Just a Face
By Fujimi (不死身)
"Once a newspaper touches a story, the facts a lost forever, even to the protagonist."
Norman Mailer, Esquire, June 1960
The headline of her death is emblazoned in my mind. It read: "Young Girls Body Found In Ditch." Nobody knew, nor ever figured out, who she was. Except for me. I know exactly who she was. I may not know her name, but I know her. I know her story throughout from when it miserably started to when it ended. Every possible detail that the press would have devoured in seconds, I have. The picture they made up for her on the computer is an okay likeness, but they didn't capture her ultimate essence. Of course, how could they? They didn't know who she was. She was fifteen at the time of her venomous murder. She would be about twenty-five today.
I thought I had escaped her and my guilty conscience when the story faded, and I no longer had to see her haunting face. I was wrong, apparently. Everywhere I go, that face haunts me. Every teenager I see with long, brown hair, I jump, thinking she may have come back to condemn me for not coming forward with what I know. However, I foresaw that the police would never believe me. They wouldn't believe "trash," as they so eloquently phrase it, like me. No, they'd rather believe her rich "daddy."
I don't even know what his appearance is, and I abhor his spirit down to every heinous fiber that may be imprisoned inside. They found her murdered body thrown in a ditch – made when a construction was going on but abandoned later on – like she was some ineffective rag doll. Her father could just throw her away when she was causing trouble and may damage his artificial ego. That's the message I received when the case went cold. I doubt that he even remembers his golden-eyed daughter at this moment. She was just tossed away like an old toy.
The image still haunts me to this day. What she said to me that day in the house . . . it makes every part of my body shudder at what she had to endure. Her anguish was worse than mine, which I didn't fathom possible back then. I can no longer bear to keep this a secret. How clear it is, what I heard her tell me, her brutal honesty that I didn't doubt for a second; the way her voice was dispiriting, bitter, drained of all sentiment.
Now, to escape this ghost that persists to haunt me, I will release my story. You may or may not believe me; it's your choice. You may or may not approve of her lifestyle and that is also your choice. Nevertheless, keep in mind that she thought nobody would hear her out if she spoke the truth against her respected father. I will never truly know if her presumption would have been correct, but I can make an obvious guess. Once you turn down the road that the general population disapproves of, there's no going back. You're forever branded who you were. This is what would have happened to her; I know that much is true.
However, this is not about contemplating what might have been. This is sharing the truth for all who wish to seek it or who are curious as to what drove this girl into my world. The world that once you get in, it's almost impossible to climb back out.
I met her through a coincidence. We were both quite young and broken from the lives we had lived. Looking for escape, we turned to the only one that was constantly available and would stick with us no matter what. The ultimate joy of a narcotic substance is not one to be relished upon if someone has not experienced it first-hand. It is one that gives you the ultimate escape from your reality into a world of endless opportunities where you thrive and live with no one from your past, present, or future. Once it has caught hold of you, its allure is one of the most arduous things to escape. The feeling of your first time comes back to you, and you just need more. You need to feel the rush of floating atop everything that was once weighing you down.
I suppose that's what gravitated us together. It was an act of perchance on both our parts. That we happened to be in the same house and even walked into the same room – even though she may have entered where I was having a nausea attack intentionally, she chose me at random from the house's residents. I do not know if I should call that a blessing or a curse, as I have been haunted by her face but I am able to tell the truth, something that may have not happened if she told someone else who then might have overdosed or "fell off the face of the earth," as some people put it when someone is missing.
At first, she was just another random face walking about in our – mine and the people I had run away with – haven of beautiful, luscious drugs that could take you wherever you desired – unless you had a bad trip. The first time we really got introduced, to say the least, was while I was experiencing a hangover and she was trying to get over hers. It happened in the bathroom, which was dusty and covered with dirt and musk. It was an archaic house, in which the owners had moved out a long time ago. The house, though, stayed standing, and we found it to be an excellent place to squat for a while.
In the bathroom, I had just finished adding more to the pile of waste in the toilet in which the plumbing was destroyed. When I leaned up against the straight bathroom wall with peeling off-white wallpaper that was to the right of the toilet, I finally noticed that there was somebody in the room with me. She just began talking. I don't know why. I didn't insinuate that she had to and hadn't expected her to.
"Hangovers suck," she began.
I barely nodded my head, still feeling the nausea that was weighing it down zealously.
"You know what's the worst part?"
I said nothing, not feeling in the mood to speak to someone who was probably high.
"Puking," she answered, saying the word as a child disgusted with something may do so.
I shrugged my shoulders in response. I didn't know what this girl wanted and didn't really care much. I just needed a joint.
"You know, I've never squatted before."
I believe I made a small grunting noise in my throat. That, of course, triggered more nausea, and I leaned over the toilet once more, smelling the repulsive sickness of last time. When I had finished vomiting even more of the substances out of my system and sat back down to stop shaking, which my body automatically does after it has disposed of foreign waste, she began again, changing the subject completely.
"You know what I like most about this place?"
I said nothing and didn't move to confirm that I was listening. I was, but barely just half-listening to this girl who wouldn't shut-up and let me rest until I could move and use all my motor-skills again.
"The drugs. They are, like . . . good." She giggled at her last statement, and by then, I definitely knew that she was high. I faded out after that and can't remember what happened next. All I do know is that the next time I was conscience, I was lying on the bathroom floor with vomit all over my tarnished shirt.
The next time she and I met, it was not as repulsive. Sure, I was going through another hangover again, as I did that every time I wake up from a stupor. However, this time she wasn't quite so high. In fact, I'm not sure if she had had any fixes at all that day. Though I'm not sure what was going through her mind at that time, I do know that what she said to me while I was resting is enough to make me want to have blacked-out at the time. Just so I wouldn't have to worry about every time I see somebody with golden eyes and wonder if it is she.
I was just resting in the bathroom. My nausea had withdrawn, and I was smoking a cigarette when she came in. It wasn't like last time. She wasn't wobbling on her feet or walking aimlessly around the darkened house only lit by a few candles downstairs where most of the people hung out, smoking their weed and having sex. She came in and sat right beside me. She seemed calm enough to know where she was and to whom she was talking, so I went for it and acknowledged her by scooting over a bit. We sat in sheer muteness for a bit. It wasn't awkward; we were just both enveloped in our own thoughts at the time.
"You know, it's funny," she began calmly, looking straight ahead at the door, which was falling off of its rusting hinges. "We – well, maybe not you, I don't know about you – but I came here to get away, you know?"
I didn't respond. I wanted to see where this was going, what she was trying to tell me.
"My father . . ." she paused after she said that and laughed a bitter laugh, shaking her head back and forth, which made the end of her long, greasy, waving hair shake a bit, "he's a real piece of work. You know, he sent the cops after me. Acting like he really cares. A real class act, I bet, he put on for those police officers. 'Oh! My daughter's missing! Well, she's had a little drug problem. I just don't know what to do with her. I've given her everything!' I bet that's what he said to them. Making it out as if I'm the evil girl who ran away because I'm pampered with wealth. They probably think I'm just some girl who ran away from 'rich daddy' because I didn't get my way all the time. They don't know anything."
She stopped and swallowed, hard. I could practically hear the lump in her throat as she went on, her voice distant and quivering slightly. "They don't know what he did – does – to me. And he's gonna get me back. 'Cause without me, what can he take his pressures out on? He's got enough money to search all over this fucked country, too. Just to bring me back home and have his way with me. Just like always. When Mother died and he couldn't get any more . . ." She laughed her heinous cackle and continued, "You know, he used to tell me I looked just like Mother? Yeah, I was the fucking spitting image in his eyes. He told me that the first time, too."
She lowered her voice a couple of notches, trying not to scream out in rage at the person who had shitted up her life so badly. "I was fucking six years old, you know that? Six years old and he shoves himself inside of me like I'm a goddamn doll just to be played with then thrown away after it gets old. And you know what he did next? Yeah, knocked the shit outta me. Hurt like shit to walk and move at all. When I complained, just a little bit, he laughed. 'Shut it, you useless piece of fuck. You don't complain after all I've given you. You have everything you'll ever fucking want. You know how many people would kill you just to get to me? Now, shut up and don't say a word,' he had threatened, I remember clearly, 'or else you'll get the fucking shit knocked outta you again. You are such a goddamn crying fucker.' Then, he laughed and said, 'It's not like anybody would believe a worthless girl like you anyway. Now, get lost.' Then he murmured, maliciously and mockingly, like he truly cared, 'Daddy loves you.' "
She shuttered. "I can still hear that laugh."
For the first time since she sat down next to me, she turned her head in my direction, and I could see how truly painful that story was to tell. Her face revealed almost everything. The golden eyes that were bloodshot and had turned a pale yellow told of the tears she yielded inside of her. Underneath, it was sunken and had shades of black, which made her seem depressed and ready to just die, to get it over with. The long, once seemingly graceful brown hair hung limp in strings down her back. It revealed that she hadn't had a shower in a while, yes, as neither had almost any of us living here. But it also showed she didn't care about outward appearances. She just didn't give a shit about what people thought about her. She had probably given up caring about anything a long time ago.
Her low, trembling voice broke my scrutiny of her physique. "I bet I know the first thing he's gonna do when he gets me home, too." She needn't say anymore. And she couldn't either, for her emotions outran her strength, and the golden eyes started to pour out salty streaks that graced the front of her grimy face and made it unblemished again.
The streaks looked so foreign and unsought on her face that I had the impulse to yell at them, and make them stop making her vulnerable. Being here and in a vulnerable state is dangerous. You never know what people will do when they are escaping reality to a place where they are the rulers. Common sense doesn't matter and laws don't matter. You can do whatever you want to whomever you see when you're in your own fantasy.
We made no movements. Complete stillness entranced us as we communicated through reading each other's emotions, slowly flashing and coming up abruptly on each other's faces. We were forming a bond that can never be imitated by me again. Nor have I heard anybody else make the sort of magical connection that she and I did that night. Just the complete stillness mixed with the golden eyes of her seeing straight through my barrier of gray into what I hid inside. The moment lasted an eternity as time stood still, no clocks moving, just the low, dull noise of the people downstairs.
"Raid! Run!" a guy whose voice I did not recognize screamed throughout the house. Then, we heard the front door downstairs crash open and voices telling everybody to put their hands into the air. We wouldn't have gotten away even if we tried. I knew that cops surrounded the outside while arresting every squatter on the inside. As I felt myself being lifted up onto my feet by two forceful hands, I sought out at my companion. However, she had already disappeared out the door.
The hands led me out of the bathroom that held a white toilet that had turned a shade of light brown and a sink, standing alone, not quite as bad off as the toilet, because nobody used the sink; we had no water. I was being lead away from my huge barren room, which had one closet seemingly squeezed in by the door on the right side. Then, down the long hallway with the stairs at the end and two doors off to the left, one on the right. The hallway was carpeted and covered with vomit and drugs, which were sporadically thrown onto it. Wide it wasn't, but nevertheless, drugs were everywhere. Down the wooden stairs stained with more drugs and some waste from people not being able to reach the toilet, which was all the way up the stairs and in the first door to the right, next to the end of the banister at the top.
Next, turn to the south and head straight, and you'll find yourself at the garage door. Fallen clothes, alcohol and narcotic substances were mostly down here. Just as you get down the stairs, though and turn south, if you turn left, you'll find another hallway, and at the end of it, the front door, huge and wooden. Painted (but moldering off, of course) white on the inside and red on the outside, it was the only thing that had not been hugely affected by us squatters, because we did not go either out or in unless you were one of unaccountable inhabitants who did the food runs. They know how to sneak in and out quietly and without notice, so they're the only ones who are allowed to leave and come back.
Once outside, walk straight up the sidewalk and there's the street. About a dozen cops cars were scattered throughout at odd angles, and I felt my head being pushed down, the door closing behind me. One last time, I tried to find her, but I was unsuccessful. She seemed to have dissipated into the night.
I had to spend ten months in a juvenile hall, since I was a minor back then. It's when I finally got out of that goddamn place that I found out. A newspaper happened upon me by chance. The headline read: "Young Girls Body Found In Ditch." Right away, an instinct told me it was she. A computer had fixed up the face so that it resembled her, but they got it all wrong. I guess they didn't use a real picture because the article said that her head was all smashed in.
The most ironic things that caught my interest were the articles in different newspapers that only talked about the raid and how she had been into drugs heavily. Even how she'd apparently had had sexual intercourse before she was beaten to death. I wonder how they didn't connect the dots, but I guess they really didn't want to.
After all, she was just another random face on the headline news.
Written December 2005; revised June 2012