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April 9, 2017 / thackersam

Bell Bottoms and Pea Jackets

I didn’t know the girl that lived in the house behind ours. Actually, I had known her years before in school, but didn’t realize that her parents had moved there, where we hadn’t known the occupants since my brother and I were tykes. They were there a couple of years I think, before their daughter Monica came back to live with them, when she was no longer herself.

She was a bit of a tough girl when I met her back in our 8th grade English class. She didn’t hang with the popular girls or the cheerleader wannabes, she didn’t seem to want to. Believe it or not, I was kind of a dork. I mean, I was an individual, but was torn between being myself and being like everyone else, without having a freakin’ clue how to do either. Monica – she had long straight blond hair and always wore her pea jacket over her skirts. She complimented a dress I wore once, a stupid, florally pink thing with these poofy sleeves. She thought it was pretty. I assume I did too, back then. It was before I discovered that it was just easier to wear black. One time, when moccasins were all the rage, she laughed at me when I walked in to the classroom with the fringe on my brand new pair going all which way around my ankles. She got down on the floor and fixed them for me.

Another time, I was buying poster paints at the local art store and she, having tagged along with our mutual friend was leaning on the counter next to me. There were two small jars of paint missing. I had put them down on the counter to pay for them, but where could they be. The young sales clerk and I searched the counter for them when Monica produced them from the sleeves of her pea jacket, laughing that that was how she shoplifted. The clerk seemed to play along. She was a little intimidating. But likeable. It was hard to know how to react to her.

I didn’t see much of her in 9th grade though we were in the same gym class. I happened to have the first pair of hip-hugger bell-bottom pants in my junior high school, and I was getting more politically minded, so the dorkiness was shedding. In fact I wore the bell-bottoms on the day slated for the girls to rebel and wear pants in school to challenge the no-pants on girls rule. We won, though it may have been one of those concessions that was not that difficult for adults and authority to make. Besides, the girls in high school were already allowed to wear pants. But I took a chance as the majority of the girls, including my two closest friends then, did not. Perhaps that is when RallyWoman was born.

Monica sightings in high school were scarce, and early on when we were 14 and 15, my friends and I liked these older guys, more than five years older. We invited two over one night, and they came to my friend’s house really drunk, probably drug enhanced, with a barely mobile Monica in tow. For a nanosecond she recognized me. “It’s you,” she slurred at me before her eyes closed. I was jealous. I really liked one of these guys. I don’t remember seeing her again after that. Rumor, based strongly on the truth, was that she and her friend Sue had stolen a prescription pad from our mutual friend’s psychiatrist father’s home office, and had gotten into a really bad accident in a stolen car. Sue was pretty banged up, but Monica was in bad shape.

The people who had moved into the property angled behind ours, were psychologists we learned, and we new there were a couple of teens, as we could hear them in their pool. Then came the animalistic noises, and I could see through the tall, wooden fence that had been erected long ago by previous homeowners, that a long, zig-zagged ramp had been built. At some point in time, I found out the noises were from Monica and the ramp was for her. Sue had talked about what she and Monica were going to do when she got better, but Monica was not going to get better, and her coming back home didn’t mean she was coming back. She was gone.

I don’t know how long she lasted in her vegetative state, but I believe she outlasted both of the guys with whom she came to my friend’s house. One had walked in front of a train and the other had gotten in such a bad car accident that he had to spend months in a body cast and after a long recovery, choked to death after when he passed out without his necessary neck brace. Well, that was the story, which is plausible as the last I saw of him in a bar, down to a partial body cast, he looked like he hadn’t learned any lessons from his situation. But both deaths were caused by severe drug and alcohol abuse. And I assume Monica’s too.

I thought of Monica yesterday. I had passed a woman pushing a young woman, possibly a teenage girl with long hair and a deep inward stare in a wheelchair. Sad, whatever the reason. And sad for Monica. I liked her. She was really quite different, but one has to wonder how the daughter of psychologists, growing up in the suburbs with a darned good school system, wound up as she did, as a cautionary tale.

BTW – Tonight’s post was not going to be another political rant, nor was it going to be about this ancient of my history. I had written about the Ex and how he’s changed, blah, blah, blah, yet he still has these issues with women, blaming them for everything… but I can write about him anytime. I do however still want to mention that we saw the movie The Zookeeper’s Wife when we got together this past Wednesday, and I highly recommend it. I don’t understand the criticism I’ve heard, that it’s too much about this couple (that would be the zookeeper and his wife) and not enough about the Holocaust. I found it to be a lesson in kindness and how we should help one another, a lesson that should be open to all factions and events, and something we should remember always.

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