Whose Story Is It Anyway?

During a conversation with a person critiquing the chapters I’ve written so far, the subject of whether or not the Vance family supports my efforts to get Patty’s story out came up.

I didn’t start to write this story in order to reopen old wounds for the family. As far as I know her two brothers and her son are the only immediate family still around. The last thing I’d want to do is add to the trauma they’ve already suffered. I recently discovered there is a niece of Patty’s, her brother John’s daughter. My intent is not to bring up any uneasy feelings for her either.

Anyone who cared about Patty would want attention drawn to her case. I have to say that I doubt much attention is a result of my blogging about a book I hope to write. The dream is that the book itself might lead to someone coming forward — a witness to the crime — not that the book leads to any sort of embarrassment or shame about Patty and her life choices. Yet there are pieces of her story I thought needed to come out because perhaps they might trigger someone to remember her, or to recall that they witnessed her tragic murder. 

I was recently speaking to a writer friend of mine and she asked about the details of the case. She kept coming back to the fact that there MUST have been witnesses. The chances that no one was around in that generally busy neighborhood in San Francisco at that time of night are minuscule was the way I interpreted her point. Perhaps I’m not being realistic, but I’m anticipating that there will be a larger audience for my book than there is currently for my blog. If word can get out, maybe there will be some movement on the case.

Part of why I feel this is my story as well as Patty’s story is that I’m using this opportunity partly to crack open what exactly happened to us and between us. I was one bad decision away from leading the same sort of lifestyle she led. Yet I didn’t. There was more than one occasion when I considered what it would be like to make the “easy money” involved in sex work. Just like the gambler who never talks about his losses, it seems no one I’ve known involved in the business wants to talk about the downfalls. The conversations are always about how difficult it is to turn down the windfall that comes from selling sex, or partaking in the presumably less risky off shoots of sex work — dancing and porn. 

My thoughts were often about the pitfalls. The same impulse that made me shy away from taking up hard drugs kept me from chasing the easy money. I pictured the worse case scenarios and could never make the plunge. If I fast forwarded my life on drugs, I’d imagine myself homeless, or left with only half an arm. I thought if I injected intravenous drugs it would inevitably lead to infection and amputation. If I spun out a reel of my life as a prostitute, there was always a scene in which I was beaten and raped. I was just too damn scared to venture down either of those paths.

There is much talk about how women are forced to prostitute themselves for economic reasons. I can’t help think that there were other options for Patty. But I also know that this was likely her mindset. Sure, she wasn’t living in a developing country having to feed a brood of children. But she was a young mother who struggled with drug addiction in a town that was somewhat expensive even back in the 70s. Likely such was her skill set that she didn’t feel she had a ton of options. All this is a long-winded way of saying that she probably felt desperate, that the drugs got the better of her and she wronged people she would never have wronged. I don’t judge her and am hoping others won’t either. She was a good person who got caught up somehow in behavior that likely ended up sealing her fate.

This book is partly about the meaning of friendship, of forgiveness, of compassion. Also what betrayal meant to our relationship. Is writing this book and blog I’m committing the ultimate betrayal? I hope not. I hope I’m not in denial about my motives. I’d like to think my motives are pure. My apologies to her family if that’s not the way they see it. 

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