This is my story exactly as it happened. I don't expect anyone to believe it all and after you read it, I guess you won't like me very much. Feel free to pass judgment or decide I am a liar; I don't care. But, it's all true. God help me, it's all true.
If those years could be summed up in one sentence, then I would probably compose some inspirational line; but, it wouldn't be true. It wouldn't sit right. It would be like masking a week long dead body with lilac water. It was a nasty, complicated time that has moldered. The good old days had some secrets and were not as idyllic as some might think. Well, at least my good old days were not as perfect as people like to say about the 1950s. But here is the worst part: I don't think I would change much, or rather, I would do most of my life, then, all over again. It's inevitable, like a tide, and we all know we sink or swim in a tide. I did both.
And guess what? I'd wade right back into that tide, given a replay. How sick is that? I never said I was sane or a great person did I? Let me share this: monsters are not big, green beasts hiding in our closets; we are the monsters and we stay hungry. Individual lives, secrets, needs, and obsessions all gather to make a kind of cosmic soup, a force that can come into its own terrible power.
Sometimes I consider the clarity of my memories, but not too much or I'd go mad. Every detail is almost crystal clear, and they leap at me unexpectedly, going for my throat, showing up at the corners of my eyes, peripherally. So, never doubt my accounting of the details. If I could bring on amnesia, I would in a heartbeat; in fact, forgetting it all would expunge and kill the monsters that lived on.
In September of 1957, we were barely into the first semester of junior college, all piss and vinegar with the giddiness of semi-freedom and new experiences. We were mature, Man, and could change the world. We thought so, anyway. Doesn't every eighteen year old feel invincible, powerful, smart, and right with the world? I think people that age still feel this way, though not at the same level pre-Kennedy. We have no idea then what we are about to face. Luckily, most face just the difficulty of real, normal life and not events that would swallow us whole.
Outside the Humanities building, at Texarkana College, I leaned against one of the many pecan trees while Grace thumbed, frowning, through her Biology book; we debated going to do our lab assignment. It was still muggy in North East Texas, but I dare anyone to show me a prettier place, so we were cooling off in the shade.
If she had been born later, Grace would have been called beautiful, but she didn't have those classic looks that were popular in the 1950s. Later her look would be called a California look. Her face was too soft, too open, and too natural for that time; her hair was too thick, too long, and too blonde, with almost white streaks mixed with the gold and honey. She didn't wear the classic lipstick or use the brow pencil over her jade eyes. Grace would have looked more at home a decade later. Grace was just too everything, I think.
She wasn't reserved or coyly sweet. Smart, she was almost brilliant, sensitive, and she laughed too loud. She was funny. Grace like Bach, purple, thunderstorms, the wind, freshly mown grass, geese honking, Christopher Goose and sometimes she got car sick. There. I can say what she liked and I could say what she didn't like, like paper cuts and spinach, but that isn't who she was. Whatever was popular didn't matter to her, but then she wasn't rebellious either. I think she did what she thought best and what she wanted, and just didn't think it important; she never thought herself as that important. I don't mean she had low self esteem either. Grace just didn't see herself or behavior as monumental. Did you ever meet someone who was attractive, smart, and could do anything well, but they didn't realize it? That was her.
She could have her bad moods or be stubborn, and when she was pushed way too far, well, I am ahead of my story, but she could have a fiery, temper, but it was something everyone over-looked because like East Texas weather, it was fast to change to better, or at least different. She might snicker at someone, or make a less than stellar observation, but she never went out of her way to hurt anyone and was fast to defend people. Some people swallow pride, dignity, and desire to save other people's feelings; she was that way.
I sound like her biggest fan? I was and I still am. Isn't that part of my problem? I will always see her as perfection, and such a view always causes rot. I always think, had she not met me, or not met the other monsters; she would be somewhere, happy, right now.
If you read the news or watch television, people always say they never expected someone to act a certain way or say they never dreamed someone was capable of certain things. Live next door to a mass murderer with bodies in the basement, and you will swear that you never noticed a thing unusual. Of course not. The screams, the missing people, the blood seeping from under doorways are never a hint, are they? We ignore the things that might cause nightmares. We over-look the fiends of our lives because if we actually began seeing them, we would be terrified, especially when we looked into the mirror.
So we were debating and Bernie Canfield appeared. He had been wildly popular in high school for athletics and looks but had dated only a few girls, so we all thought he would be off to a big university, but gossip was that his folks didn't have the money. He picked up pecan shells to toss at my feet. I had gone to school with him, but we were not good friends, although we did share a class now. He was solidly built, dark haired, and handsome. "You finish your Sociology paper, David?"
"Almost. Altruism. What'd you get?" I asked.
"Role modeling. Boring." He tossed a shell at Grace's feet. "And your friend is…?"
I introduced them. "We played football together in junior high and high school." I told her. I didn't know much else to say about him. He had kind of run with a slightly different crowd a lot of the time. I was kind of surprised he had come over but his main buddies had all gone off to big universities on sports scholarships.
"Are you playing here?" She asked.
"Yep. David and I might catch the eye of a recruiter."
"Oh sure…I have them knocking down my door."
Grace laughed at me, "I noticed you had a new front door."
He pegged my leg with more shells. "What are you two doing?"
Grace told him of the biology lab debate and he interrupted her, "Wanna go get a soda?"
"Okay." She shrugged. It wasn't her nature to fend shy. She looked to me.
I might have said something to stop them from going, but I said I was going to lab instead of waiting to be invited to tag along. I was a bit irritated that he hadn't even hesitated; I might have been dating her. Neither talked me out of it, so I watched them walk away; that was when I lost her, although I didn't know it then, or know I cared.
(cont. in full novel)