Friday, July 17, 2015

It's a Blog

The last time I wrote in this blog, somebody died.

That's what it takes to get me to scratch out more than 140 characters anymore, apparently.

I'll try to do a better job, though don't expect this post to be any good. Somebody else has died.  Because that's what it fucking takes.

I discovered, against my will, that when someone dies, and it affects me, I take to the page. It's the only thing that makes sense to do.

I've not been called to do so, but, I *know this girl, so...this is what I do when someone dies.

Her ma and I used to pull shit back in high school together, though she was much better at it than me.  I grew up and moved away, she grew up and stayed.  Babies, grand babies and all--she lived the rural thing with her land, and her horses and kids and husband.  Jodi was her youngest child, at 20.

My friend and her husband, I tell most anyone who will listen, are two of the finest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  There is a line in an Indigo Girls song that goes, "That's the place where it feels good fallin'." That's what those two are to me. Go away, come back, flop down in a seat in their shop and it's like you never left. Hours later, you finally look at the time and say, "shit, I should probably call my mom." That's just how it is there. Sophisticated? Purposefully not. Educated? They know their shit, meaning, they know everything about what they need to know about and don't bother with the rest of it, which keeps things simple for them I guess. Seems luxurious in the telling.

My friend jokes that she is Granny Clampett, and I think that's as close a pop-culture description as any of us could pull out of our asses, so we'll go with it. Yes, she has oil money. No it hasn't changed her. She is the exact same person she always was: Heart of gold, means well, mischievous as all hell, easy laugh, always offers a pipe, and takes care of her own. "Her own," by the way, is an ever expanding circle.  When she is talking about one of her kids, or even just someone close to the family, she calls them "our Jane" or "our Mike" (or whatever) and takes ownership of their well-being in that way. It's a thing so unique to anyone I know, and demonstrates fully how very much she considers she and her husband a team, and her family a team. 

Anyway...about Jodi.

When I say I know this girl, I must confess up front...I don't know this girl.  I've not met her or spent time talking to her or babysat her, and she and my kids weren't friends or anything like that. And I accept the fact that I am an asshole for saying that I did know her, but you know what...?  Fuck it, I did.

I WAS her, for several years, anyway, and she was certainly her mother's daughter, so...yes. I know exactly who the fuck she was.

And that's the best and worst thing about this story.

Rural North Dakota...that life is not easy. It's not any easy thing. Not easy to raise kids, not easy to get by, not easy to drive to the store and get fucking groceries in February. I left because I'm fucking lazy and I thought I was special. The people who stay, even though it is the modern times now and you can get the internet and everything (yes...people still assume it's wagon trails...), it's still not easy for them. Being a kid there--ages 15-22, say--it's not like being a kid here in the city. I tell people I am lucky to be alive, and you know what? I'm not kidding. Teenage life, depending on who you hang with, can be harrowing there. You get in the wrong car, go to the wrong party, might not make it home. 

One could say the same is true no matter where you grow up--I'm not so sure. My kids grew up in a city and I never once thought about them dying by being drunk and chasing a herd of deer through a pasture in a 4WD pickup being driven by someone equally drunk and stupid. I suppose my mom never thought of that, either, but that's one of the many ways I almost died in my teens. Got lucky. On my father's 50th birthday, he was called out to help the volunteer ambulance crew cut my younger brother and friends out of a vehicle they had smashed up while drunk. Everyone survived, but again...lucky. The history of Western ND, and especially my friend's family, is full of young people dying, in ways city kids don't even think about. I'm more afraid for my daughter when she visits her grandparents and friends out there than I ever am here in Minneapolis.

And so...Jodi.  I won't say how she died, but I will say with some certainty that dying was not her intention--probably never occurred to her. She was doing something that I probably would have done, if I was her age and I still lived there. She was a smart girl, and smart girls...have a harder time in that place. Being a girl, first of all, comes with more and different pressure than being a guy. That's true everywhere, but really amplified, I think, in a small town. You spend a lot of time thinking/wishing things were different. The things you do to shut your brain don't admit that's why you do them, but it is. None of it ever works, and if it does, it's only temporary, but you do it anyway because the thinking can be painful when you feel like people won't understand or accept what's coming out of you.  It's different for girls. You dream the same as other girls in other places do, but your options are limited, and yours seem so far out of reach that it's painful--that's not to say that these kids are killing themselves purposely, they're just taking risks that 9 times out of ten will be a funny story later, but the 10th time, it's the sheriff driving to your parent's house and asking to come in. Their moms and dads may not remember being bored and unhappy and looking for something. To them, it's the perfect life--quiet, everybody knows everybody, and they know exactly what to expect, every day. That's like walking death for some kids, so they do things to just shut it all out for a while. To this very day, I still crave that--it's in the blood. Sometimes I can't take people telling me what to do or even suggesting what to do with my life. I just have the wisdom/luxury/maturity to be alone now, instead of trying to medicate or scare it out of myself like I used to when I was her age.

The randomness of it all is what hurts those left behind, especially because we've all done that kind of shit. I'd raise a fucking beer to the girl, and I know that's what her family and friends are doing, but it all just seems so fucking wrong that this is the first way of honoring her that pops into all our heads. That's how we handle it. That's how we handle everything.

Is there an "It Gets Better" campaign for rural girls? There should be.

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