Life happens, and we sometimes grieve when it does

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LIFE HAPPENS, too often, it happens on the wrong side of a wrong street, and we sometimes grieve when it does.

This is not fiction.

It’s fact.

I wish it were fiction.

I knew the girl well.

She was easy to know.

She was friendly and ebullient and always smiling.

But her secrets ran deep.

So did her demons.

Sometimes, the torment never ends.

Perhaps she didn’t even recognize it anymore.

Life happens.

I’m writing about her life.

It is an American tragedy.

The streets are full of them, far too many of them.

She grew up in a small town, and, as far as I know had a good life.

It probably wasn’t a great life.

Teenagers rarely lives they would consider great.

At least they don’t know it if they do.

She was popular in school.

She was a cheerleader.

Among the femme fatales, she was among the chosen few.

She was always selected as a beauty queen in the yearbook.

Boys parted like the Red Sea and watched her as she walked down the aisles.

Their worlds stopped.

Their eyes popped.

Their hearts raced like the hotrods they would never own.

They would never own her either.

She was never alone.

Boys wanted to be with her.

So did the girls.

In small town Texas, she was royalty, and she had a smile that could brighten every dark corner in a room without light.

Sun didn’t shine?

Don’t worry.

Here she comes, and the sunshine is never more than a step behind.

She left high school and became a Kilgore College Rangerette.

If you’re from Texas, you know what I mean.

If you’re not, you don’t know what you missed.

The Rangerettes are a dance team once described as girls with the ‘Misbehavin’ shoulders.”

She didn’t just high kick in the dance line.

She was an officer, a lieutenant.

She was out front.

Regardless, of what she did, she was always out front.

And the crowds followed close.

Boys were in love with her.

The girls wanted to be like her.

No.

That’s not quite right.

The girls wanted to be her.

The world was her oyster, and she held it in the palm of her hand.

Smart.

Beautiful.

Everybody’s buddy.

Everybody’s sweetheart.

If she reached for the stars, she was the one who could touch them.

Maybe she did.

I don’t know.

I hadn’t seen her for a long time.

In fact, after I left home, I never saw her again.

I ran across her name recently.

It was in the newspaper.

But then she was always in the newspaper.

Usually it was a picture.

Lord, she did take a fine picture.

Her entourage was always draped around her in the black and white photographs.

Black.

And white.

Life’s like that, you know.

And she was always smiling bigger than the rest, leading the parade and never alone.

Then she dropped out of sight.

Don’t know why.

Some said it was drugs, but that’s hard to believe.

Some said it was alcohol.

She was the life of any party, and if you threw a party, her name was first on the invitation list.

Someone finally found her a while back.

She was no longer missing.

They found her in a ditch outside of Dallas.

Old.

Wrinkled.

Her clothes were rags.

Her hair hadn’t been combed in days, maybe months.

She was dead.

But was her death an accident?

Was it a homicide?

Was it a suicide?

It didn’t matter.

No one knows how long she had been lying there in the rain.

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  • For some people, the peak is early – and the slide begins from there. High school, college. The Prom King and Queen. The last great hurrah.

    It is what keeps the wallflowers from giving up entirely.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      You are so right, Alicia. Some never find a future past that senior year in high school or college. They set their sights low and meet them early.

      • And the cheerleaders and the football players work so very hard at it – it is a shame someone is not directing that enterprise toward their future. The culture is encouraged by the adults, but there is always another crop – what about THESE kids?

        Millions of little girls get dance training – my daughter still gets compliments on her posture – but she never planned to rely on it as an adult, and admired the girls who were petite and good and put in the hours – while making their passion only a small part of her life. A tiny number of the very best dancers make a future in the arts. VERY tiny.

        It is good to have continuing goals, and a plan that doesn’t depend on snagging one of the few spots on an NFL team.

  • Roger Summers

    Impactful. Just as the words of CP3 always are. And the illustration which accompanies your words? Equally impactful. In a word: Powerful.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Thanks, Roger. You and I spent a lot of years writing about people who wandered to the wrong side of the tracks and never figured out a way to get back.

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