Real people: Dina

(name changed on this one, because… well.)

I met Dina in a low-level biological psychology class during my sophomore year of college.

The class was wonderful. Perfect. Everything an undergraduate college class should be. The professor was passionate about his subject, he gave original lectures, there were multiple reading assignment sources, we had to write papers that involved thought and not only research, and the exams were wickedly thorough.

I always studied for biology and chemistry exams, those being directly pertinent to my major. The only other classes I ever studied for were calculus, and this biological psychology class.

Dina was my self-selected study buddy. She sat behind me in class, every day. She was an adult… somewhere in her mid-thirties at a guess, though being 19 and naive at the time, I only saw “an adult”.

She was a nurse. She worked two jobs, one as a night nurse at an old folk’s home, the other doing home nursing visits for housebound patients.

She had gone back to school to study psychology, with the eventual goal of getting her Ph.D. and becoming a practicing psychologist. She could usually swing two classes a semester.

We would study for exams near her apartment in the married student housing section of campus. It was a spring class, and a beautiful spring. We would mostly sit at the picnic tables outside. She would stop to buy bottles of Pepsi from the vending machine. She would stop to smoke. I would play with my set of multicolored metallic gel pens. We got a lot of work done.

If we studied past 3:00 we would move inside her apartment, so we would be there when her daughter got home. Her daughter was thirteen years old, the apple of her mother’s eye, her Honey Pie. Dina’s eyes lit up whenever the girl came into the room.

Dina was morbidly obese. She must have weighed at least 400 pounds. She would talk frankly about her low self-esteem and food addiction. She had a characteristic shape to her back and shoulders; it was easy to recognize her from far away because of it.

Dina was having a long-distance relationship with a man she had met on the internet. I had already gone that route myself, so we both had a lot to say about it. She was engaged to him. He lived on the East coast, but was working on moving to be with her.

The class ended. Dina and I took the final exam, and said goodbye.

Several years later, I had the evening news turned on while I was cooking dinner in my apartment. I had gone the long grad school and postdoc route, so I was still in town. And there, on the TV, was Dina, in a prison jumpsuit and handcuffs. What first caught my eye and made me pay attention was her characteristic shape. There was no mistaking it.

Her fiance had moved there, to be with her. They had married. Then he had left her. The news report gave his age, and the other woman’s; both in their mid-twenties, much younger than Dina, who must have been over forty by that time.

Some time after he moved out of her apartment, Dina had bought a handgun. She had waited for the legislated “cooling off” period before claiming it. Then she drove to the apartment where her husband and his girlfriend lived. Her husband answered the door. She shot him once in the chest. He turned to run, and she shot him once in the back. He died.

Dina drove home afterward. She got back to her apartment in the evening. Her daughter, now nearly-grown-up, was there. Dina announced that she had just killed her husband, and that Honey Pie should call the police to turn her in. The news reporter said that Dina had still been spattered with blood when police arrived.

And that is my (true) story about Dina.

There is probably some of her in my character Christine Cook.


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