Checking Out Early – A Sicilian Amongst Sheep

It was one of the high points of my youth; dancing in mid summer through the fountains at an arts and music festival in Salt Lake City. Daniella was one of the most beautiful and mature women I knew then. I pulled her away from the crowd in the 100 degree heat and swept her through a series of fountains that soaked us, cooled us and filled us with hysterical laughter. She smiled as if she was almost completely care-free. Our feet were raw from twirling barefoot to live bluegrass music over the steel grating of the fountains.

The seeds of Danielle’s suicide were sewn by her step-Father when she was 13. He molested the young, voluptuous teenager repeatedly, creating a cage she struggled with until her death. I always knew there was something hard etched beneath her feline smile, I was too naive to be able to read what it was. When I became her friend she was bright, often happy and tentatively willing to give life a chance. She had spent the first few years of high school acting like an air-head. She told me one day she just woke up and said to herself, “what the fuck am I doing?”

After that she became less a play-thing for the older boys at our school and more of a hell-raiser. When she loved people, friends and family, she loved them with a passion reflective of her Sicilian roots. I first found out about her childhood abuse when we were talking about sex one day. “I only like to fuck, anything else grosses me out. And when I’m done I have to get up and clean the house because I feel so guilty.” She cut an odd figure in the suburban Utah world of my high school, a gypsy parting the waters of white bread Mormons that filled the halls.

She came in and out of my life over the years, moving to the Bay Area, and then back to Utah. She lost her younger brother Jonny to a long term illness. The attention of men seemed to wear on her more. Her passionate fire turned to a bitter anger at the wasteland her world had become.

She was a smart, beautiful woman struggling against the weight of her own jadedness. I don’t know how it finally got to her, but eventually she shot herself. It made sense to me that she used a gun to end it. Explosive, decisive and final was her style. I could hear her voice in my head – “If you’re going to end it, fucking end it.”

I worried about her spirit when I heard about her suicide. She had so much intensity, her pain must have been extreme to push such an intense life force out of this world. I wondered if she wandered blinded by her anger, haunting her barren world.

This force sometimes hunts the fiercest of us. Almost as if its saying, even your strongest warriors can’t out-distance me. Or perhaps warriors are made by virtue of an inherent struggle with this and other forces. For some the suffering she endured could become a steel upon which they are sharpened. Daniella carried this struggle for as long as I knew her. Perhaps if it wasn’t just locked in her heart, if it had been witnessed by a community, she could have bested it.
previous chapter: “Sex And Death” ~ next chapter: “My Wild Irish Mom”

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