I Remember Two Girls

I know two dead girls. I remember them now, as an adult, out of proportion to how I knew them then – one I knew in grade school, one I knew in high school. Neither were girls I knew very well, or for very long.

One talked to me in gym class. Maybe we were badminton partners. She left our school about as quickly as she arrived. I remember an incident with a lacrosse stick, some of her more colorful stories. Feeling nervous every time I talked to her, but in an electric way. Her fast-talking storytelling drew me in in disbelief and fascination. Would she ask me to hang out someday? What would I say? Was she alright? Who did she live with?

I never got any of those answers, and within about one year she was found murdered in Milwaukee. Her death is linked to those of seven other women. She was a runaway, the only minor, the only non-professional whose death is connected to a serial killer who targeted sex workers. He is locked up for beyond-life. Exactly who killed Jessica, maybe it wasn’t him, remains unresolved.

What I remember is that there were pictures of the other women, six or seven of them, in the newspaper some 15 years later. But there was no picture of Jessica. I can tell you she was thin, very thin. Her eyes were maybe not quite as brown as her very straight brown hair. Eyeliner was involved. That’s all I remember. We were not friends. Others from my hometown would have other stories, real stories, about Jessica – including the handful who wore blue tee-shirts in her remembrance. The girl had her own tee-shirt, but the newspaper of record could not even find her photo.

The other girl, a childhood neighbor, had her final hours recounted by the man who murdered her. He is in prison again, too. This time he will stay there, and how he killed this other girl – aged 19 – is something that can be looked up easily elsewhere but not here. This girl left behind a daughter, brothers, a sister and a mom. I remember not seeing her for ten years, then seeing her picture in the paper and reading this story and regretting, immediately, the summer I spent barely acknowledging her as my friend of convenience.

She was killed in Milwaukee the very same week that Elizabeth Smart was found in Utah.

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