The Person I Used To Be

EricaFeatured, Personal, Writing0 Comments

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The person I would most like to meet before I die…or before she dies…or before it’s too late once said:

“We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4am of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.”
~Joan Didion

Several years ago now (gosh has it been that long), I blank slated this site. One morning I just woke up and erased everything. Poof.

I justified this by saying (to those of you who asked), that upon reading through my old posts and articles that I wasn’t that person anymore. I had grown. Changed. Evolved. And I didn’t want a record online of the person I “used” to be.

Now before you start calling me naive, or asserting that people rarely change that much, let me state for the record that I am absolutely, unequivocally a different person. Both then, and yes, even now.

As I work more consistently and deeply on COAZDN, I find that I can’t help but return to those early archives (now set to draft status) as I attempt to revisit the person I was then. To try and make sense of why I did the things I did, and to better explain my motivations and describe my actions in some cohesive manner.

I also find myself turning to old notebooks and files with writing exercises. Things I’d hastily written in 10 minutes or less, and then tossed away with no intention of revisiting.

Like this short timed exercise I wrote about Shelley’s murder:

Growing up on the coast of Texas meant salty moist air, braying seagulls and pink marbled skies. During the day, the sun would beat down on our flat Texas town like the crescendo at the end of one of Beethoven’s Symphonies. I spent most afternoons practicing with my baton in the parking lot in front of our apartment building. I had an old dull silver boom box that played cassettes – and I would practice dancing and twirling to Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” and Debbie Gibson’s “Out of the Blue” for hours the summer Shelley was murdered.

I had a purple Cabbage Patch Kid’s bicycle with training wheels – and sometimes when I was waiting for my Mom to come home from one of her many jobs – I would try riding it up and down the scalding cement, or around back down towards the sand. But I wasn’t really sure what I was doing – and no one ever took the training wheels off – so that by the time I was 12 I was too embarrassed to learn how to ride.

That summer was so busy, I marched in Parades, competed in State Twirling Competitions and learned all the words to “We Go Together” from Grease, which I must have watched about a thousand times…much to my Mother’s chagrin. Shelley lived with us that summer, before moving into her own place. I remember she had wavy blonde hair and fair features, I want to say she had light freckles on her skin but I honestly can’t remember. Men liked Shelley. Especially rich men who were looking to pick up a little something extra on the side.

She had a King Size heated Waterbed with a Wooden Canopy, and when you laid in the bed you could look up at your own reflection in the mirror above. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to stare at themselves while they were sleeping. But then again, adults never made much sense in those days.

After she moved out, she would come and visit me from time to time, taking me out to see a weekend matinee. I remember the popcorn and how she let me get extra butter, and how I could have more than one box of candy. Sugar wasn’t even allowed at home, so this was a real treat. Looking back I realize I didn’t really know much about Shelley – but I worshiped her all the same. I think it’s easier to put someone on a pedestal the less we know.

Shelley left behind bloody foot prints. She was 22 years old, eleven years younger than I am today, the night she was murdered. Beaten to death with a tire iron on North Padre Beach. The rust colored foot prints in the sand, her golden locks matted crimson, her frail frame twisted and beaten until it swelled like a wet marshmallow – I would have nightmares over and over again where I would picture her lying on the cold hard sand, the waves brushing against her legs, and her piercing blue eyes starring lifeless into the darkness.

In college I saw an episode of Unsolved Mysteries about Shelley’s death. It had been over a decade since that summer. The summer of 1986 when I wore red shorts with tan tights and twirled my baton every afternoon until the sun went down. The summer when I splashed in the surf and slept through the night.

I always thought her murder would remain unsolved…but then a man named Rolf – a tall stocky fair haired quiet man. A nice man (in my opinion) that I had met at Shelley’s funeral, was convicted of decapitating another woman in Corpus Christi – and that led to his conviction in Shelley’s murder.

My mother used to say that he was the one. He was the murderer. I white washed her conviction as the ramblings of a hurt best friend. The same way I ignored her suspicions when she said my step-father – her husband of 25 years was cheating. It was too hard to believe that such a nice, quiet man could do such a thing.

It’s easy for our faith to be shaken.

That lose of innocence that happens in an instant and ever after is as elusive to regain as finding the Holy Grail.

Again and again – the nightmares. The nights waking up in night sweats. Night terrors. Those eyes. Piercing. Sapphire. Dead.

The sand forever tinged a dusty Merlot.

The writing is mostly bad (like above), but it’s also valuable. Because it takes me back to places that I thought I would never forget. But more importantly, it puts me in touch with the person I used to be so that I can write from her eyes.

Even if we’ve changed, grown or evolved – we owe it to ourselves to not forget where we began.


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