For some strange reason that I cannot fathom, I awoke at six o'clock this morning thinking about you.

My whole family loved you, back then, and I still do on some level that I don't even try to understand. You seemed to fit your name so well, Connie. "Constant Joy" is pretty much the way I remember you, even after so many years, and there have been many years. My memory of you is clear on one point. You were a force of nature and refused to be what was expected of you.

"Noids," you wrote on a piece of notebook paper. A poem about noids, which only eat noidal butterflies, adorned with line drawings you created. Such a silly thing and yet so...YOU! Your sweet voice singing Dylan's "Corrina, Corrina" while you picked simple chords on guitar. My sister and I both idolized you. I wonder now if you ever feared anything. If you did, it really didn't show.

I think about all these things and yet, the incident that I remember most vividly, the one that I awoke at six this morning thinking about, is the one that I wonder about the most. How different could life have been if my sixteen year old mind had been able to absorb your freedom of spirit the day I came home on the school bus to find you were the only one there. You addressed me by my first name when I walked into my upstairs bedroom. The same bedroom where the fire would start a year later. That is another story. I turned and you were in my bed and I'm pretty sure you were naked. "I've decided to become a prostitute," you said, "and you are my first customer". You gestured for me to join you, Connie. Any sane sixteen year old boy would have done so. I plead insanity. Revisionist history tells a different story, but there would be no lovemaking for us that day. My young mind couldn't process what was right in front of me. I chose to go down a different path, mock kicking at your lovely face with my booted foot. I'm so sorry, Connie. You even taunted me and I still resisted. "Julie will be home from school soon," you said, "Julie is a lovely girl, you two will make a fine couple". Julie was the daughter of a couple who were staying with my family for a while and she was not a "lovely girl". I took your gesture as a joke and I know now. You weren't joking. I had "hangups".

I woke up this morning thinking about you and wondering how different it would have been, had I been as free a spirit as you. For those moments, at least, I feel certain that I would have experienced Constant Joy.

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