We weren’t the wild-grown, wayward girls we often daydreamed we were. We babysat for our neighbors and complimented our mothers’ baked salmon; we drove our dads’ station wagons to our pep rallies and pretended to enjoy smoking the cigarettes we pretended we swiped from our sisters’ clutch purses. We actually drove out of town and gave random college boys—usually in state college logo sweats—scrunched up dollar bills to buy them for us at Palmer’s Drug Store, and stifled our giggles while we waited outside, scanning the parking lot for adults we knew.
We weren’t keen to blaze a new trail. We quietly admitted our quiet ambitions in the quiet sleepover hours. We wanted to be married, to have children, and we dared to hope for a club membership, where we might meet with our chubby babies for an afternoon in the sun by the pool.
We weren’t judgmental when we heard Georgina Willis was in the hospital, rushed there before dawn from a senior’s house party we wouldn’t otherwise have known about.
“Overdosed,” we heard.
“She’s crazy,” they said.
“It’s not her fault if she’s depressed,” we said, our chins jutting, raised by our obvious compassion.
We weren’t sure what to think when the whisperings of rape rose and curled through the hallways. The boy mentioned—but don’t repeat it—was in our pre-calc class, sometimes napping, with his scuffed-up Vans and messy hair. He had been at the party, it was ascertained, but what does that prove?
We weren’t there when Georgina Willis came to clean out her locker, her dad leading the way. We heard she arrived during third period, didn’t talk to anyone, and left by the time the bell rang.
“She had make-up on,” we heard.
“Maybe she regrets reporting it,” they said.
“It’s odd behavior, for a victim,” we said, our chins jutting, raised by our obviously logical analysis.
We weren’t surprised by the press release that no charges were to be brought. We ate our chicken salad sandwiches and sipped our Diet Cokes and reiterated to ourselves: it wasn’t that we disliked Georgina Willis—how could we? We barely knew her!—but the boy with the messy hair in pre-calc just wasn’t the type. He napped in class, wore scuffed-up Vans.
We weren’t opposed to the notion of moving away after we got married, but we didn’t. Husbands and careers and needy parents and a fear of striking out kept us in our home town, not all of us the stay-at-home mothers we had hoped to be. We wonder about Georgina Willis from time to time, especially after what happened to one of us in college. We heard she’s out west and we’re sure she’s fine; we doubt she’d remember us. The boy from pre-calc with the messy hair has a marketing job in the city, a European wife and no fewer than four children, their smiles wide across Facebook.
© Jo Varnish
[This piece was selected by Heather Cripps. Read Jo’s interview]