"Is life always this hard, or is it just when you're a kid?"
"Always like this."
- The Professional
Life in a rural Texas town is two things: what it really is and what you imagine it to be. If you're a "lifer" never making it out, the world remains a dream, a perpetual place of wonder. For almost all who venture forth into that world, though, that dream dies and memories of it fade to black. But for lifers like Sherry Berry it never dies - not for a moment.
The hell of high school didn't escape Sherry. But for her, that was a huge state secret to take to her grave. Never could she let her parents know just how badly they had failed her. That paralyzing fear trapped her physically, mentally and spiritually. She came to accept the idea there was "something wrong" with her. She didn't know exactly what - but so many people were desperate for her to believe it! But like everyone, she was born with the desire to live.
Her secret high school crush was Andy Gibb. It's true she had eyes for a boy at school but he was too real. She felt more of a chance with someone whom she would never meet. Plus, Andy undoubtedly had absolutely no redeeming value in her parents' eyes. But she knew he was wonderful and perfect and the world he lived in was wonderful and perfect. How could it be anything else?
She owned no modern music herself. Sherry snatched only glimpses of this most forbidden of fruits, her heart singing with every second of every sound. That's what life should be, transported to the clouds! Some of the other kids at school understood this (with whom she could never be friends), but in Sherry's house she was all alone - even from her own sister. The same yet different - a puzzle to last a lifetime.
She heard the talk of girls who did as they wanted. Sneaking out at night to meet boys, feeling their groping hands, going out on dates. They moved forward into worlds she could only imagine as she was left behind. Every soul in her world told her those were wrong and evil things. How could she be right and they all be wrong? While some girls never thought twice of attending a high school dance Sherry Berry would have paid the devil himself to attend. What magical events they must be!
Fate conspired against her there too. Her body - even at seventeen - is what one would describe as "maternal"; big boned and unathletic - or as she called it, "oxen". Those lithe skinny girls were made for dancing and romance and life. What was she made for? "God's will." And apparently God never got horny or dreamed of Andy Gibb in his room. But what was right?
Rampant guilt left her like helpless roadkill on a country highway. She didn't feel good about herself, her parents told her sexual desires were wrong - and yet she could not stop them! High school hormones surrounded her daily, swirling her head in confusion. Only Andy's voice spoke clearly to her; he who lived above the trivialities and massive insecurities of her small and meager life. Life could be beautiful - for some.
I wear the clothes of an old maid. The same long, floral print dresses every day. One morning she had a thought to say, "My ankles still show! What if a boy lusts after them?" It was the cheekiest she ever got but her mother dismissed her concerns out of hand, ushering Sherry off to her daily humiliation amid the cheerleaders and tight-jeaned vixens. How could they be as bad as her mother said? They radiated with life while she, Sherry Berry, ached for it in howling despair.
Time marched on, God merciless to all those in chains. She began to turn on herself, unable to justify her life choices, wishing she could die. When a couple of the pretty girls turned up pregnant she took empty satisfaction in her chastity. Bored, excited teenagers not knowing if they'd ever live passed the city limits took to each other in desperate passion. They married, divorced a year later, then life gradually disintegrated into small town drunken glory and Saturday night fights. But at least they had lived once!
Isolated with only her parents and cooing monolithic church members for support, she had no choice but to be slowly pulled into the borg. Her life was over, unwanted and worse yet, un-wantable. Her grades at school were outstanding, partly because of the massive pressure they be so but mainly because book smarts came easily to her. But listening to the popular girls she felt that attribute made her only more unattractive. Her big-boned face could never bat her eyes coyly at how "smart" he is. But after the great bluff of the high school ordeal is over, can life get better?
"Turn that off! That's devil music!"
That wasn't Sherry's mother speaking but Sherry herself. She'd once seen the cover of an AC/DC album with their in-your-face aggression and horns sprouting from the head. She recognized the song as theirs (of which she was secretly proud of such hipness) and duly chastised the boys in the Walmart parking lot. She felt a sense of ownership since this was her place of employment. Yes, she who ranked in the top 5% of her class dutifully cashiered the long lines of rednecks, white trash, and blue-haired lifers. The true crucifixion was in pretending not to recognize her classmates who passed through.
Manual labor was deemed inherently moral. Those girls who headed off to college did nothing but drink and engage in orgies. Even a religious university was too scary. Besides, coming from a large Mormon family they had little money to spare. And since wasting her intellect had been deemed a moral endeavor she had no political room to complain. Goddam politics! Her voice had no value.
Marriage sealed her imprisonment. Nothing but a fat cow baby machine. He came complete with parental approval. She died at the thought of Andy seeing her in the abject despair of lovemaking. He'd think me a fool! He'd think I let him down. Oh, Andy! Save me! Was life really meant to be this bad? Part of her still held on to the belief her dreams were real and the world outside full of promise. Nothing else makes sense!
On March 10, 1988, the day her first child entered this planet, the last of her dreams also died. Andy Gibb passed away from complications of drugs and drinking, mired in a deep depression - a virtual suicide, tragedy of the highest order. Her hated mother was right. Her despised father was right. Her dreaded religion was right. All life is a void.
How could this happen? He was perfect! He had everything I do not. Life really is nothing but a cruel trick God plays on us; nothing but death, denial and duty. I've been a fool! Jesus said we must overcome. I see what that means now - and overcome I will.
Uploading naked selfies will get you
DISOWNED by your parents!!
The last vestiges of life she beat out herself. She lives now as a vocal opponent of gay marriage, rap music and women with tattoos. Once firmly ensconced in the wrong, she lost all fear of speaking out. She wages war against her imagined world where love still might live. Volcanic rage erupts at the thought of a life found when hers is lost. No one must have it. No one. If that ever were to happen she'd be finished (aka reborn).
With that in mind, her children are kept as tightly chained as she had been, savaging them as irresponsible beasts without ever giving them a chance. Sherry paints the outside world as hopeless and pointless, refusing to be a part of its "immorality" and thus "saving" her children from it. She tells them they too must overcome their evil desires to live. She rejoices in their guilt, praises repression, and applauds obedient acts. Her dream twisted into her enemy and her enemy into her dream.