the women’s swim team at Cal State Bakersfield. My rebirth. Nobody knew about Tina, or that what got me there wasn’t a scholarship, a goal, or a dream.

Nobody knew I was swimming away from my nightmare.

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About katiekelly

I grew up in a parking lot.
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9 Responses to Rebirth

  1. Kelly says:

    i think that’s why a lot of people get into sports in some way, because you dont have to think about any of the bad things.

    Also, that’s really really scary about Tina. I’m sorry.

  2. Chris says:

    One hell of a story, and an interesting look at how sports can be so much more than an activity or a game.

  3. Kevin says:

    wow.

    I remember you and I talked about it in short sentances. I also remember that you were and are pretty much the most funny person I know. Your humor often times had me and others rolling on the floor – and certainly was not quiet or shy!!

    But back to Tina – I arrive at Foothill I think in my Junior year. or there-abouts. I do remember you talking to me about it. But I always felt there was a LOT of pain there – and tho I wanted to ask – and to understand – and to help – I also knew that I don’t really have any basis of experience to even try to be in that place to lend a flashlight.

    What I realize now – is that none of us do. But all of us have flashlights. Take mine. Give it back to me when you are done with it. I know I’ll need it sometime – but right now – take mine and feel free to pick up the phone and call to chat.

    I’ll be up in the bay area in early may – let me know if I can buy you a cup of whatever goes for high priced java and if you’d like to chat.

    Heck – even if you don’t I’d love to chat with you for a while anyway – it’s been too long since we’ve talked about old times- and shared some new times.

    Kev
    (I will face book my cell and home #’s to ya)

  4. lauen says:

    wow! wow!

    that’s crazy. and the stuff nightmares are made out of.

  5. Mark says:

    Thank you for your openness and honesty.

    As I read your post, I remember Tina, had a class with her. Thought she was nice, didn’t pay much mind though since I was wrapped up in my own insecurities at the time.

    I use to walk that ‘path’ home to my friend Mark Dunakins home. I remember ‘eyboo’ and all the fallout of walking that path.

    I remember an innocence lost and strength found during those days.

    Thanks again.

  6. katiekelly says:

    Thanks, Mark. I appreciate this.

  7. katiekelly says:

    And Kevin, too. To everyone who left comments and sent e-mails. Really nice.

  8. Pingback: I Have a Little Something to Say about Closure « Katie Kelly

  9. Wow – that is a very profound and moving story. Thanks for sharing it.

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