Continued...Carolynn Kingyens: The Friend of a Friend of a Friend
When something big occurs on the continuum of time, it’s normal for us to unconsciously draw associations to help anchor ourselves forever to that memory. I’ve imagined, for example, my mother learning of JFK’s assassination while at the hair salon, her Jackie Kennedy-colored locks set in hair rollers, her head tucked under some loud, helmet-looking 60’s hairdryer.
Unable to hear anyone speaking, I’d imagined my mother’s pretty, gold-flecked, brown eyes gaze up briefly from her LIFE Magazine, at first, a little perplexed as she witnessed one lady fall to her knees, another clutch at her chest, a few more covering their painted, bow-shaped mouths with the palm of their hands. Maybe for a split-second in time, it appeared to my mother as an impromptu, parlor game of charades with the subject line tagged – “shock and grief.”
Where were you when?
In September 1986, I was an awkward and confused 12 ½ year old, when I heard the news at soccer practice that the friend of a friend of a friend had been raped and murdered, found drowned and beaten in a ditch somewhere in Bucks County. I later learned she went to my brother’s middle school, but he didn’t know her well. I didn’t know her either, but I knew people in the neighborhood who did. She was only 13 years old, one year older than me.
The news made me both sad and anxious. All the parents were warning their children, especially their young daughters, about a man going around flashing a shiny, fake police badge in order to lure away young, impressionable girls to his “unmarked” squad car on the false pretense of violating curfew. It wasn’t long until he was apprehended, and quickly brought to justice.
A few years ago, I Googled her name for the first time, and was able to see her photo. I was always curious as we didn’t have social media back then. She looked like a child to me now - frozen in time. She had the big, teased-out hairstyle that all of the tweens and high school girls had back in the mid-80’s, myself included. Today, if she was alive, she would be 47.
I remember, a year after her murder, kicking a soccer ball around at an elementary school that was located down the street from my family’s new home in suburbia. It was getting dark, and I was alone. A man, in a maroon car, drove by slowly, then parked in the empty parking lot at the school. He walked over to me, and tried to make conversation. I can still remember his eyes the most. They looked wild, predatory. He kept his hands in his pockets the entire time, and acted a bit cagey. He’d sometimes pace, making me feel uneasy. I ran like Forrest Gump after he asked me if I wanted to leave and get some ice cream with him. That night, I laid in bed unable to sleep, thinking about the murdered girl who was the friend of a friend of a friend.
That could have been me, I thought.
That could have been anybody.