Brad Koehly, 35 Years Later

It’s been 35 years since my college boyfriend Brad Koehly was killed on this day, December 11th.  He’d be 56 now, most likely with grandkids.  He’d still have that big grin and be goofing off for the camera, like he was in this picture. You are remembered, Brad.  You are missed. It’s one of the miracles of life how certain people can profoundly touch our lives and change them forever.

You are with your mom now…what a joyful reunion that must have been!

RIP Brad, and thanks for the love.

Brad

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I was Silent Too.

 

Teen

I was raped 40 years ago, when I was 16.  I didn’t know it was rape at the time, because in 1977 rape was what happened to a woman by a stranger in a dark alley.  The term date rape wasn’t yet in use, or at least I had never heard of it.  All I knew was that something bad had happened to me…that I was forced to have sex when I didn’t want to.  I was 16 and just starting to date and very flattered that a Senior boy was interested in me.  He invited me to his house on our third date.  Michael was a nice Mormon boy, or so I thought, and joked about how Mormons were not supposed to even French kiss so that was very naughty of us.  I didn’t care that he was Mormon, or not, I just cared that he seemed nice and that he was interested in me. I was very naive and very young.

I drove myself home afterwards and I remember that drive vividly still, even 40 years later. I remember thinking over and over….I am not a virgin anymore…I am not a virgin anymore.  That was important to me because I had planned to remain a virgin until I got married.  He threatened to hurt me unless I gave in and that’s all it took. I didn’t think to fight him, and in retrospect, without knowing self defense, I am not sure if that would have mattered.  He was bigger than me and stronger and we were alone in his parent’s house.  I was in shock at the time and in shock for a couple of days.  I had a hard time accepting that it had happened. And…..I DIDN’T TELL ANYONE.  I was too embarrassed and too ashamed.  I felt that it was my fault.  I shouldn’t have gone to his house and I shouldn’t have been in his bedroom.  I blamed myself and felt stupid for my actions.  I know much better now, of course, but at the time I was filled with shame.

I eventually told two people. The first person I told was my boyfriend Brian, after we had started dating, a few months later after the rape. He was very understanding and supportive and he helped me learn how to trust again.  He was truly a Godsend and I will always be grateful for his love and patience with me. He’s one of the reasons I was able to heal and become a rape survivor.  I was also able to work towards healing through working on a Rape Crisis Line in college and for a couple of years afterwards.  Helping other women was a tremendous aid in healing my own pain.

The second person I told was my female cousin, who was 5 years older than me.  She invited me to spend a weekend with her at her college when I was 17 and she was 21 or 22. About halfway through the visit I told her what had happened and her reaction was to chastise me for not telling my parents. And then she became distant and cold and remained so the rest of the visit.  I was very hurt by this, and still don’t understand it to this day.  My takeaway from that weekend was to enforce the idea that it was my fault.

However, at some point in my Senior year, I was in a social studies class where rape was discussed and a light bulb went off in my head. I finally could put a word to what had happened to me and that made such a huge difference.  I also learned that it WASN’T MY FAULT.  I learned that whatever a person does to avoid being badly hurt is the right way to respond…that sometimes NOT fighting back is the right thing to do.  That I shouldn’t be ashamed. That I wasn’t stupid.

And ultimately, I learned so many valuable things from working on the Rape Crisis lines. I learned that making the transition from being a rape victim to being a rape survivor is the most important thing, because we take our power back.  When we  are a victim, we are still being victimized.  When we are a survivor, we have survived and are moving forward.

I have told my story now quite a few times and most of my family members now know as well as some of my friends.  It doesn’t define who I am.  It happened so long ago and I am not that 16 year old girl anymore.  If I hesitate to say anything, it’s because I don’t want that label put on me.  I am so much more than what happened to me that evening. And I am stronger for it too.

But I feel the urgency in speaking up now, because it’s so important to me for everyone to understand why I didn’t speak 40 years ago, and why the women Roy Moore sexually assaulted didn’t speak up then either.  I didn’t feel that I had a voice then.  But now I do. And so do they…and I applaud them for coming forward.  It’s a very hard thing to talk about…but it’s about damn time we finally do.

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The Captain’s Chair

chair

She sat in the chair, staring into space, while the kids charged around above her, yelling at the tops of their voices.  She wished she hadn’t taken this last assignment before her upcoming vacation.  It sounded so easy and a good escape from her usual poring over numbers and detailed reports. The new Star Trek exhibit had generated so much buzz that the staff was worn thin trying to take as many groups through as possible, and the museum’s chairman had asked this one little favor….and now here she was, sitting in the captain’s chair while chaos reigned.

A small boy stopped in front of her and pointed a plastic phaser gun at her.  “You are dead you Klingon!” he yelled. He squeezed the trigger and sparks flew out of the tip.

“Ugh, ya got me,” she said and slumped down in the chair. He squealed in delight. That was enough to motivate her to sit up straight and evaluate the situation. Or perhaps the chair was rubbing off on her. She cleared her throat.

“Listen up recruits!” she said in a commanding voice. “Sit down NOW.”

All the children promptly sat down.  She was liking this. “Do you want to go on an adventure through space, the final frontier?”

Loud cheering from all the children and from a few of the scattered parents too. She pressed a button on the chair and the presentation started on the big screen, with stars floating by as the Enterprise moved out into space.  She glanced around the room and noticed a boy curled into the crook of his father’s arm, not staring at the screen.

She got up from the chair and gingerly made her way over to them and sat down.

“Everything okay?” she whispered.

He looked at her and then away. His eyes were glistening. She sat there beside them and watched the screen. He finally spoke in a low whisper.

“His sister…well, his sister…P-A-S-S-E-D away a few weeks ago. This is our first outing since then. I thought a chance to get out….and he loves Star Trek so much….”

“I understand,” she said quietly. “I am so so sorry.”

She thought for a moment. “What is his name?”

“Josiah.”

“Hey, Josiah. My name is Carrie. You love Star Trek as much as I do…right?”

The boy looked at her and nodded.

“Would you like to be the captain?  And sit in the captain chair?”

Josiah looked up at his father and sat up.  “Could I?”

She stood up and put out her hand to him.  Together they made their way back to the Captain’s chair and he sat down, a little smile on his face. In a low voice, she pointed out all the different buttons and what they did.  He moved the chair to and fro and played with the buttons while his dad stood beside her.

“I can’t thank you enough,” he said. “You’ve been very kind.”

“We can’t stop bad things from happening,” she said, and paused to wipe a tear off her cheek. “But we can be kind to each other. We can at least do that. We can fill up the empty holes with as much love as possible, like repairing potholes in the road. Every single day.”

 

(written with love and tears for the lost children of Sutherland Springs…..Annabelle, Brooke, Haley, Emily G, Emily H, Gregory, Megan, Noah and Carlin.)

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Three Burrows, Maybe Four

hedgehog fall

Meesies likes it when the forest is oh so quiet and peacefullies. I can wander about and munch on little crunchie squigglies and snuggle away in my three cozy burrows. I am thinking of digging a fourth in case my little missus decides to wander over and sqoochy with me but I haven’t seen her in a while so that can wait. There’s plenty to do and see when the skies and trees are dark and only an owl hooting far away.

There’s a new menace in the forest though, a bully-bully of a huge orange Tabby cat, with a floppy belly and a limited vocabulary.  He only knows how to hissy and growl, and while we laugh so mirthy at him behind his back, he’s a danger to us one and all.

Last night he came upon me unawares, while I had a juicy worm nicely wiggling down my throat and startled I began to choke! He tried to bat a paw at me but struck my spines while I was balled up, it was a messy fright I couldn’t relaxy for hours after.

What more can I do?  I am only one hedgehog. 

He don’t like my spines so I do have that. I want to be able to wander tonight but what if he returns? Ah, but if I could only set a trappie for him to make him squack and run..he is a coward at heart I can see that.  My mind darts here and there and all of a sudden I have a plansie…..

I will invite Frankies and the missus over to help and together we will run him out of our forest never to returns. He always comes from the direction of the house over yonders and through the hole in the thicket, jumping over a shallow dip in the ground. I shalls dig the dip a bit deeper.  Me’s not like to climb much, its so awkward like, but I can climb to the branch over the thicket……when he comes through I will drop as a ballsie onto his fat head, which will knock him into the dip, where Frankies and the missus are balled up too….so many spine-sies, he’s sure to squall all the way back home! And yes, the merriment when he does!

When one hedgehog joins another hedgehog, and another, as well, oh magic can happen when we work as teamsies! And since the missus will already be here….maybe even more magic tonight, me dreams….

 

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Come Back To Me

roses

He was stunned – the stranger in front of him looked exactly like the girl he’d been dreaming about. He’d had the dream for weeks now, the same dream each time.  He was sitting on a bus dreamily staring out the window, when he’d see this young girl, maybe eight years old, sitting on her lawn as the bus passed by.  She’d wave to the bus, while mouthing something he couldn’t quite figure out.  For some reason it was important to know what she was saying.  He’d started recognizing the dream once he entered it and started trying to change things. He’d wave back but it didn’t change anything. A few times he tried to lower the window so he could hear her but the window was stubbornly shut and refused to budge. He even tried to get off the bus, but it didn’t work.

The girl was standing in line in front of him at the movie theater with her parents. He couldn’t help staring at her. She said something and her parents laughed. Her dad tousled her short blonde hair before stepping up to the window. “Two adults and one child for Elmer and his Flying Machine,” he said.

He bought tickets for the same movie and followed them into the theater.  He sat in the next row back and a little over, where he could study her face. She was a lively child, joking with her parents until the movie started. Then she fell silent, staring intently at the screen, the moods of the movie reflecting in her face. He was especially touched when a few tears escaped her eyes to drift down her cheeks.

He didn’t watch the movie.  He watched her and thought about what to do. He didn’t want to look like a creep or pedophile or stalker. He had no interest in her, other than that she looked exactly like the girl in his dream.  After the movie was over, he followed them back out into the lobby.

“I have to pee,” the girl said, and darted into the women’s room.  The parents exchanged glances and each went more slowly into the restrooms.  The girl came back out first, without either parent.  He saw his chance.

“Do you know me?” he said to her.

A look of confusion crossed her face. “No,” she said.

“Does a bus go in front of your house each day?” he asked.

She took a step backwards. “um, yes, several do. Why?”

“I am just curious.  Do you wave to the buses?”

“Yes, doesn’t everyone?” she said. Her arms were crossed and she was rocking back and forth on the tips of her toes. She looked behind her for her parents, but they hadn’t come out yet.

“What do you say when the bus goes by? You say something, right?” He broke into a cold sweat.  This was it.  This was the answer that he’d been waiting for.  The answer that had been haunting him.

“I sing,” she said. “I sing a song my grammy taught me.”

“Can you sing it for me?”

She paused. Her parents had come out of the bathrooms and were standing on either side of her.

“Yes,” she said. And began to sing.

Come back to me in my dreaming 
Come back to me once more 
Come with the love light gleaming 
As in the days of yore 
I wonder if you still love me 
And if your heart is still true 
When the spring roses are blooming 
Then I’ll come back to you
Somewhere a heart is breaking 

Calling me back to you 
Memories of loved ones waiting 
Of happy home and you 
Absence makes my heart fonder 
Is it the same with you 
Are you still happy I wonder 
Or do you feel lonesome too

When the sun is sinking 
In the golden west 
And the birds and flowers 
They have gone to rest 
Come tell me that you still love me 
And that your heart is still true 
When the spring roses are blooming 
Then I’ll come back to you

The theater lobby was quiet as she sang in a high pure voice.  When she stopped there was a spattering of applause. Her mother smiled at him and reached down to take her hand.

“Eva is a very special child,” she said. He nodded.

“Thank you Eva,” he said. The family walked past him. Eva gave a little nod as she passed. He walked slowly outside and thought about his wife. They had been drifting further and further apart and he hadn’t known what to do about it. Now he knew. He walked faster and faster towards his car and then began to run.

 

(Postscript: song lyrics are an old Appalachian song called Happy or Lonesome.)

 

 

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Stuck

knuckles

“It’s so lovely to meet you!” It was said in a way that immediately made him feel special, the long-lost family member.  She came out of one of the dark corners of the room and into the light of the candles on the table in the middle. She didn’t look anything like a psychic, or what he thought a psychic should look like…no shawl or flowing skirts or deep probing eyes.  She was tall and lanky and wore a man’s plaid shirt tucked into a denim skirt. Her hair was short and brown and there was a cowlick in front she’d smooth down with one large hand from time to time. She looked like a farmer’s wife or someone working at the local library.  Even though she wasn’t smiling she looked so friendly and warm.

“Are you the psychic?”

She smiled a small smile. “Well, yes, although I prefer to call myself a searcher.  Somehow I am able to find things, see things others can’t.”

“I am not sure why I stopped.  I saw the red neon sign, and well,” he said hesitantly.

She motioned to him to sit down on the other side of the table from her. Up close he saw freckles on her nose and that the knuckles of her fingers were red and inflamed. She saw him looking at her hands and put them under the table in front of her.

“You stopped because you need answers,” she said.

“But I don’t know the questions!”

“You just think you don’t. I charge $35 for a reading.  That work for you?”

He nodded. She brought her hands back out and lit a cone of incense on the table.  Immediately, white smoke began to rise, making the air hazy and fluid. He thought he might start coughing as the smoke came closer, but instead he breathed in deeply and relaxed. She reached over and took his left hand to hold it in both of hers.

“I do best with palm reading. Or at least that’s how it feels tonight.” She began to lightly stroke his inner palm with two fingers, across and down and across again.  It felt good and he relaxed further, feeling sleepy. He wanted to close his eyes but he didn’t want to be rude and he wanted to hear what she had to say.

“We’ll start with the obvious. You’ve been travelling.  Really a lot of travelling. Some you like, some you don’t. You don’t know how to stop the travelling you don’t like.  This true?” She looked up at him.

“Yes,” he said.

“You’ve been married twice. Both times to awful women. You don’t trust your taste in women any more.  This true?”

“Yes,” he said.

“You lost your father a year ago and you still haven’t cried about it. It’s a dark shriveled heavy thing lying inside you next to your heart and you can’t get it out. This true?”

He groaned. “Yes,” he said.

“There’s a lump in your groin and you touch it compulsively, but you are too afraid to see a doctor, you are afraid it’s something really really bad.  This true?”

He couldn’t move. “YES,” he said hoarsely.

“You feel like you are stuck in your life, just plain stuck, like a horse trying to pull a cart out of sucky mud, it’s quicksand, pulling you down, this true?”

Tears ran down his face. “yes,” he whispered.  There was a humming in his head and it was getting louder. The room was blurry from his tears. She got up from the table and went to a sideboard and picked something up.  It looked like a glass tumbler, but not like anything he had seen before. Colors swirled across its etched surface.  She stood over him.

“Do you trust me?”  she said.

“Yes.”

She tapped the edge of the glass tumbler and it rang a loud clear bell sound. She tapped it again and again until the room was filled with ringing…and then she slammed it hard onto his chest, over his heart.

“OUT!” she said, in a booming voice. “OUT OUT OUT.”

He felt something lurch out of him and into the cup. The humming in his head stopped. She pulled the glass away in a slippery motion and slammed it down onto the table top, capturing whatever was inside.  “I’ll deal with that later,” she said.

“What the hell was that all about?” he asked.

“Do you still feel stuck?”

He thought for a moment.  “No. Not at all.”

“Then that’s all that matters, right? 35 bucks please.”

He got up, dazed and reached for his wallet to pay her.

“It’s in your other pocket.  Sit in your car for a few minutes when you leave. You aren’t quite ready to drive yet.”

He nodded and handed her two twenties.  “Keep the change.”

“I said 35 and I meant it,” she said brusquely and handed him a five.

“I don’t know how to thank you,” he said.

“You don’t need to. This is what I do.”

He felt an impulse to hug her, but he restrained himself and left, taking one last glance around the room.

She sat down at the table, staring at the tumbler. Something moved inside. She sighed.

“Here goes nothing,” she said, and raised the glass to her lips. She swallowed what was inside the glass. The knuckles on her fingers glowed bright red for a moment.

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One Night at the Candlelight

20170929_222035

I passed for human most of the time, unless I wanted them to truly see me. I may have had an old-fashioned way of speaking, although I certainly tried to keep up with each era and learn the different new terms. But people just carried their bodies differently a hundred years ago. Watch old news reels and you will see what I mean. I was turned in 1893 and things were just very different then. I will admit there were times over the years  it amused me to show my true self just to see the fear in their eyes.  I was past all that now, since Jadis had entered my life. Imagine falling in love, finally, after 100 years of travelling the earth by oneself. It was ten years since I had turned her, and I still marveled at the curve of her tender little ears, the way she held her wrists just so, the line between her eyes that appeared when she frowned.

 

I knew she loved me too.  After all, most of us tend to be solitary creatures…emphasis on CREATURE.  But she chose to stay with me, and gladly too. She proclaimed that being turned was the best thing that had ever happened to her and she was going to take this gift I had given her and embrace it fiercely…as well as embracing me too. But she did have one condition.  That I give up my human feasts…and turn to other sources, like animals.  She laughed and said that we were our own version of Vegetarians and wasn’t that fabulous. She had a tender heart, a touching reminder of her humanity.
And so, we traveled here and there together, finally settling down for a while in Portland Oregon, because we liked the weather and the quirky nature of the town. There was plenty of food in the countryside on the outskirts of the city, so we didn’t have to go far for our feasting, and there was plenty of food of another kind in the funky little bars and food truck courts and open mike readings and naked bike ride events.  We found that we loved acquiring quirky characters of one kind or another, each with an interesting story to tell. We were always thirsty for the next one to explore…that nattily dressed gentleman over there with the carefully waxed mustache, that oldish woman over yonder with blowsy casbah pants and a purple streak in her hair….or that rather pompish looking banker type who had chosen polka dot socks. Instead of sucking their blood, we sucked their stories out of them and were all the more satiated from it.  And if we liked them and liked their story….ah, well we gave them a little gift. One of us…whomever we thought might be more welcome…would give a little kiss at the end of the story.  And the story-teller would leave feeling strangely invigorated and yes, sexy too. We knew what a gift that was. And the ones who were boring, or worse, arrogant and full of hot air, well, we pricked their bubble a little bit. A gentle nibble on their ear ( not a bite!!!) would give them nightmares for three nights or so. It was only fair.
One evening not long ago we were in one of our favorite little haunts, a little bar called the Candlelight in the southeast part of town.  We had become friends with the bartender Mike and there was a never ending parade of characters wandering through.  It was just our kind of place. I was sitting at the bar chatting with Mike while Jadis was on the dance floor singing a karaoke song….. Hit Me With Your Best Shot by Pat Benatar. She stopped singing and I turned to look at her and felt a blow to my head and I fell off the stool to the floor. There was scrabbling over me and I saw legs going up and over the bar. I jumped up quickly and saw a man screaming at Mike and trying to lunge past Mike to his other bartender Jill, who was crying and hiding behind him.
“Come here BITCH,” the man bellowed…..”I’m a gonna getcha!”  He pulled out a knife.
“Henry!” Jadis yelled, and tossed me a pool stick.  In a flash, I had tapped the knife out of his hand with the stick, knocking him backwards and down, and I jumped over the bar.  I held the bar stick over him, like a stake. I’d vowed a decade earlier that I’d never kill another human being, but at that moment, it seemed impossible that I’d fulfill that promise.  There were other other hands now on the pool stick.  Mikes and Jadis.
“Good job, man,” Mike said. “You can let go now. I got it from here.”
I let go of the pool stick, reluctantly. It would have felt so good to slam it through his rib cage into his worthless heart. Jadis grabbed my hand and placed it on her bosom.  Her heart was racing.  She grinned and I grinned right back.
“You sure do know how to show a girl a good time,” she drawled.
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