Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

Stupid decisions can haunt us all of our lives. We all have made them. I have, most with little or no impact. But back in the summer of 1977 I made a very stupid decision, and it has haunted me for years, decades really. That summer, while hanging out in Greenwich Village, I went up to the roof of a building in New York City with a stranger. It was stupid and dangerous. And it still haunts me because a few months later my dear cousin was found dead on the roof of another building in New York City.

I was at that age and stage when I didn’t think anything bad would or could happen, and certainly not to me or anyone I knew. But that all changed in October 1977 when my cousin was murdered and left to die on a rooftop near Columbia University – just three months after I was attacked on a rooftop in New York City too.

I wish I could say that nothing happened to me that night on the roof in NYC, but that would not be accurate. Many things happened to me that night. And, of course, I am haunted by the similarities to my cousin’s death a few months later.

The death of any relative is hard, but when it is someone you are close to, under circumstances that are relatable then it is terrifying. In many ways, I still am terrified. It is like the experience got into my nervous system, and just won’t let go. Maybe this is because I looked up to my cousin in so many ways.

My cousin was more like an older sister to me. She was the oldest of the 8 cousins, the beautiful, accomplished ‘rock star’ of the family. And she lived with us when she was 16, and I was 7. I still remember going with her to the temple on Friday nights and sitting with her by the pool on sweltering hot Dallas afternoons.

But I also remember the dark side of her stay with us: food fights and whispered secrets. You see my cousin lived with us because she was suffering from anorexia. It was live with us or be hospitalized – she was that sick. Her illness made a strong and lasting impression on me. I remember her hiding food in her napkin, tears, doors slamming, food thrown in frustration. That was also when I learned to ignore my body’s hunger signs, eating all of my food to please my mother.

Over the years, through adolescence, I always assumed that my cousin would be there for me, just as my family had been there for her. But all that changed in the fall of 1977 when we got that call and time stood still.

I don’t know why I survived, and my cousin didn’t. Why I got a lifetime of joys and sorrows and she didn’t. But even with the highs and lows, in some ways it feels as if my nervous system has been stuck on high alert all these years. I have been waiting for the next time the phone will ring, my world will turn upside down and finally that other shoe will drop.

I have talked about the death of my dear cousin over the years, but rarely, if ever, shared the details of what happened to me on the rooftop three months before. It was shocking and embarrassing and shameful. I was 17, innocent and so naïve.

The reality is that I survived a frightening experience that my cousin did not. It still haunts me and probably will for the rest of my life. And maybe instead of the other shoe dropping after all these years, I am finally ready to put it down. Maybe I am finally ready to give myself a break for living when she did not.



As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

18 thoughts on “Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

  1. AmazingSusan

    Sorry for your loss all those years ago, and for the guilt and emptiness that remain. I hope this wound heals more fully one day and that the scar fades until it is almost gone <3

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Thank you Susan. Some scars are minor and some major–clearly this one is a major one and while mostly faded, still exists and makes me who I am today.

      Reply
  2. Susan Sherman Rosenberg

    Heidi, I was with you that night. Truth be told, we never talked about what had happened. Today I am saddened to hear more about that evening when you were alone on that rooftop with the stranger (I do remember his name). I was waiting for you in Washington Square Park, not knowing, never knowing…I am so sorry that you had that experience…we did share the other scary but funny stuff, but never that…

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Thank you for witnessing me and what happened. I rarely if ever spoke about that night with anyone. Over the years I have shared what happened to my cousin, but not the weird and horrifying coincidence that happened three months earlier. You were with me on all sorts of experiences, both positive and negative for us both. This is why I always carry you in my heart.

      Reply
  3. Dinner Diva

    Thanks for sharing your story, Heidi. I hope by retelling it, some of the pain is eased. We all do stupid things as teenagers- the trick is to forgive yourself, or so I’ve heard.

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      It is funny, the pain of the event is very faded. I know that some of the fear from what happened got wired into my nervous system and still exists. But the not telling anyone and the survivor guilt is the part that has bubbled to the surface to be dealt with at this point. And of course the biggest pain is the still missing my cousin and what might have been for her life and our relationship. Thank you for your comments==glad to stay in touch even with you on the other side of the planet!

      Reply
  4. Lisa Owen

    Heidi, I’m so sorry for what happened that night, for what you have carried with you all of this time and the loss of your cousin. Healing takes time, self acceptance and some grace.

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Thank you Lisa, appreciate your comment. The healing process has felt like peeling away at the layers of an onion. And because it has the added element of the fright I felt from my own awful rooftop experience and the resulting survivor guilt/confusion it is very nuanced. Grace is a wonderful state of being and what I work on. Glad to see you are back online–been missing your voice!

      Reply
  5. Crystal-Marie

    I pray that writing about it will help you truly let go of the guilt. You had no idea that would happen to her. And it is a blessing that you are still alive and well. Its okay to mourn her life and enjoy your blessing. Let go of the guilt. Some burdens we are not meant to bear. Positive vibes sent you way.

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Thank you Crystal-Marie, appreciate your kind words and safe advice. You are right, this is not a burden for anyone to bear.

      Reply
  6. Dawn Quyle Landau

    Heidi, I’m so sorry that you suffered such a powerful trauma, followed by the horrific loss of your cousin. This post is haunting… and the missing parts make it more so. My brain fills in the gaps, and is guessing at what must have been haunting, on so many levels. Thanks for sharing it with your readers… I wish you continued healing in this.

    As an side: have you ever considered MFR (Myofascial release)? It is deeply healing body work and is particularly effective with traumas such as yours. You may want to read up on it, but it’s truly incredible! ((hugs))

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Many thanks for your kind comments. It was and is a haunting experience. And I hope that young women read this post and learn from it–even smart people can make stupid choices that can sometimes have awful consequences.

      And yes I have had many healing therapies and treatments over the years, thanks for the suggestion! After 38 years, the work I’ve done has really helped so that I’m no longer suffering as I was back in the day.

      Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Thank you for reading and commenting. It was a long time ago, but clearly on my mind again recently, guess I was ready to finally put down the burden of carrying it inside me alone for all those years.

      Reply
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