Death is a girl

Since I tore through 2 Dope Queens, I had to start something else…something just as consuming, and a friend recommended My Favorite Murder. It has a similar set-up to 2DQ: 2 ladies just chatting for themselves and making jokes about life and womanhood, etc. I was immediately into it–loving their takedown of the Stanford Rapist and loving their use of cusswords and then of course their love of all things morbid and terrifying. I quickly fed all 20 episodes to my ears and was pleasantly surprised to review old favorites, like Martha Moxley and the Night Stalker and to find new ways to scare myself awake at night.

I’ve since moved onto CaseFile and True Crime Garage. MFM reminded me of 2 things: 1)My obsession with true crime. Memory upon memory of me on the blue couch in my mother’s living room, greedily scooping up the remote to sit in front of City Confidential (with Paul Winfield’s quaky draw) marathons or follow along with Bill Kurtis’ soothing narrative during Cold Case Files or waking up early in the Arizona heat to watch Unsolved Mysteries on Saturday mornings. In college I would sneak away from my boyfriend’s living room to watch Dateline and ID and Forensic Files alone in his bed. Cable television was an expense I couldn’t spare.

Those moments when I had the TV all to myself, you see. Those moments before my stepdad would yell at me for choosing something so inappropriate or my father would want to chat through all the good parts of the grisly detail reveals. When my mother wasn’t around to nod at my brother and sister to say–not now. I had forgotten my obsession with Fear Street; the short murderous stories I used to write and illustrate; the vengeful ghost stories I would tell my cousin; the days I would spend wandering and biking to set-up shop at whatever old cemetery was closest at the time. Tracing names and imagining how they ended up on those stones. I’ve always been fascinated with death. Maybe it was the early move and feeling like…being familiar with the idea that people will be there one day, every day, and then seemingly without warning–gone, and strangers for good. Maybe it was the stories my mom told us from her childhood of the farmhouse being haunted. Maybe it was the late night drives past the glowing tombstones or the stories my mom would make up about the dark as the car passed under the trees and over the decrepit bridges. Maybe it was the endless memory she and my Aunt Leandra seemed to possess on our long rides back from St. Louis, when they would remember saloon murders and farmhouse break-ins from their parents’ childhoods.

Maybe it was just living in the middle of nowhere and realizing how alone and how dark it could be.

I don’t know. Mysteries fascinate me. Maybe it is the combing we do afterward, after a death, piecing together someone’s life and realizing how much we ignore, how much we don’t see, how much we can miss when we’re not looking. How much we can make of nothing. It’s realizing what’s outstanding in someone’s life. There’s always something, isn’t there? That we miss or just don’t get, until it’s too late. All the pieces that come together to that one point. That irretrievable moment. Trying to understand how much someone was loved or how much someone was noticed. Trying to piece together that which we can never know–the inside of someone’s head. My mouth waters. I love it.

In third grade I bought myself a picture book about JFK’s murder. I still have it, perched on the bookshelf among titles with adult plotlines and words.

These true crime podcasts have also reminded me of 2)My hometown murder.

I remember it was the week of Valentine’s Day. I remember I had stayed at Raley  Myers’. I remember mom calling to see if I was okay early in the morning– not our style at all, “well, you know, family of 5, just checking.” Me doing the math in my head…well, without me, you’re a family of 5. Seeing the images of my family in their beds before I could stop myself.
They weren’t a local family, but had moved in earlier that year. The oldest girl was a year ahead of me in school, so we’d had a couple of those nice girl middle school convos like during lunch and recess. Our lockers shared a hallway. I have memory of her dark bushy ponytail fading into her classroom. Or do I?
Her younger brother was in my brother’s grade and then the youngest brother was in kindergarten or 1st at the time. It was tragic cause you could tell they hadn’t had the best life up to that point. In a school without rich kids, they were the poorest. I remember going to the counselor after. Not a counselor at all, but a dad from the neighborhood. Me feeling cheated somehow. Not knowing what to say, but feeling like surely I had something to say. They were here all the time, and now they’re not. Surely, that’s given me something, or left me without. I didn’t have profound words. I told the counselor I came because I was sad. I waited for him. I think he nodded and made a sadder face. He seemed just as weird as I always imagined.
Their murders were especially shocking in a small rural farming town where people didn’t lock their doors or cars and all that shit. And it wasn’t like they were killed on a farm way out. Their house was in the middle, not far from the park and the grocery store and the little league diamond. In high school, I became friends with the younger brother of the murderer. He had to deal with a lot of shit obviously, and spent the rest of his time in that town disassociating himself from his brother. But your name. I remember looking at that space around his eyes, as I had studied his brother’s face in the newspaper. I didn’t see the same thing. That same dearth. He told me the things people had said to him, done to him, how he felt. We sat alone in the dark in his house. I imagined blood in the carpet, blood on the walls. I knew I was in the wrong house. I wanted to tell him he should wear less black. I wondered why we were friends. I don’t know where he is now.
My best friend’s grandfather was the sheriff for the county during the murder, and we spent most of our teenage years snooping around his home office reading his notes and newspaper clippings from the time. Not finding anything, but always hoping to find something. She told me made-up stories and I pretended to believe them.
We drove past the house in high school, trying to remember what it felt like when we felt like…it’s happening right here. We looked at hammers a little differently, expecting the one we pulled out of our toolboxes to be dripping in blood, expecting maybe some murderous urge to trickle up our arms and into our chests. We felt, we realized, the brevity of it all.

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