We called her the black widow. Said she used boys like kleenex. I think I remember this before I remember her last name.
Maybe we were all the jealous girls who wished we could look like her, wished we could sing like her, and wished we could capture the heart of any boy in a one-stoplight town. We were the guys she changed her mind about and left behind without ever looking back long enough to explain. We were stung by life’s unfairness and we were hurt.
We were the teachers who fell in love with her and then hated ourselves. The middle-aged women who served her plates of french fries and snickers sundaes in the diner and remembered laughing as loud as she was laughing, her hair falling down her back in thick waves, her teeth bright and white and straight-without-braces. We were the people with dreams who had lost them and saw her now, full of talent and optimism, making fun of us with every high note she hit.
Don’t get me wrong. She was a great girl, probably. Everything she ever did seemed to say, “Love me,” and so we smiled and clapped and hugged her until she felt loved. Then we drove away and in the safety of our own cars, we slowly began to say what we thought. That her smile was too big. Her voice too loud. She was too tall. Her eyes made you feel judged and her words seemed fake (when she bothered talking to you).
I don’t know. Maybe we all really loved her, underneath our resentment and bitterness and self-hatred. But when she got married and you could see her baby-bump under the seed pearls and lace, we all breathed a sigh of relief. She fell out of the newspaper, wore foundation, and only sang in church. Her kids grew up big and strong and beautiful, and we loved them just as much as we’d loved her once, long ago.