When you start having children at the age of sixteen years old and meet and marry the wrong man at twenty, it moves the timeline up a bit for having your “Oh god, what the hell am I doing with my life” flavored meltdown.

For me, this happened after a series of unfortunate events that took place in nineties when I was early into my twenties. I’d say it started with the termination of a pregnancy that I wanted but my husband at the time was adamant that he did not, but in hindsight, there was more. So much more.

After recovering, physically anyway, from that, a family friend passed away, my father-in-law passed away, and a dear friend was on a transplant list that he would ultimately die on as compatible organs that became available were given to someone else with a better chance of survival. There was a point, after realizing that I had married someone who, as he would later tell me, would never love me as much as I loved him and “that’s just how it is”, that I knew something had to give and I had to get the fuck away from my life as it was at that very moment.

The timing couldn’t be better, parenting-wise. My daughter was getting ready to spend the summer at her father’s house for the summer, and the nineties was still a time when you could still buy airline tickets from folks who could no longer use them and needed to unload them for cheap, which is exactly what I did.

My brother-in-law at the time, Rich, a fun, long haired, guitar-playing, gregarious version of his more conservative yet volatile brother who sported a military haircut who I was somehow married to, lived in Nashua, New Hampshire. He and I became close during his visits to the west coast, and, when he caught on to my impending meltdown, he told me that he and his girlfriend had a guest room with my name on it if I wanted to head out that way.

I perused the “Tickets for sale” section in the newspaper, and I jumped at the chance when I saw that some woman named Margaret no longer had use for the one-way ticket to Boston, Massachusetts she had purchased and was offering it up for $75. I remember being in the middle of one of my serial killer novels that I devoured regularly, this one about a man who would bait women to his home by selling items in the classified ad section of the newspaper, so I proceeded to pick up the plane ticket with caution. Fortunately, I was not murdered and buried under a floorboard when I arrived.

The following week, I packed a bag, said goodbye to my daughter who was a few days out from leaving for her summer visit, said goodbye to my husband who I was not sure I wanted to stay married to any longer, and got on that plane. I was full of uncertainty, but if there was one thing I was certain of, it was that I either get on that plane or lose my damn mind. I was going as far away as I could from my life and my husband without actually leaving the country, and I felt I absolutely needed that to stay sane.

When I arrived to my early mid-life crisis on the east coast, I mostly felt like I WAS in a different country, as things were fascinatingly different in New England than they were in the Pacific Northwest, from the accent to the slang that seemed to leak up into Nashua from Boston, which was just forty five minutes away by car. Everything was either wicked or a “pissa”. Sprinkles on my ice cream were “jimmies”, water fountains were “bubblahs”, and pop was soda, but all soda was “a coke”.

During my first week, I adopted a local dive called The Water Street Tavern as my new favorite hangout. It was within staggering distance of the apartment I was staying at, and a local boy named Wally was quick to identify me as “foreign”, approach me to say hi, and then drag me to a table full of his friends and introduce me by going, “Ok, sit here. Hey, everybody, this kitty is Lisa. Lisa, right? Yeah, she’s from “orygun”. This is Randy, Carla, John, Little John, Weasel’s not heah, but he’ll be by latah, that’s Mike, Laura, and Billy. I’m Wally. We’re you’re new friends. There will be a test in thirty minutes, just kidding, gonna go grab some suds. Welcome to NashVegas.”

After the initial staring contest and me feeling like I might pee myself, they warmed up to the kitten that was dropped at their door, and I had a new social circle. And they were great.

It was soon after that I realized that this was the first time in my life that I was not accountable to anyone. Anyone at all except to myself. This was crazy to me. I had gone straight from being a child to being a mother and from there to being a wife. I went from being my mother’s responsibility to being responsible for keeping another human being alive. I had always been somebody’s something, and now I was…whoever I wanted to be, it didn’t matter. No one’s opinion mattered and, when that sunk in, I felt a freedom I had never felt before. And I took every advantage of it that I could.

One night, as I was standing at the jukebox in my new “Cheers Bar”, this woman struts in the door and yells to the bartender, “I am THIRRRRRRSTY! Beer me, Carol!” She was a dirty blonde with a choppy bi-level haircut, and decked out in a matching acid washed denim jacket and shorts set and clunky heels at the end of her long, overly-tanned legs.

I had taken a couple jobs while I was in Nashua to kill time and earn money to supplement my life back there, and, while I was working at Rozumek’s grocery store, I recall seeing this woman come through my checkout a few times, sometimes with a child, sometimes on her own. She was pleasant but always had her eyes downcast, seemingly unwilling to make eye contact with me. As someone who has my own issues with eye contact, I respected that.

But tonight? This woman was to be seen. She appeared, for the most part, to be in her late thirties or early forties, though her face showed a few bonus years as though maybe she had lived more life than she was due at that point. Her presence was bigger than life.

“Rockin’ in the Free World” started playing on the bar’s sound system, my first of four picks with the dollar I had allotted for the juke box. It was one of two songs, the other being “Paradise By The Dashboard Light”, that would get the whole bar singing along, and I made sure to play one or the other often as a thank you to the folks there that treated me one of their own.

As I headed towards the bar to order my drink, the woman slapped the bar hard with her hand. “FUCK I love this song. This you?” Realizing she was asking if I had chosen to play it, I said yup, that’s me, and she turned to the bartender and said, “Wicked good. Hey Carol, I’ll buy her first beer. I’m feeling rich tonight,” turning to me and adding, “Make sure it’s just beer though.  Or well booze. I’m not feeling that rich.”

I also wasn’t that rich, so I accepted and ordered a “Micky Light”, i.e. a Michelob Light, which was another habit I had gotten into in order to assimilate better with the crowd I hung with.

“Bad ass,” she said, smiling at me and holding her beer bottle up to clink against mine.  Her eyes twinkled as she squinted a smile my way, her grin calling attention to both her high cheek bones and the dimple in her chin. “I’m Lindy Drouin. Lindy Darlene if I’m in trouble. And I’m always in trouble!” she laughed and slapped my arm, “though never for the shit I should be.”

“Nice to meet you, Lindy,” I said, “and thanks for the beer.”

“You don’t know that…” she said under her breath, shook her head, and then yelled, “Carol, hey, is the kitchen still open? I need a burger.”

As the weeks went on, I’d see Lindy in the bar from time to time. She often arrived solo, sometimes with a skinny guy with a straggly beard, a quiet sort who, when he was with her, just sat back and watched her “go”. She would flit around to some of the regulars, chatting, drinking, and there were some she pointedly avoided, or rather they pointedly avoided her, some to the point of leaving when she walked in the door. I got that, to a point, she was a lot to take when she was “on”. But she was always sweet to me, but in a guarded way. After the first couple times being around her, she started calling me sis and would absentmindedly play with my hair if she was sitting next to me. I found it strange but endearing to a point, and she reminded me a lot of my older sister, Roxanne, who was about her age from what I could tell, and who also wore those “bonus years” in a similar manner.

Lindy was asked to leave the night she ran into the bar and jumped up on the shuffleboard table, yelling, “DANCE PARTY, MOTHERFUCKERS!” I think the bartender on shift that night had less patience for her antics than Carol, and he yelled, “Lindy, you’re out for the night! Go cool off or do that shit somewheres else, this ain’t no rippa!” Lindy stood there for a minute.  Then climbed down from the shuffleboard table and cussed the whole way out the door, and, by the time she was on the front step, she was crying, “You don’t get it, do you. You just don’t get it.”  I didn’t really get it either, not in the way I felt like I was supposed to.

She must have come back the next morning and apologized, either that or Carol had a talk with the guy who threw Lindy out, because “Lindy Darlene” was back the following night, though a bit more subdued. She was with the straggly bearded guy again, who, by that point, I decided was either a boyfriend or close to it, based on their interactions together. He always seemed to be watching her, just hanging back and not really participating. I didn’t care much for him. No real reason, just a creepy vibe I got.

There are those nights that start out quiet with a mostly empty bar, but then you blink and the place is packed to the gills with everyone in town and you’re not sure when it all happened. Often, it’s due to being wrapped up in conversation…well, that and booze. Booze plays a part in that. And this Friday night was like that.

I lost track of the drinks I was throwing back, someone ordered a platter of fries for the table I was at, and then another one. I played a game or two of darts, but then it became more difficult to hit the board so I stopped for the night. A tray of tequila shots ended up at my table, and so did Lindy, though that wasn’t odd as she seemed to have a knack for sniffing out free booze. We had that in common.

Lindy began fiddling with my hair, like she did, and, pretty soon she had her arm around my waist. That was fine, I liked her, and I was also very drunk which led me to being a lot more flexible with human contact. She reached over and snatched a green Jello shot from the dozen or so that had appeared at our table. She said,”Open up, little bird,” and fed it to me, tapping me on the nose once I swallowed it down.

“Steve thinks you’re pretty,” she said to me when the last song ended and she only had to fight bar noise to be heard.  “I think you’re pretty, too, and I told him he had to go through me, so don’t worry.”

As tipsy as I was, this only half computed with me at the time. “Thanks, Lindy, you’re pretty, too.” I said, and it wasn’t just booze talking. She was a good 15 years older than me or more, but she exuded something that drew me to her.

“Serious,” she said brushing my hair out of my face, “I’m completely serious. So if you end up back at our place, that would rule, but I’m saying don’t worry about Steve. He does what he’s told. He just thinks he’s in charge.” Lindy kissed my cheek and continued playing with my hair.

I wasn’t sure what to make of all of this, as any scenario that involved me going home with Lindy, let alone this guy who was always hanging out and staring her down who’s name was apparently Steve, wasn’t something that had even crossed my mind before that point in time.

Before my fuzzy, tequila-addled brain could fully process what had just been said to me, I felt a grip on my free left shoulder pulling me out from under Lindy’s arm. I ducked and spun around ready to take a swing at whomever just made the mistake of grabbing me, but realized that the shape in front of me was Rich. I blinked a few times and said, “Heeeey! Wait, what the fuck, dude?”

He looked pissed. “What’s wrong?” I asked fully perplexed at the mood killer.

“Come with me….now please.” He wasn’t kidding, so I went with him now please.

“Do you have any idea who the fuck that is?” he’s talking as he’s walking towards the door and out to the parking lot. I had to work to keep up with his stride.

“Well, yeah, that’s Lindy.  Lindy…uh….Droon or something.” I couldn’t quite remember what she had said her last name was. But I knew she was Lindy Darlene if she was in trouble. I remembered that.

“You’re kidding me, right? Do you seriously not have any FUCKING CLUE who that is?”

Just as I was about to remind him that she was Lindy, Lindy Drrr…something, he said the words that sobered me up.

“You DON’T know who that is, because I fucking bet you she didn’t TELL you she’s a goddamn Manson crony.”

Ok, I still don’t know what he’s talking about at this point, but he had my attention.

He looks at me like he can’t believe he has to explain this to me. Me, someone who’s read every serial killer book to the point of creeping out friends and family. He shakes his head and sighs.

“That is Lindy…ugh that’s Linda Kasabian, you have got to be fucking kidding me, that’s Linda fucking Kasabian. The Manson follower who turned state’s evidence. That Linda Kasabian. The one that was there for all the killing and the drawing on the walls with the dead pregnant lady’s blood but didn’t get in trouble because they gave her a fucking DEAL, that Linda Kasabian, are you FUCKING following me right now?”

I am, in fact, fucking following him right now. I am one hundred percent on the same page and I am now completely sober. I knew who she was, and now, I could see it. Could I see it? I was now seeing that high cheek-boned face from the pictures in my special edition of Helter Skelter. I suddenly, in hindsight, recognized those squinting, smiling eyes I had looked into and the dimple on her chin. She had aged over 20 years from the time she was arrested, but she was recognizable if you were looking for it.

Why would I be looking for it??

From the parking lot where I stood with my exasperated brother-in-law, I looked back over my shoulder into the bar and I saw that Lindy had moved on and was chatting up a couple guys at the pool table. Steve was standing in the background keeping watch over her. It was the first time I recognized it as a look of concern rather than possessiveness. I decided it wasn’t necessary to go back in and say goodbye before I stumbled up the hill to the apartment.

By the time I reached home, my surprise-induced sobriety had faded again, and, after fixing myself a grilled cheese sandwich to soak up the evening’s booze, I crawled into bed and slept until the next afternoon, waking up to that hazy recollection one has the night of a night out drinking where the pieces of the previous night’s adventures come trickling in. Those pieces can sometimes take a bit to accept as reality depending on the amount of booze and the situation you were in. It took me a solid half day to reconcile who I had been spending my time around.

I saw Lindy a few times after that, a couple times at the grocery store where it was the more subdued Lindy who kept her head down and averted her eyes, and a few more times at The Water Street where she was still boisterous and wild at times but didn’t approach me with as much familiarity. It felt like she knew exactly why Rich had dragged me away, and I got the impression she was used to that reaction to her presence when people figured out who she was. Is that even who she was? She seemed surprised when I continued to acknowledge her as that apparently wasn’t the norm.

It’s interesting to look back on that night as, quite honestly, it wasn’t even one of my crazier and more notable nights when it comes to experiences had while I was on my break from reality on the Eastern seaboard. My feelings over possibly ending up in bed for weird, drunken sex with one of the Manson Family – let’s be honest, I was probably one green Jello shot away from that happening if my brother-in-law hadn’t showed up to be the fun police – are mixed. I mean, I’m not angry Rich just happened to be there on that particular night to look out for me, and quite frankly, the fun police, as I referred to him when he was in “protective big brother” mode would have been appreciated (though probably after the fact once I sobered up) on more than one occasion in the crazier yet blurry period of what I call my former life.

But I often wonder what might have happened had he not been there that night. Because that would be one hell of a story…


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