Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Things of Nightmares...

Warning: Serious blog post here. If you're looking for fluff, skip to another post now.

The things of nightmares are not those which we see in cheesy horror films. Serious, soul-breaking things of nightmares come into your life when they're least expected and leave scars you might think you've forgotten until long after the fact when just a few words brings back the searing pain and rational fear from the past. Yes, friends, rational fear. That of which you should be afraid. Very afraid.

All it took for me tonight was a casual mention of an event from long ago. 14 years or so now. That's all that was necessary to get my blood chilling in my veins as my pulse raced. Fourteen years ago, in winter, right around New Year's.

I had a good friend in high school, her name was Kim. We hung around together after meeting in a television broadcasting class. Thinking of that time, my first memory is of the music videos we had to make in class, using specific camera techniques and varied shots. I remember Kim and I filming those scenes, all intentionally goofy, and getting scolded for being too loud in the school's hallway. Her video was to "The Joker" by Steve Miller, mine set to "Velvet Dog" as performed by Sister Psychic. I think I might still have a videotape copy of those somewhere in my "storage-of-the-can't-bear-to-get-rid-of-it."

Kim and I took trips together to Lake Chelan and various other places. Sometimes when one of us was feeling particularly stressed, we'd just get in the car and drive. We'd hit all the typical hangouts: Denny's and Seattle coffee houses. I remember on one occasion, Kim pulled me out of a concert at the youth center with something on her mind. She always knew where to find me in the days before cell phones.

Kim graduated the year before I did. She was taking community college and working temp jobs and at an auto parts store. She'd come get me and we'd do whatever. There was one time that I picked her up in my grandparents' car, then we returned to my place to get my notebook. I was writing then, before my writer's anxiety became the problem it is today. Well... I came back outside and the car wouldn't start. So we walked all the way across town to her house to pick up her car. We still ended up at Denny's, hours later than planned and freezing cold. That was a night!

Kim was the one who dragged me to UW to be an unpaid extra in that Marlon Wayans movie. She's also the reason I can't watch the film. Because even the mere thought of what happened to her still brings on panic attacks.

It was winter and Kim had returned from San Diego for the holidays. I had gotten her a carton of cigarettes as a gift. I know it wasn't the most healthy gift to give, but I also knew that she was short on money because her Americorps stipend covered very little. She was planning to spend the night at the condo that I shared with an on/off boyfriend in Crossroads. It had started to snow and we were hunkered down for the night; I wasn't going to be driving my beater car in the snow. Did we walk to the grocery store? I think we did. But Kim got really sick during the night. Her dad came in the snow to pick her up because she was too miserable to continue the visit and because I was too scared to try and navigate her hill in the weather.

That was the last time I saw her. We had planned to get together, but the day came and went. I had assumed she was either still not feeling well or that she had gotten sidetracked with family. But the day she was supposed to leave came and I still hadn't heard anything. I called her house multiple times, but only got the machine. It didn't seem right. Had I missed her and her family was seeing her off at the airport?

The next day I got a phone call from my grandma. Kim had been found murdered in the park near her house. When police went to her home, they found the bodies of her parents and sister, brutally beaten. I don't know what hit me after the denial which was so great that I had to rush up to the 7-11 and buy a newspaper to confirm what I had just been told. Was it the grief for missed opportunities to see a friend? The guilt that I should have been there with her (her parents had offered to rent me a room when I decided I needed to get out of my mom's house)? Or was it the soul-shaking fear that whomever murdered my friend was still out there... and might be someone I know?

The nightmares were the worst. Especially the one where I was there in the house, seeing everything through the eyes of someone else, knowing that I was powerless to stop what was about to happen. The VCR had been stolen in an attempt to make it look like a robbery. I just remember the dream; seeing things through someone else's eyes, watching as these hands disconnected the VCR from its cables. That was the dream that caused my roommate and I to flee in the middle of the night to his parents house. I didn't sleep a lot for months.

Years later, I was working in a restaurant in Issaquah when I received a phone call from the prosecutor's office. They apparently had been looking for me for a long time... in all the wrong places as a friend of a friend had been totally wrong about where I lived and worked. They were looking to establish a motive for the killings and wanted to talk with me. The next day, I spent my lunch break being questioned by two members of the prosecuting team. They thought I knew something useful. They told me they would need me to testify. The nightmare hadn't ended; it had only taken a break.

To this day, I'm petrified of courtrooms. They hadn't needed me in the trial of the first killer, but it took two trials to put away his accomplice. The first trial was not too horrible. They kept me in an office until it was my turn to testify, thankfully sparing me from more information than I wanted to have to hear. The questioning was easy and there was no cross-examination. Unfortunately, they ended up in a mistrial when the dickhead accomplice charged that his lawyer wasn't making any effort to defend him. No wonder I got off easy.

The second trial was what seemed like a millenia in hell, though I'm sure I was only in that courtroom a few minutes. The new defense lawyer tried to tear me apart in any manner he could. I suspect that my testimony must have meant a lot to the case, but all I remember was coming out of there shaking like a leaf. The next day, my name was in the paper. I was really bothered by that. Knowing that my name was out there left me with a whole new case of anxiety.

After the trials were over, I took Kim's pager, which I had bought from her before she moved to San Diego and threw in in Lake Washington at the park that she and I would go to sometimes just to shoot the shit.

Years later, it seems that I have only thought of these events as a fleeting memory. Until tonight when a casual mention of the murders on Facebook brought all of this back. Nightmares like this never end, they just go dormant.

Kim's dream was to be an actress and I envision her as being a wonderfully goofy actress, like the person she was in real life. She had an amazing spark to her and related to people of all backgrounds, even if she was a slightly doting and meddling friend.

Kim and I in a slightly prophetic photograph taken at Chelan Gorge on a condemned bridge, we argued about who got to lay in the outline:
Super Bowl party:

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