She really did not know any better.
After all she was only 17 and had the baby far too young….impregnated by the man, the boy really, who was the drummer in the band she followed. An older man of 22.
I was witness to this wretchedness because , at age 16, i was dating the bass player in the same band.
This is a memory I’ve been hiding from for years, but i feel the call of it now, as i remember the freezing cold night it all took place. These prompts are sometimes pure therapy, pure recall, pure stirring of the soul of life’s hidden moments. These prompts are devilish.
It is said one must face the things one most fears….especially writers…and actors of course, who, as i was so often told, must learn to use even the most terrifying of emotional events as fuel for the art, for the privilege of giving it all back to an audience and perhaps enlivening their memories. Shaking their souls.
Anyway….i digress. Because i am scared to recall this particular night.
But i push onward.
I am clearly called to remember it right now….that moment of chilly loss. Chilling. Loss.
You see, not knowing any better, on that icy winter night in Atlanta, the girl of 17 left her baby of 12 months in the back seat of the drummers car, while she went inside the club and had a drink or two and did her best to look sexy and available for her musician love. Someone went out to smoke some pot and discovered the baby.
Dead and frozen through and through in that car’s back seat, all swaddled and dead.
Even now, I am ashamed and terrified of what my decades- old self now feels and recalls of the horror of that night , that moment of reality that seemed to unfold like the pages of a comic book, it is so garish in my memory.
As for the deeper reality of that high school weeknight – i think it was a Thursday because my mom kept me home from school the next day i was so catatonic with sadness and nausea – i recall it barely as several scenes from a sordid tv police procedural, for that is all i ever knew then of how frightening life could be. Television shows, like Dragnet or The Streets of San Francisco.
Street thugs and car chases.
i remember the glare of the cop cars coming to the miserable club parking lot.
Everyone was breathing out frosty puffs of winter air.
I remember my nose being very cold, and my mouth painfully dry.
I remember the nausea. And the prickly feeling of numbness not caused by the cold.
None of the band seemed to crowd together, as if doing so would be admitting the band was at fault.
But of course, the band was only doing what high school bands ever do: looking as sexy as possible and playing music to ignite the spirits of all their local fans. It wasn’t the band’s fault the 17-year old girl killed her baby. Surely, the girl didn’t mean to kill her darling daughter.
She just didn’t think.
I held the volcanically shivering and terrified girl as we rode together to the hospital.
The cops brought her dead baby.
Her celebrity Atlanta Journal and Constitution columnist mother met us there….at the Crawford Long Hospital.
i remember now that hospital was where i was actually born, a mere 16 years earlier, but i didn’t remember that then. I believe my brain had shut down. It does that for us, our brains: it shuts down.
From then on, for me, it was all hallways flourescently lit, crying, the moaning of all around us, the unbelievable reality of it all.
The columnist mother holding her poor ruined daughter.
The daughter finally, as i was leaving with my warm and caring mother, the daughter finally in a room alone with her dead child singing to her.
“Pack up all your care and woe,
Here we go, swinging low,
Honestly, i never saw the girl, her drummer, or even my bass player ever again.
Too bad …i see them now.