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When Your Past Comes Screaming into Your Present…

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I love Facebook.  Really, I do.  I mean I have gotten back in touch with friends I hadn’t seen in YEARS.  It has been great.  Back in the day, you had to wait for a reunion or something to reconnect with folks.  And if they weren’t there, well, you continued to wonder what happened to them.  Of course, there were those that you didn’t want to see again.  The ones you DREADED walking in and finding them there.   I have been lucky.  The one person in my life whom I hope to never see again (the high school boyfriend I wrote about in my post Just Turn Around and Walk Away) has yet to reappear.  And I am fine with that.  Grateful, in fact.

This morning, I pulled up Facebook to see what was happening in the lives of my friends and I had a friend request from someone from high school.  I accepted it and popped over to her page to see what she had been up to in low these past 29 years.   A person on her friend list made my past come screaming into my present.  No.  It wasn’t that evil son-of-a-bitch ex-boyfriend.  If it had been, I probably would have unfriended – and then blocked or something so that bastard couldn’t find out anything about me.  However, it was someone who was intertwined with the whole crazy situation.  The “other girl.”  The girl he was seeing while he was seeing me.

My heart stopped for a minute.  I hadn’t expected it.  Crap.  It’s her.  I couldn’t resist though…I went to her page.  I just had to see.  The curiosity was killing me.  How was she doing?  Was she with him?  Were there pictures of him?  Oh, Lord.  Please don’t let there be.  I just don’t think I could handle it…

So, I started perusing her pictures (Niiiiiiice!  Low privacy settings!)  She looked so happy.  Married.  Does triathalons.  Strong, literally and figuratively (DAMN!  How’d she get muscles like that?!?)  Full of joy.  And absolutely no reference to that crazy bastard.  Thank God.

I finally exhaled.  I think I had been holding my breath the entire time I was checking out her page.

And in that moment, I found myself happy for her.

In that moment, I found myself wondering he had left her as royally fucked up as he did me.

In that moment, I no longer saw her as my high school rival – my combatant – but, as a fellow survivor.

I don’t know if he ever laid a hand on her, like he did to me.  But, I know the emotional toll being “in love” with him had to have caused.  I know, because I lived it, too.

At the time, though, she and I didn’t blame him.  We blamed each other.    To me, she wasn’t a victim.  She was the girl who (at least how he told the story) convinced him at the last-minute (literally at the last-minute.  Like he called me from her house when he went to pick her up) to take her to the Duran Duran concert I had been looking forward to seeing for months.  She was the girl who (at least how he told the story) tried to convince him to take HER to senior prom, instead of me – after all, I had already paid for everything (because his mother had thrown him out of her house and he was living at my father’s house).  She was the girl (or at least how he told the story) who tried to convince the entire band that I was a man-stealing-slut who should be shunned, causing a rift between choir members (who took my side) and band members (she played in the band…HE was a flag twirler…no I am not kidding…).

We were horrible to each other.   We would scream at each other in the parking lot – calling each other the worst possible names.  She would prank call my house – and threaten me.  I did not refer to her by her name.  To me she was simply The Whore.  My senior yearbook has her name and face completely blacked out – while his has hearts drawn around it.

We both thought, “It wasn’t HIS fault.  It was HERS!  She deserves everything she gets!  The bitch!”

One’s senior year should be one of happiness and joy.  A time to make memories to last a lifetime.  Unfortunately, the lifelong memories left by that year are ones I really wish I could forget.  It was horrible.  Truly horrible.

I ran into them once, months after I turned around and walked away from him.  She had “taken him back.”  If I remember correctly, she gloated about it, showing off a ring he had given her.  And while there was no way in hell I wanted him back, I remember being angry he went back to her.  It felt like the ultimate slap in the face.  Not only had I been replaced…I had been replaced by HER.  Damn it!  Damn him!  Damn HER!  I hate them!

I had spent all these years wondering if she had married the asshole.  Not jealous, but scared for her.  Worried that his pattern of abuse had continued, and that she was still living it.

Today, as I lurked on her page and saw her smiling face, I felt relief.  Relief that she too had escaped.  Relief that she too had managed to pick up the shattered pieces of her psyche and go on with her life.  Relief that she was happy.

And in that moment, as my past came screaming into my present, I also felt regret.  Regret for having hated her.  Regret for having called her a whore.  Regret for taking it out on her.

It wasn’t her fault.  It was his.  He stole from us.  He stole our joy.  He stole our youth.  He stole our trust.

But, he will NEVER be able to steal from the strong women we have become.  Despite and in spite of him.


The Tattooed Arm

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Daily Prompt: Stranger.

Have you ever had a random encounter or fleeting moment with a stranger that stuck with you?

I got my first “real” job (not counting countless hours babysitting) my senior year of high school.  I was a “flyer” at the Jordan Marsh in the Palm Beach Mall.  I was basically a fill in sales associate.  I never knew which department I’d be working in that shift.  Some days I’d be at the candy counter – other times, I’d be in Better Sportswear.  I liked those days best!

One evening, I was working amongst the fabulous clothing in better sportswear – which also housed the swimwear collection.  It was a particularly slow night.  Only a few customers wandered in.  So, I busied myself straightening the clothes.  Then an older woman came in.  She was looking for a new swimsuit.  She was petite.  Somewhere around five feet tall and maybe a hundred pounds soaking wet.  Her pure white hair was cut in an adorable little pixie cut.  Her tanned skin let me know she spent a lot of time in her community’s swimming pool.  We chatted about her needs in a swimsuit, and I helped her pick out several styles to try.  Then I ushered her into the fitting room.

After a bit, she emerged with not just one, but two swimsuits.  A Gottex (for about $125) and a Roxanne (about $100).  It was my best sale of the evening – probably for the whole week.

She came over to my register and I started ringing up her sale, chatting with her about random things.

As she rummaged in her purse for her wallet, the sleeve of her thin sweater rose up to her elbow – and I saw them.  The numbers tattooed on the inside of her forearm.  The numbers that tagged her as having been in a concentration camp.  The numbers that proved her to be a survivor of the Holocaust.

Growing up in South Florida, I am sure I had encountered other survivors.  Others that had endured the inexplicable horrors.  But, this was the first where I had the proof literally in front of my eyes.

I couldn’t wrap my relatively sheltered 17-year-old brain around it.

I wanted to acknowledge it.

I wanted to say something.  Anything.

I wanted to say, “I’m sorry.”

But nothing seemed right.

I didn’t want to embarrass her, and I didn’t want to dredge up memories for her.

So, I just finished our transaction and wished her a pleasant evening.

I have never forgotten her.  As I visited the National Holocaust Museum, I thought about her, and what she must have lived through.  This sweet little woman put a very personal face on the experience.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.