Six feet tall and a real beauty. Long stemmed, full bosomed, blonde with big blue eyes, she looked like a grown-up Barbie doll. She taught an aerobics class and all the girls wanted to look like her. When you got closer, the careful makeup covered skin scarred with adolescent acne, and the hair owed more to art than to nature. Behind the eyes a desperate uncertainty, a need to be loved and liked. She was adopted, and in her heart she knew that her mother hadn't wanted her. She'd married way too young, and her husband didn't love her. He was a sports nut and met her when she was a cheerleader for the Oakland Raiders, and he still went to games but didn't come to her plays. She gotten good at acting. She'd learned early-on that nobody liked a whiner, and that cheerfulness faked worked every bit as well as the genuine article. She did her best. She moved to LA and tried to become an actress, but what she really did was wait on tables. She got married again, and had a baby and was happy, even though a lot of hopes and dreams had been smashed to pieces along the way. All this is pretty ordinary.
Then came the twist in the plot; the hidden time bomb. The mother she never knew, the boy who planted her in an unwilling womb had hidden in the double helix a faulty piece of code that said: when she's finally happy, when she's got her little boy the joy of her heart, when she's got a man who loves her, then throw the switch. She got dizzy and started falling and in no time the incredibly lovely body twisted up and couldn't walk or hold a glass or take care of her child, and then her husband got cancer. But she didn't want to leave her kid alone with the old man sick and she didn't want to leave life so she hung on like you wouldn't believe. And the trick of not complaining came in real handy now. But will alone can carry you only so far and the tortured machine at last gave out and she died.
Heart of a lioness, I'll remember you high kicking blonde and beautiful. I'll remember you with perfect skin and a big bright smile. I'll remember you the way you wanted to be because that's what you wanted. I'll remember you and when I think of you, which will be all too often, I'll remember the good things, both real and imaginary.
On the death of Tamra Brewer Shelly McCuen,
November 2, 1996
|On the Death of a Cheerleader|