Kathy had always been part of the group. I never thought of her as anything else.
Kathy and Rink. Rink and Kathy. They were besties, and part of our band of six in the dorm – Me and Michelle, Kari and Dawn, Rink and Kathy.
Kathy and Rink had grown up together – grade school, junior high, high school and now college. The pranksters, the clowns in the group – always there to make us laugh, a couple of redneck chicks from small town Pennsylvania…just like the rest of us. Yet, as I reminisce over those days – a little older, hopefully a little wiser – somehow the pictures have changed. The characters aren’t quite the same…
Rink carrying on.
Rink cracking jokes.
Rink performing for the crowd.
And, where is Kathy? Surely, Kathy is there. In my mind’s eye, I scour the room. Michelle, Kari, Dawn… there I am. Kathy…Kathy…
Finally. There she is. In the back.
She’s laughing…kind of …
hidden somewhere behind Rink.
Rink, always in the front. Rink always in the center.
Had it always been that way?
Oh, how I loved our laughter filled walks across campus for dinners together, cheese fries in the Center or pizza in town at the OIP –
Michelle and her boyfriend, Ray –
Kari, Dawn and their best friend, Mike –
Rink and her boyfriend…what was his name? Ed! Ugh!. He was such a jerk.
Me and my best friend, Gary –
Yet, I can’t find Kathy.
I’m sure she had been with us when we left. I struggle to recapture those long-ago nights.
Once more, I find her…following behind. Hidden in the back. Part, but – not.
Why had I never seen this before?
Shrieks of laughter fill my mind – Those late Saturday “girls” nights. Skippy would come from the guys’ dorms and do our hair, nails and make-up… (It took me a while to realize why Skippy was allowed to come into our dorm after hours when no other guys were. Eventually I figured it out!)
But not Kathy.
Kathy didn’t like to do her hair or wear make-up. (Did she not like it or did we never ask?)
Trading clothes with one another. (Michelle’s clothes were soooo much cuter than mine!)
But not Kathy.
(Is that Rink I hear cracking a joke that Kathy might be able to fit into a scarf or a pair of earrings? Would she really say that? Did she?)
And there Kathy sits again…alone…in the back.
Kind of smiling. Kind of laughing. Kind of being part of the group.
Why had I never noticed? Why had I never seen?
Several years have passed. Life has gone on. I married. Became a mom.
I’m racing around the living room with an infant in one arm, trying to grab a toddler with the other when the phone rings.
I run to grab it. Michelle! I’m so thrilled to hear from her! We haven’t talked in ages.
Immediately, I hear it in her voice – something’s not right. She’s quiet, hesitant.
There’s news, she says. She knew I’d want to know.
A call came from Rink. They found her car at the bottom of a cliff.
It was clear she had driven off intentionally.
A note was found at home in her room. She wanted to say goodbye.
The car was badly smashed, destroyed, but they found her body – she had been thrown…in the back.
And my tears began to flow uncontrollably, like a flooded river that could not be constrained. But, the tears had come much too late.
Kathy had always been part of the group. I never thought of her as anything else…
“I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.” – Robin Williams