Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is the author of five books of poetry, all currently available on Write Bloody Publishing, as well as the author of the nonfiction book, Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam (Soft Skull Press, 2008), which Billy Collins wrote “leaves no doubt that the slam poetry scene has achieved legitimacy and taken its rightful place on the map of contemporary literature.” Aptowicz most recently served as the 2010-2011 ArtsEdge Writer-in-Residence at the University of Pennsylvania and
is currently a 2011 National Endowment of the Arts Fellow in Poetry. For more information, please visit her Web site at aptowicz.com.
was the name they gave the woman whose body was found under a highway bridge. She had long toenails and a scar on her chin and brown hair and she had been strangled to death and thrown over the guardrail, naked except for her orange socks.
And this is what I say to a friend, the story I read from my phone. I always remembered it, I say, because everyone just calls her Orange Socks. They never figured out who she was. My friend nods, asks me to look up the stories she half-remembers: the Cabin Murders in Keddie, the Alphabet Murders in Rochester, the Black Dahlia.
We take turns telling the details that stuck with us, using my phone to fill in the blanks. The Zodiac Killer with a sack on his head, approaching the lovers on a beach. The Connecticut River Valley Killer, whose knife work the journalists always wrote was frenzied.
The three girls scouts murdered in the night, how months earlier a note left scrawled in a donut box in a counselor’s tent promised that three girls would die. And then, they did. And it is all in my phone, all we remember and more, and it’s so easy to keep looking and to keep talking.
Is it bad we are doing this? is a question we choose to never ask each other. Is it better that these people are forgotten? is another thing we don’t say. What we do end up saying is this: Do you remember the man from our old neighborhood? The one who killed the women he kept in his basement?
We say this maybe for the first time. Our mothers snapping off the TV every time we entered the room. We try to remember: Lenny? Larry? Some name with a K? Use the phone, she says, and I type it in: Philadelphia. Women. Murder. Basement. The name comes up: Gary Heidnik.
We repeat it together, feel its weight in our mouths. We were nine years old when he killed the last woman, cooking her ribs in his oven. The trial lasted for most of our fifth grade, the year we met. Our parents loved us so much, we never knew what happened.
Until now, when we are our future, and our phones can tell us everything. Except, of course, the big question. Except, of course, why?