Saturday, January 1, 2011

Headline News – Christmas Eve 2010

The rains fall. The land shifts.
From under the mud and water, Earth reveals her secrets.
Memories shift. Only pain is constant.

“Anything interesting in the news this morning?” I asked as I do each morning. My husband is the newspaper reader, my source for daily headlines.

“Yeah, but you’re not going to like it.”

 “What is it?” I asked.

“He’s in the news. Again.”

It was early morning Christmas Eve. Maybe I was a bit slow, distracted by a sense of well-being. Our daughter was home for the holidays. The house comfortable, warm, fragrant. A beautiful tree, a tree we had selected and chopped down in the shifting mud of the Issaquah Valley on a bright sunny day only a week before, now stood regal in the corner window of our small living room. The lights on the tree, the mantle, the piano twinkled bright in the morning darkness, and I felt only joy in the early minutes of the day.

“What is it?” I asked again as I poured my first cup of rich dark coffee.

“Another victim,” he said.

“Let me see,” I said with more force than I intended.

He handed me the paper and there it was. Gary Ridgway’s face on the front page of the Seattle Times. The Green River Killer. The man who murdered my youngest sister. Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. The horrors of Christmases past overwhelmed me. The Christmas of the sentencing, December 18, 2003. The Christmas of the arrest, November 30, 2001. Here it was all over again smeared across the front page of the morning paper.

I scanned the article and then went back and read it slowly, carefully. The same paragraph that appeared in every article, almost the exact wording, was here again. The same paragraph about how Ridgway preyed on young women “most of whom were runaways, prostitutes and drug addicts.” Even now, even in today’s newspaper, that’s all they were. Even on Christmas Eve 2010 that’s all they remain. Have we learned nothing?

Rebecca Marrero was a friend of Marie Malvar. My sister’s story always comes back to Marie Malvar. The girl whose father tracked Ridgway back to his house, who called the police demanding that they come and question the man who was the last person seen with his daughter. The cops came, chatted with Ridgway and left. Twenty some years later Ridgway led those cops to the remains of that father’s daughter, remains only a short distance from where the cops chatted with the polite, white, Kenworth truck painter while the Filipino father with broken English waited for something to happen, waited for the cops to find his daughter. The cops failed.

They failed when my sister was still alive. Failed to catch Marie Malvar’s killer before he caught my sister.

Now the remains of Marie Malvar’s friend, Rebecca Marrero, have been found. Last seen in November 1982, Mother Earth waited almost 30 years to reveal her secret.  If DNA proves that Rebecca Marrero was a Green River victim, Gary Ridgway will be up for the death penalty. The case will remain front page news and we, the victims of his slaughter, will never be left in peace to mourn our losses and get on with our lives.

One of these victims is the daughter of Rebecca Marrero. I cannot imagine the horror of learning of your mother through the media, through articles like the one in the newspaper on Christmas Eve. The scars must run so very deep. Thick Grand Canyon scars. The Seattle Times stated that the family was unavailable for comment. Go figure. Give them some respect. Give them some peace. Back off and let them mourn this Christmas Eve. I screamed in silent despair. Will this nightmare never end?

Ghosts of Christmases past. Three other photographs were splashed across the front page on Christmas Eve. Photographs of three other girls, suspected Ridgway victims, victims who he did not name or claim, who DNA cannot confirm. Another public reminder to the families of loved ones lost. The article also mentioned three more sets of unidentified human remains, descriptions limited to estimates of age and race. Also probable Ridgway victims. Seven victims in one newspaper article.

I took the scissors from the kitchen knife rack and slowly, gently, respectfully cut the article from the newspaper.

“I’ll add this to my collection,” I told my husband as I folded the article. I saw the sadness in his eyes, that cloud of worry and concern I see whenever the case resurfaces in the news.

“How long have you known about this?”  I asked.
“Only a few days?”


“Really, just a few days. There was an article about the remains being found, but it hadn’t been tied to him yet.”

“Tell me,” I told him. “I’d rather know.” I’d rather learn about it in the safety of your arms was what I should have said. I’d rather be affronted by the horror of memory, the pain of a scab scrapped off, of stitches pulled taunt by festering inflammation, in the safe security of my peaceful kitchen in the company of my loving, supportive partner than anywhere else in the world. I can handle the horror in his embrace.


Unknown said...

I love your bittersweet entry...

arleen said...

Thank you, Vi.