By Michael Goth
Word Count: 1164
Summary: A young teen deals with her differences and the growing changes in the last year of the sixties
Tracy sat on top of her bed folding papers and placing them into envelopes. Papers filled with statistics on how many American lives had been lost in Vietnam since just the beginning of the year. Also, Tracy had provided numbers on how many people had been injured by overzealous law enforcement agents during peaceful protests against the war and other grievances with the Nixon administration. She urged people sickened by all the pointless violence to write their congressional representative.
Tracy was simply an 18-year-old girl who thought it her right, even her responsibility, to speak out against a war that even Walter Cronkite himself had said could not be won. Tracy was not a radical, she did not think all police officers were crooked and most of all she did not believe in fighting violence with more violence. That was never the answer.
Tracy sighed and reached over to pick up today’s copy of the Chicago Tribune with the headline “Radicals Connected to 7-11 Bombing Go On Trial Monday”.
Oh, Debralee, thought Tracy with an ache in her heart.
Debralee McNeil had been Tracy’s best friend since Freshman year of high school. After their graduation from Conant High School almost a year earlier, Tracy had been studying at Harper Community College while Debralee had been heavily involved with the anti-war movement. Both girls had been very vocal about the war but an incident last fall had pushed her friend over the edge and Debralee’s anti-war protests had turned violent.
The girls had been walking home from a local record store when they had witnessed two hippies—a boy and a girl—being savagely beaten up by a couple of high school jocks. The jocks had seen Tracy and Debralee coming and had run away. Typical bully behavior. Tracy’s heart went out to the beaten teens because even though she was not a hippie, Tracy knew all too well what it was like to be different. For she hid a dark secret beneath her calmer exterior. Something she kept from everyone, including Debralee and her parents.
After that incident last fall, Debralee had begun to protest with more violent acts with her new radical friends. It had begun with throwing rocks at the Hoffman Estates city hall building, then escalating into throwing Molotov cocktails at the police station and finally planting a bomb at a 7-11, which had resulted in the death of five people, including a little girl. By this point, Tracy had broken off all contact with Debralee, but had read about her arrest in the paper after the bombing earlier in the year. Was the life of a little girl, who would never have the chance to grow up, worth the life of a soldier in the war? Trading one life for another was too much to ask.
Wiping a tear from her eye, Tracy placed the newspaper back on her nightstand. She needed air and a break from all of this. Tracy got off her bed and walked over to her record player, still spinning The White Album, and switched it off with a sigh.
Tracy put on a pair of moccasins and walked outside into the beautiful spring air. On her way out, she passed her brother Tommy’s room. He was sitting in front of the T.V. watching Star Trek, but looked up to wave at Tracy, who returned the gesture.
Tracy walked over to the side of the house and sat down on the lawn. She pulled off her moccasins and ran her feet through the grass; wiggling blades of cool verdure between her toes . She lay back, gazing up at the stars above her.
It was a lovely evening, stars twinkling, surrounding a half-moon shining bright in the dark, velvet sky. This was a perfect moment. When all that was possible seemed achievable. Besides church during Sunday Mass, it was lying in the grass under a clear starry night where Tracy most felt the presence of God.
The real world seemed far away. The war in Vietnam seemed like only a bad dream. Tracy could almost forget that her onetime best friend would probably spend the rest of her life in jail. Almost. Tracy also felt safe. Like her dark secret could not hurt her.
Her secret. It had started several years ago and was quite unexpected. Or had it been? She had been watching West Side Story on television with her mother and had found herself strangely attracted to the beautiful Natalie Wood. She had thought about Natalie that night in bed while trying to fall asleep. Later, Tracy had dreamt of her.
Tracy had always liked guys and had had several boyfriends, though she was currently single at the moment. However, seeing Natalie Wood in West Side Story made Tracy realize that she had also frequently found other girls attractive, too. And not just in a ‘I think she’s cute’ type of way.
This was her dark secret because being bisexual, which Tracy now knew herself to be, was considered a mental illness. If she were to tell her parents that she was as much attracted to girls as she was to boys, they would send her to a psychiatrist, believing she was sick. As if she had a bad case of the flu.
Because of society, Tracy herself often wondered if she was sick. She certainly didn’t feel sick, but people suffering from schizophrenia probably didn’t think they were sick, either. Tracy sometimes wished that she could be just like all her girlfriends. Yet, still at other times, she was happy being herself.
As she took in the beauty of the night , a voice came into her head. A voice that said, I love you for who you are.
On this beautiful spring evening during the final year of the sixties, Tracy knew that God had spoken to her. He had let Tracy know that she was beautiful to Him and maybe that was all that mattered right now. He would help her going forward, she was sure of that. And she hoped that someday—maybe months or years or even decades—people would become more accepting of others. Humans would stop judging others on their differences but would love each other for their similarities along with those differences. Tracy would. one day, be accepted for who she was and the world would no longer see war, hatred, bigotry, or violence, but peace, hope and the greatest of them, love.