I started the DSU summer session classes just a few weeks after that let-down graduation from high school. I took a full load of classes. I went on several field trips with my Geology 101 class and joined the Paleontology Club. I competed in the election to the be our dorm student representative at the DSU housing board and won. By the end of the summer I had two groups of friends on campus: some classmates from the Geology Department and some people from the Art Department. I hung out with the Art Department classmates just for fun: I knew they weren’t the sort I could rely on in a crisis.
I also started a new relationship, the one I now have with Brian. He’s a classmate and another geology major, so we have a lot in common. Things between us just sort of happened. We always hung out together on our field trips, we worked as lab partners, and we studied together. I suppose that would be “friend zone” type stuff for most people, but over the summer we connected.
I had to come to terms with my sexuality the first time when Brian and I kissed each other. I was surprised when I realized I was attracted to him. For a while, I had thought guys wouldn’t interest me after my time with Yvonne, but that turned out not to be true. I realized I’m bi-sexual. I can go either way, depending on the person. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, but I know that people are kinda weirded-out by it. Anyhow, Brian is a nice, quiet guy, all about his major and sharing that with me. And, I know he kinda had a rotten relationship when he was a senior, and is recovering from that. So, we really do have a lot in common.
I never talked about Yvonne. When I cleared my SIM card, I completely deleted her from my life. At least that’s what I thought. I had no evidence in my possession that she ever existed at all. She wasn’t even in my high school annual, because, typical of her, she had missed photo day for the annual.
So, with my new home, my new major, my new classmates, and my new boyfriend, I was starting a completely new life. Everything seemed to be working out.
One detail of my life that didn’t change from high school is that I still love being naked. I’m always naked in my dorm room and I like going to the nude beach that we have just down the road. One of the student organizations I belong to is the campus “free-the-nipple” group. Since at DSU it’s allowed, a lot of the time I run around topless on campus. I’d go fully nude if it was legal. I wish it was, but at least at DSU women can be “top-free”, and no one will say anything. Fortunately, Brian’s kinda the same way, so we always go to the beach together and he’s gone to support me when I’ve attended “free the nipple” rallies with my group in Sacramento.
Anyhow, the reason I’m saying all this is that Brian and I planned, from the beginning of the fall semester, to join the annual DSU Halloween streaking event. He hadn’t actually gone streaking before, so for him it was gonna be a new experience. I had told him that I went streaking a couple of times around my neighborhood with a friend in high school, but made it sound like it was short and casual. I didn’t, for example, share with him that I had climbed a construction crane in the nude at 2:00 in the morning and was totally exposed 20 stories above the city.
We dressed up for Halloween. We made matching rock costumes out of cardboard and spray-paint: Brian was quartz and I was feldspar. Yes, I know, it was totally lame, but we’re geology majors, so we decided to go with some inside humor. Anyhow, we were totally naked under our rock costumes. Shortly before midnight we went with a bunch of other people from my dorm to the student memorial center, to the big party they have there every year. We partied, danced, and drank: it was a lot of fun. When the DJ shouted: “OK all you perverts and sexual deviants! It’s time to get NAKED!” all Brian and I had to do was lift our rock costumes over our heads, and we were ready to run.
It was when we were running that something snapped in my head. For a moment I saw her. I saw Yvonne running with us. Then everyone else vanished. I was running alone, with her. I stopped. She looked at me over her shoulder and then vanished.
I stood still, trying to catch my breath. I don’t know how long I was there, but it must have been a while, because when I came out of whatever was happening to me, everyone else was gone. Only Brian and a couple of my dorm-mates were still with me, trying to get my attention.
“I’m sorry. Sorry. I guess I… I… I gotta go back to my room. Sorry I messed this up for you guys. But… I… gotta go back.”
We didn’t bother going back to get our rock costumes. While the others went back to the student center to get their outfits, Brian simply walked me back to the dorm.
“Call me? Text me? Please? I need to know you’re OK.”
“Yeah-yeah. Just… go… I’m… sorry…”
I was really spooked. I mean, for a moment she was so real, as real as anything else on campus that night. I sat on my bed, running my fingers through my hair and wondering what I should do. Was she somehow trying to reach out to me? Did she need my help? How would I even know?
Finally, I thought of something I should have done when she first went missing: trying to look her up online. I don’t know why I didn’t think about that earlier. Anyhow, I didn’t get my answer right away. I found out there’s a bunch of Yvonne Jacksons all around America, with all kinds of stuff on the Internet, but not the one I was looking for. I started narrowing down the search with different filters and trying different things with her name. And then, finally, I saw it:
Teenager dies during raid at local massage parlor
Eastwood District, Tri-Cities – April 04
The chief of the Eastwood District Police Precinct declined to give any comment about the death of a teenager during a raid last week that targeted a local adult business, Gi-Gi’s Healing Touch. Police records show that Gi-Gi’s Healing Touch was under investigation by the Tri-City Vice-Squad Task-Force for alleged prostitution. The raid resulted in the arrests of the establishment’s manager Betty Kim (also known as Gi-Gi), five employees, and four customers. Kim, the employees, and the customers will be charged with prostitution and solicitation and prosecuted “to the fullest extent of the law”.
A sixth employee of Gi-Gi’s Healing Touch, whose identity has been confirmed as 18-year-old high school senior Yvonne Jackson, died while trying to avoid arrest. Witnesses stated that Jackson climbed out of a second-floor window and ran along the first-floor roof before jumping to the ground. An officer pursued Jackson and ordered her to stop, but she ran off the property.
Witnesses stated that two officers engaged Jackson in a foot pursuit, but she was faster and managed to outrun them. A motorized officer joined the chase, went around the block, and attempted to intercept her from the direction she was running. Jackson abruptly changed course and ran into the path of an oncoming SUV. She was killed on impact and pronounced dead-on-arrival at the Eastwood Community Hospital. The driver was considered not-at-fault and will not face any charges.
A nurse from the hospital stated that Yvonne Jackson’s remains were cremated at the request of her step-mother, who took possession of them. Family members did not provide any information about funeral arrangements.
For some reason, the idea of her ashes in the possession of her step-mother horrified me as much as her death itself. I know that sounds weird, but I was not in a right frame of mind when I read that article. I desperately looked to see if there had been a funeral or if she had been buried somewhere, but I found nothing.
I screamed. A couple of people on my floor started pounding on the door, but I yelled at them to go away.
A few minutes later, Brian knocked:
“Christina! Christina! Come-on! Are you OK? What’s going on?”
“No! I’m not OK! Now fuck-off! Leave me alone! All of you, leave me the fuck alone!”
And, that’s how I stayed, in my room, for the next three days. Finally Brian called student emergency services, and I’m here. So, I guess, I get to be your problem now.
I don’t understand what the police were even doing there, at Gi-Gi’s, I mean. They weren’t doing anything! They weren’t hurting anyone! It wasn’t even prostitution, not really. All they were doing was giving massages, and sometimes hand-jobs for an extra fee. They were giving a service guys wanted and were willing to pay for. There’s all kinds of shit going on around Eastwood, gangs, drive-by’s, burglaries, car-jackings… but no! No! They’re worried about massages at Gi-Gi’s!
And it pisses me they’re never gonna take any blame for what happened to her! Yeah-yeah, it’s all Yvonne Jackson’s fault! She’s the one who ran into traffic, so she’s the one who killed herself! Well, they shouldn’t have been chasing her! She got killed over nothing! Literally, nothing! She was just trying to earn a living and they wanted to put her in jail for it! She got killed for no reason!
You’re the psychologist, so I’m guessing you can figure out what happened next, nothing! Fucking nothing! There’s no one I can talk to about her! Talk about what she meant to me! Yeah, like, hey Mom, guess what? While you and Dad were out on your cruises, I had this secret girlfriend, but we couldn’t tell anyone. She stayed at the house and we ran around naked and had sex, and we went streaking around the neighborhood a bunch of times. And, oh by the way, she worked at a massage parlor, and she got killed trying to run away from the cops! Yeah, who the fuck am I gonna tell that to?
I still wish I knew what happened to her ashes. I would have liked to have had them. I would have taken care of her, treated her with dignity. I mean, knowing her step-mother, how she was, I’d bet she just tossed the ashes in a dumpster somewhere on her way back to her apartment. Her ashes… in a fucking dumpster!
So you tell me, Dr. Hartman! You tell me! How am I supposed to deal with this?
“The only answer I can give you is a question. How do you think Yvonne would have wanted you to deal with this? If she were in the room, right now, what do you think she’d say?”
“I guess she’d tell me that she’d want me to forget about her and move on with my life. I guess that’s what she’d say.”
“Maybe she’d say it a bit differently. First, I think she’d say that none of this is your fault. You’ve got nothing to feel guilty about. I hate to say this, a lot of times I deal with students who come in here grieving over something tragic that happened to someone they care about, and it’s obvious to me that there was something they did that contributed. In your case, that’s not true. Nothing you did contributed to Yvonne’s death, and nothing you could have done would have prevented it.”
“I shouldn’t have been here. Fucking around at DSU, I mean. I should’ve been home, watching over her.”
“Watching over her? I don’t think so, Christina. How could you have watched over her? Even if you hadn’t been in Davenport, nothing would have been different. Yvonne still would have gone to her job on the same day, at the same time. That was her normal work schedule, Right?”
“Yeah. It was her normal schedule.”
“So, she would have been there, regardless. And the police still would have hit Gi-Gi’s at the same time. You being in California didn’t change any of that. It didn’t change her work schedule, and it didn’t change when the police were gonna raid Gi-Gi’s.”
“I ‘spose. I guess that’s true.”
“The other part is what you said yourself. Yvonne would have wanted the best for you. She would have wanted you to move forward with your life and find happiness, whether or not she’s still alive. I think the best way to show her how much you love her is to live as best you can. And that doesn’t mean forget about her. That’s where you went wrong. That’s why you ended up here, because you were trying to forget about her. She touched your life, and her presence will stay with you. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Epilogue – From the journal of Christina Melendez – Davenport: November 22
Brian took me to a really nice nude beach today. Not the one next to Davenport, but another one called San Gregorio. It’s further up the coast, a really nice, long beach where you can walk, like… over a mile. It’s quiet and perfect for what I needed. I still need to pull myself together. It’s going to take a while. I’ll burn up a lot of Dr. Hartman’s schedule before all this is done. I can say that, for sure.
Brian’s been supportive. If I’m able to get through all this, a lot of it will be because of him. He’s there for me, but hasn’t pushed me for answers. I’m grateful for that, because right now I don’t have any answers.
I’m still not ready to talk about Yvonne. When I do, I’m guessing he’ll be the only person I’ll ever be able to share it with. Well, other than Dr. Hartman, obviously. Before I do that, I’m gonna have to know for sure I can trust him, totally and completely. That’s going to take a while. I think he understands that.
I’m not going to visit my grandparents this Christmas. Mom had some sort of fight with them, so she and Dad are going to a party at a restaurant on top of some fancy hotel instead. I suppose Mom will get drunk. She usually does at those things. Like, I’d want to see that. No thanks.
When he found out I wasn’t going home, Brian asked me if I’d want to spend Winter Break with him and his family. I thought about it.
“Sure. I’d like that. I kinda need to get away from Davenport for a few days anyway.”
I hugged him. It was the first time I had been able to show any affection to anyone since Halloween.
It was getting late, so we needed to go back to the parking lot. We walked south along the water’s edge as the sun set. We got dressed and got into his car. Then we drove south to Davenport, just as the sky started to get dark.