I wish this were not true.
It is, 100%.
Only the names have been changed to protect everyone.
Rori. Her legal name is Aurora Dawn, but everyone calls her Rori.
She was one of four women I met the summer of 1981. Strange, because although I have a really good memory, I don’t know exactly how or when I met her. She was friends with the other women so I guess I met her through one of them.
Ellie was the oldest, the wise momma figure. Delia was the “sane” one who always said the right thing and kept us, as much as possible, in line, and Lori was the needy one who leaned on the rest of us and looked to us for “where to go and what to do.” I will say my place without undo humility, because it was true: I was the pretty one. I usually attracted the guys. And Rori, the personality, the outrageous, the funny, the adorable. Rori was energy and motion and laughter and fun. She had the best pick-up line ever. She’d go over to a guy and say, “You know from one to ten, you’re a twelve and it’s my birthday.” This said with the grin and the twinkle that could win anyone over.
She could always make me laugh. One night, she left a club with a handsome blond guy, I saw them pull out in his yellow convertible, Rori, sitting on the back of the front seat, yelling, YAHOO! At the top of her lungs. When I asked her the next morning if she’d had fun, she grinned, “Ask me what we did with the blueberries.”
Some of the things she did might sound cheap, and they might have been on anyone else, but Rori had such good humor that people just laughed with her. One night at a club, she was dancing so energetically that her left boob, jumped out of her dress. She just kept dancing. Her grin and energy, just had everyone else clapping and laughing. No one would ever think, “slut” or “low life.” It was just Rori, having fun.
Four of us would meet on Fridays at Grand Central and take the train out to Ellie’s on the North Shore of Long Island. Friday nights were for chick flick movies and take-out. Girl talk. Manicures. Saturday, if the weather were nice, beach, if not, the mall. Saturday night was clubs and dancing, if not till dawn, at least pretty close to it. We did this for about two years and then, life happened. Ellie decided to go to law school and left New York. Delia got into real estate, made a bunch of money and moved with a very different crowd. Lori married and moved with her husband to Vermont. Only Rori and I remained close.
A year later, however, Rori told me she was moving back to Winnetka, a wealthy suburb of Chicago. I was stunned. I had never met anyone more New York who had not been born in New York. Her favorite place was the Oak Room.
We would meet at MOMA for lunch or one of the Israeli clubs in the Village at night. She knew all the happening places to hang out. She was the one I’d call to find out who was playing at CBGBs.
She lived in a really cool apartment, adjacent to the police station on 23rd Street. (We would lean out the window and whistle at the rookies – we were young!)
“Why are you leaving?”
She explained she was the only child of elderly parents who’d had her very late in the marriage. “I’m the only one they’ve got. I really have to go.” She told me how much she loved her parents, how sweet they’d always been to her. “I owe them. And, besides, it is not like I’m going to Kansas. I’ll be right outside Chicago. It’s fine.”
I didn’t see her for three years. I’d kept in touch, but I’d married and was in grad school. We were both busy. Then one summer day as my husband I were going to visit friends in Colorado, our car broke down right outside of Chicago. I said, “Good, I’ll call Rori.” My husband had never met her and was surprised that I would not hesitate to tell her I was nearby. She gave us the address and said, “Oh, I am so happy, please come.”
When we got to the cute little house in Winnetka, she opened the door and there were rose petals that trailed through the house to the master bedroom. The bedroom was all Rori, lace fans and pearls on the walls, a huge four-poster bed with a pink silk bedspread and lace pillows. Lovely, theatrical, so “her.”
She was dating a slightly older man who was an established author. If I told you his name, you’d know it. I liked him. He was warm and friendly and smart. We had a great weekend with her and left two days later.
We kept in touch and two years after, we visited again. She was no longer seeing the author, but assured me, they had remained friends. She had a new boyfriend, a younger man who was very sweet and who got along great with my husband. It was July 4th and we lit fireworks, soaked in her hot tub and drank champagne. A totally fun time.
In between visits she’d send funny poems and cards and little gifts. My daughter remembers a birthday gift she sent her and when the child opened the birthday card, sparkles and little hearts fell out.
Three years went by; we were in Illinois another time. She was still with her young beau, Michael. We went to a lovely seafood restaurant, watched a movie. After the men went to bed, we talked until the sun came up. I slept a few hours, and Rori woke me up. “I’d really like you to come to church with me. This church has become very important in my life. I want to share it with you.”
I am not a big church person. Organized religions always seem more fractionalizing that spiritualizing. Besides, Eastern thought has always inspired me more than Western. But, I told her as long as it wasn’t Pentecostal or Born Again fanatics, I would be happy to go with her. It was, in fact, a very modern, interdenominational church and I felt very comfortable and very welcomed.
That evening, Rori asked my husband and I to have dinner out with Michael and the couple who were the co-pastors of her church. I did not like them. As much as I liked the church and the people who attended the church, these people seemed very insincere.
I just felt in my gut (I have always known I was not clairvoyant, but I am clairsentient – feel things quickly and strongly) that what was going on was that they saw Rori as a wealthy young woman, the only child of rich parents and they were already planning a large bequest from her to the church. When we got back to the house, my husband, who had never suffered fools gladly or easily, told her he thought they were ladri or thieves. She was upset and asked Michael, “You think so too?”
He said, “I wouldn’t have said anything, but truly Rori, they make me very uncomfortable.” And, finally, she looked at me. I knew she was hoping I would disagree. I told her that I would never want to hurt her, but that truthfully, I did not like them and I felt there was something suspicious in the special interest they had taken in her. I could see that what we said had hurt her and I felt bad about that, but I couldn’t lie.
Later that night, the two men had gone out for a few beers; I was reading. I saw her pacing back and forth on the patio talking on her cell phone. I was fairly sure she was talking to the pastors.
The next morning, Michael left early. My husband and I, feeling a new chill in the air, left soon after.
Through the next six years, there were Christmas cards, birthday text messages, but no real conversations. I don’t think I heard her voice in all that time.
This past Sunday, I was feeling a bit nostalgic. I hate losing people. After my children, my friends are the treasures of my life.
I could not find Delia, did call and say hello to Ellie who was doing well, found Lori’s husband, but they’d been divorced for three years and he hadn’t had contact with her for a while. He thought she was in Costa Rica. I tried to find Rori’s phone number. All I remember was that she lived on some crazy-named street like Junebug Lane or something like that. So, I Googled Rori and her last name and put in the name of her town. What came up was a video of Rori. In the video, she is wearing an orange jump suit. She is being led into court. Her shiny, silky, light-brown hair is short, shorn, a hideous shad of yellow.
I am stunned. What did she do? Why is she is a courtroom? Why is she wearing prison garb? Then I read the accompanying article. In June, Rori was found lying in the center of a playground by a police officer. It was early on a Sunday morning and no one else was around. He asked her what she was doing lying on the ground and she told him she had killed a woman.
He asked her where this woman was and she gave him an address. When the police arrived at that address, they found Rori’s mother who had been stabbed dozens of times and Rori’s dead cat.
That’s when I started crying, sobbing. I know it sounds strange, but as horrible as this whole situation was, she’d killed her mother! The fact that she had killed Milly, the cat she so loved, was too much for me. For the rest of the day, I kept going back to the computer, the photo of Rori, her face blank, almost as if she were blind. It was Rori; I recognized her face, but it was not Rori. It was not the same person. I kept playing the movies in my head: Rori in the convertible, Rori sitting on a step outside an ice cream parlor in Montauk talking and laughing, Rori hugging me and dancing with me at a birthday party for Delia. I kept trying to reconcile the Rori I knew with the Rori who did this horrible thing. WHAT HAPPENED? I pride myself on being smart and sensitive. I had seen nothing that would indicate she had mental issues.
She loved her parents. (Her dad, I’d read, had died of natural causes two years before.) There was never any indication she resented them or disliked them. I was asked by one of her old friends, if I thought the church people might have pushed her to this. Absolutely not. If anything, they were strictly “white collar.” They would have tried to talk her into giving them money, but nothing to do with violence. Besides if the beneficiary murders the benefactor, she cannot inherit the money, so the church would not have gained anything.
No, she just “snapped.”, if one could ever call something like this, “just.”
Later, Sunday night, I went back and watched the video one more time.
Not because of some gruesome desire to keep viewing it like a fascination for road kill (I hate that something is dead, but can’t help but look), but rather trying to believe it.
I have no explanation. I can’t quite grasp it. This is not someone I knew casually; this was a dear, funny, bright, luminous person. What happened to my Rori? There was no devastating divorce, no lost child, or major illness. She was not into alcohol; no drugs were found in her, on her or at the home. I have heard of people just losing it, snapping, going “mad.” I never knew one before.
Yes, shit happens…but I never saw it happen like this. I just wanted a phone number, just wanted to say: Happy New Year. #friends, #women, #tragedy,