The night I was murdered was when we first met.
You, 16, a junior in high school.
Me, 19, on the verge of adulthood.
You were in your home, readying for bed.
I was next door, in the front yard, pleading with my ex for my birth certificate.
I needed it to start college the next day.
It was the only proof I had that I was more than breath and bones; somehow, he snagged it in our split.
You never heard our breaths colliding in the heat of summer night.
Words tangling too long, he’d had enough.
Turning on his heels, he marched into his home, slamming the door in my face.
The determined woman I was becoming stormed through the yard, straight to the door because I needed, wanted my birth certificate.
It proved I existed.
My next move caused my death.
Granted me another certificate, eliminating my existence… my breath… my voice… my body… my bones.
I rang the doorbell.
I RANG THE DOORBELL.
This, my dear, was the night when we both lost our innocence.
When we learned that men rule the world with shotguns hidden in corners behind front doors.
They do so because of the “threat” of a 19 year-old woman coming to get a piece of paper that is rightfully hers.
This was the night we learned the spirit of a woman is tough.
Three shots, right through the door (he didn’t even have the courtesy to look me in the eyes when he killed me), split open my abdomen, yet I still ran.
This was when you looked through your window and saw everything.
Watched me sprint across the lawn, the street, and make it to my car before I succumbed to death and collapsed.
This was the night we learned that, sometimes, there’s no respect for the dead.
You stood on your driveway, shivering in fear, watching the scene unfold before you.
You cringed as minutes turned to hours and my body lay there, uncovered, open for all to see.
This disturbed you the most.
They took more care in placing him in the cruiser than they did with my bloodied carcass.
This was the night we learned that men can be hardened and cruel.
Your street, littered with men – police, detectives, reporters, and paramedics – all traipsing about, earning a paycheck.
Just a job where a man is a suit and a tie, with a briefcase full of lies.
Cufflinks to tighten shirt sleeves so his secrets don’t spill out.
Secrets of “boning her”, “fucking her senseless, breathless”, “bagging a babe”.
Using her, using her, using her…
until she’s just an “old bag of bones”.
It’s a cruel world, my dear.
We try to protect one another, but eventually the truth is exposed.
I’m so sorry that night was the beginning for you.
AND, I’m happy this was the night we became comrades, friends…
Allies of all the women whose voices have been silenced before and after.
You found your voice that night…
Standing up for me in court, angering the defense lawyer when he plowed you with questions he thought would stump you.
After all, you were only 16…
He could intimidate you, control you all he wanted, right?
You never budged, piercing his eyes with my truth, as you spat out your answers to his absurd questions.
My killer received a sentence of 26 years to life.
I know you’ve watched him for years.
Offender # A251009.
I know the 26 years is up this December.
And there is some fear.
I’ll be okay. You’ll be okay.
We will all be okay.
Keep using your voice – the one that was so tiny that night.
It’s grown to be fierce.
Use it to fight the injustices we all face.
The women and the men. The men and the women.
For we all come from, and return to, breath and bones.
Perhaps you’ll prevent it from being too soon for one…
Image courtesy of David Vann.
I’m a former writer/producer, Home Depot girl, adult oncology medical assistant, pediatric oncology nurse, turned personal life wrecker. You can read more of my writing at Life as it stands… for now