(WARNING: I am about to share a true story that forever changed my life 10 years ago on May 1, 2002. Please bear with me because this was hard to write. I hope I don’t make you cry)
I try to call your mother but there is no privacy. I walk to the front of the strip club and police are roping off the crime scene with yellow and black tape. I go round to the back of the building and police are everywhere searching for evidence. I walk back inside and your friends and co-workers are crying and being interviewed by law enforcement. I head for the dressing room, the same trail you and I walked hundreds of times beside one another. I enter and lock the bathroom stall behind me as I clutch onto my phone, not prepared to make the call to your mother, after all you are only 20 years old.
I dial, the phone rings, and your mother answers with the ’you woke me up’ tone.
I say nothing, I only cry.
Her: Priscilla is that you?
I’m choking on my tears.
Her: What’s wrong? What happened?
Me: Ty… (Crying)….ler….h… (Crying)…e’s…de…. (Crying)….ad
Her: What? Oh my God, what happened?
I could hear her wake up your father who was lying in bed beside her to break the bad news.
Me: Mrs. Long, your son is dead because of me. I’m so sorry, I said still weeping uncontrollably.
It was an ordinary day at the apartment. We were both scheduled to work, you as the dance manager and I as another unreliable ‘stripper’ who hated her job. Remember you often had to drag my lazy ass to work? I made many excuses to avoid taking my clothes off for another disgusting stiff dick who would go home and jack off thinking about the naughty lap dance I had given him.
This particular day my excuse consisted of studying for my final exams and having spent the night hugging my pillow while I watched old sappy love movies, which you hated.
You slapped my feet as they rested comfortably on the coffee table and said “Get your ass up, you’re going to work with me.” We debated on the subject for an hour. Aside from trying to convince me the money would be good because it was a Saturday night, and I needed to make my car payment, that I obviously didn’t have, your real reasoning for dragging me to work that day was because you liked working with me. I was your partner in crime, your best friend, roommate, co-worker and college classmate. Sometimes you gave up during our debate on this subject but most of the time you won.
My complaining about working that day continued during the two-mile drive to work. You firmly clinched my leg and with a smile you said, “It will be fun, trust me.” You pulled your car in the parking lot, where the pink flashing billboard sign of a naked woman stood, gave your keys as usual to Rob, the valet guy who was your second best friend and together we walked up the steps leading to the double doors we both dreaded entering and referred to as hell.
Once in the dressing room you immediately interrupted a cat fight with two of the “day time” dancers. I joined my fellow strippers on the bench, staring at myself in the mirror wandering why I let you talk me into coming to work when I could be at home watching Seinfeld. You checked the dance list and called to recruit more dancers, I continued to drag ass to get ready only wondering which Seinfeld episode I was missing.
“You better hurry up, you’re on main stage next,” you said slightly yanking my ponytail flirtingly.
“Yeah, I heard the DJ,” I replied.
You chuckled, sat next to me and said, “Do I need ask the DJ to cover for you again?”
You are referring to the fact my makeup is not yet fully applied, my hair not curled and my dress and 7 inch stripper shoes are still in the locker I have not yet opened.
“I told you before we left the apartment I didn’t want come,” I said applying the blush again to my already rosy cheeks.
There were a few seconds of silence, you still sitting next to me facing the lockers and me still staring at my disgusting self in the mirror when you said, “I tell you what, if you’re on main stage within five seconds after Ruben (the DJ) calls your name I promise not to kick out any of your customers tonight.”
Now you have my attention….
You had been suspended twice, hospitalized once, suffered a fractured rib and put many of my male customers in the hospital for touching me inappropriately, not to mention interrupting my cash flow. Any other stripper it was three strikes and you were out but me, my customers were thrown own without a fair warning.
“So what do you say,” you asked?
“Deal.” I said, and we shook on it. (Remember this ASSHOLE????)
“Then get your ass on stage,” you said this time flirtingly slapping my ass.
You stood ten feet back from main stage smiling and giving me the thumbs up sign when I entered main stage with a second to spare. The night went smoothly, you did not fuck with my customers as you promised, and thanks to our hand shake I was making money. At 1AM our eyes met. We were both proud of one another. I was on time when I entered the main stage and you hadn’t yet grabbed one of my customer’s balls and kicked them out as you usually did. I did spot you several times lurking during a few of my lap dances, but you kept your cool and were true to your promise. And your reward for such good behaviour was when I blew you a kiss and you caught it smiling.
Then fifty-two minutes before closing time I approached the table I now regret. I sat in the lap of one of the four Hispanic men who could barely speak English and who gave me a $20 tip on main stage. It was easy and fast money considering there was a language barrier. I gave the man in the white shirt at the table $320 worth of lap dances, who was drunk and incredibly horny, which explained his inappropriate, touchy behaviour.
I spotted you several times while dancing for him and watched you shift your weight from one foot to the other, trying to hold your end of the deal and reframe from kicking the asshole out of the club. I gave you the, “I got this, I’m a big girl” glance and you hesitantly backed away. I gave him five dances and took a break, five more and another break. Then mid way in twelfth dance the man leaned forward and bit my nipple. Remember? There was no time to respond, you had already grabbed my shoulders, pushed me back, twisted the man’s shirt and literally carried him out of the club with the man’s shoes a good ten inches from the floor.
You lost and I won, I thought laughing to myself. You surrendered with only ten minutes until the party was over. I stood at fourth stage by the front door as I covered my breasts with one hand, and held my clothes in the other, standing only in my T-back awaiting for you to come back in to give you shit about losing our bet.
Then I heard the DJ announce bubble gum shots in the parking lot, code word for fight. Three managers run past me and out the front door almost knocking me over. The double doors to the entrance swing open and I briefly see your 6’6, 295 pound body lying on the brick concrete in front of the main entrance.
I run towards you.
I am now standing over your head as I watch a river of your blood stream down the front steps of the club. I kneel beside you still only wearing my T-back. Your white button down shirt revealed one bullet hole, then another, and another. There were too many gunshot wounds to count. I lay my body onto yours in hopes to stop the bleeding; I didn’t even notice our fellow co-workers wrapped a blanket around my bare body. I can now hear the sirens getting nearer. I perform CPR but you’re still not breathing.
Then I look into your eyes and realized you are dead. Your energetic and enthusiastic spirit we all love was no longer glowing. I scream, I cry, I shake you to come back to me but no response. I feel someone or something pulling me away but I fight, I cling onto you with all my might hoping you will come back to me. But you don’t. You continued to lay there lifeless as I was covered in your blood.
After five hours of sobbing, watching paramedics cover you with a black blanket and being interviewed by the police, I get in your 76 Ford Mustang you named ‘Suzie’, your baby you would never let me drive, despite how many times I pleaded. The same car you drove us to work in that day and were supposed to drive us home in. An investigator was worried about me driving due to my devastation of your death and followed me back to ‘our’ but now ’my’ apartment.
My head is pounding from crying but I don’t care and with the little energy I had left I walked up the stairs to the second floor of our apartment, the same steps we walked down together 15 hours earlier. I hold your keys, the same key you locked our apartment with when we left, and the key you were suppose to use when we got home. Our front door swings open. I want to plop on the couch and you massage my feet like you do every night after we get home from work, but you’re not here. The shoes I asked you to take to your room before we left are still firmly planted on the living room floor. You said you would put them up when we got home but you can’t, you’re no longer here. I go throughout the apartment and turn over every picture of ‘us,’ I even threw our 1st place mud race trophy through the glass patio door. I enter your room and can still smell the cologne you sprayed on before we left. I collapse on your bed as I often did when you held me as I cried about a guy or failed a test.
For the next two days my tears soaked your pillow.
I am so FUCKING mad. I don’t know who to be angrier at, you or your killer!!! Why didn’t you fucking listen to me??? I didn’t want to go to work that day!! I’m a big girl, I can ward off evil and perverted men, and you don’t always have to protect me!!! If you hadn’t drug me to work that day and or stuck to our deal you would be laying beside me right now.
I HATE YOU!!! I cry harder.
“Yes, I do need to protect you. You’re my best friend,” you would say with a smile.
I didn’t go to your viewing. I didn’t think I could hold it together. I arrived 15 minutes late to your funeral. It was standing room only. I spotted your mother sitting at the first pew of the church and squeezed beside her. Tears rolling down both our cheeks, she took my hand into hers and we shared the, “I miss, and love him” look. That was the last thing I remember at your funeral. I blacked out. Our friends say I tried to jump in the coffin with you, shook you, begging for you to wake up, but I don’t remember any of that.
Apparently I didn’t snap back to reality until I was standing amongst your friends and family at the gravesite. You were being lowered into the ground, with thousands of red roses that had been gently laid on top of you by each and every one of us when we got the call….. The man who shot and murdered you was caught and now behind bars. But still justice has not yet been served.
May the man who killed you rot in hell and you rest in peace. In less than a year I will be sitting front row for the best movie I will ever watch. When the poison is injected into your murderer, and I watch his life being taken away as he took away yours. That is the day justice will be served and I will smile again.
After the funeral your mother gave me your daily journal that I never knew you had. She said she felt bad because she thought she was invading your privacy. She continued to say it would be in my best interest to read it that is when I was ready.
A year after you died I got a bottle of wine, poured a glass and opened your journal I had safely tucked away waiting for this moment. I read how much fun you had during our trip to Florida and how you planned my surprise birthday party. All your entries made me laugh, cry or both.
Then I read what you wrote two days before you died.
The day after you were murdered you had a special evening for the two of us. We were to have a romantic dinner at the restaurant, “The Craft” and stay in a penthouse suite at the Crescent Hotel in downtown Dallas.
I continue to read….I cry if not harder than the day you died.
I close your journal weeping about what I had just read. I couldn’t believe it. You were my best friend and nothing more….
My answer is yes, I will marry you! I only wish I could tell you in person.
I love you and always will.
Tyler Long April 12, 1981-May 1, 2002
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