The way she was was a long way from what she became. I can’t help thinking about how life veers so far away from the beginning of the journey and how the destination can vary drastically from where it all started.
To begin with, she was a beautiful young girl with curves, a tumbling mass of blonde hair and bright-blue eyes that danced with joy. Her laugh was contagious and her stories endlessly entertaining.
To state emphatically, she was spoiled. Terribly spoiled. Her daddy was wrapped hopelessly around her cute little pinky finger, and her mama, despite her best intentions, could never say “no” to her.
To illustrate properly, they were rich. It wasn’t a case of giving in to her whims and depriving her of earthly possessions, but rather one of showering her with an abundance of material things and letting her do as she always pleased.
To be honest, I, at times, envied the ease of her life. If she didn’t want to do her school lessons, her mama wrote a note to excuse her. If she wanted the fastest, one-of-a-kind sports car, it was delivered on an ordinary summer day — not on a birthday or special occasion — with a big, red bow wrapped around it. She bought many pretty clothes that were never worn, the tags never removed because there weren’t enough hours in a day to wear all those clothes.
She was a stranger to worries. This girl was shielded and protected in a way that I yearned for because teenagers like easy much better than hard. I thought about how grand it would be to wake every morning with the biggest decision being where to lunch and which outfit to wear.
I worked three jobs and had to study.
What I didn’t know then that I know now is that the easy way out always becomes the hardest. Life is like that, you know. No one can escape life’s challenges forever. There always comes a payday.
For her, the path to difficulty began so gradually that no one could see the trouble-free path was veering slightly toward the road that no one would choose. Ever. Her father died, and what had seemed to be a bottomless pit of money began to dry up. But when you have spent a life spending like there is no tomorrow, it is hard to accept that a tomorrow truly exists. She refused to believe it, and her mother, well-intentioned and unaware that she was throwing her daughter toward a pit of lions, spent years trying to protect her.
The girl’s mother sold off whatever possible so that her daughter could continue to have boats, Rolex watches and plenty of something that she had no idea the girl was buying — drugs. The kind of hard drugs that will turn a wealthy man into a beggar. Then, her mother died and left her with no experience of life.
I’ll spare you the details of years of rapid decline and sorrow. There is no prettiness to it. The last time I saw her, about 15 years ago, was in a shoe store where she was browsing and I was shopping for workout shoes. By that time, she had grown rather plump and there was a dazed look in her eyes that I did not recognize for I have never known much — if anything — about drugs.
She fell out of sight until one day two years ago when she showed up at the home of a friend of mine. Kathy said she didn’t recognize the woman when she opened the door. The once-pretty girl was dirty, toothless and looked far older than her actual years. She was begging for food, asking for a place to sleep.
Six months later, she was dead, found lifeless in a dirty alley somewhere.
And though it took 25 years, I envied her no more.
Rich is the author of “There’s A Better Day A-Comin.’” Go to www.rondarich.com to sign up for her newsletter.