Twenty empty bedrooms

I’m thinking about those twenty empty bedrooms and I can’t stop crying.

•••

My house is empty. Just me and the cats. Everyone told me to come home and hug the boy tighter than ever, and I would have, but he’s a couple of hours east of here with his daddy visiting his grandma. I’ll see him tomorrow and I’ll scoop him up and he’ll squeal and wiggle because he loves his mama and I will bury my face in the crook of his neck and I will make a silent plea with my maker to keep him safe. I don’t usually ask for favors but this one’s not for me.

•••

I want answers. I find myself wrecked, again and again, and I want some fucking answers.

I watched the news this afternoon, sobbing in bed with no pants on like a depressed lunatic. I cleaned up and got to work and sat down amid the silence and set about my day. But I don’t work at a place where I can go to just ignore the awfulness of the day. I work in a place where the day’s awfulness is amplified fivefold. Figure out how these five papers are going to play this horrific story. Coordinate. Encourage them to put that irrelevant local story downpage or kick it inside; they are going to look silly tomorrow morning otherwise. Pick colors to highlight the entry points to entice people to read this horrific fucking story. Make it look nice, even if it’s about something that makes you want to vomit over and over and over.

I got caught sobbing at my desk a couple of times. I opened up my 1A and cycled through the photos that had been included with the main story and just fucking lost it. That one of the kids being led across the parking lot, single file. That one of the tiny little girl, face contorted in pain and confusion and fear as a man held her close.

I want answers.

Who was this kid, the shooter? Twenty years old and up for matricide and mowing down a classroom of 5-year-olds within just a couple of hours. He reportedly had some mental or personality issues. Reportedly. What was he on for that? What cocktail of antidepressants or antianxiety pills did he take every day? Or not take?

Did he play video games? Did he hang out in subreddits that would make you want to claw your own eyes out? Where’s the dad? Where did the fucking guns come from? Why the FUCK is this monstrous thing legal to own?

I want some fucking answers and I don’t care if I get on your nerves asking them.

“Now’s not a good time. It’s disrespectful to the victims.”

When is a good time? I’ll put an alert on my phone if you’ll give me a day and time. Or will you text me to let me know when it’s a good time? I kind of feel like we should do it soon; we’ve had two of these things this week and six this year and dozens since Columbine and I don’t feel like this crazy train is slowing down. I’d like to pencil in a serious chat before the next one if we could; I’m betting the victims and their families and friends would prefer that option too, if we could do that. If that’s not too much of an imposition, America.

•••

I think about my boy and I am terrified. The terror is splintered in many directions. I’ve been chewing on it all day.

Writer Elizabeth Stone has this great quote that I love that I saw tonight while looking at the Jackson Clarion-Ledger’s 1A: “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” It’s really on point, that quote. Being a mother has certainly upped my empathy quotient, not to mention made it nearly impossible for me to hear stories about cruelty to children. I can’t handle it. It rips me up inside. It’s a cliché, but one of those true ones.

I imagine my tiny child — my sweet, silly, shy little boy — in an array life situations and my heart just breaks again and again, even when what I imagine isn’t particularly sad. Because I remember being there. I remember the dull sting of youth’s constant awkwardness, punctuated by humiliation and triumph. How basic rites of passage could be so labored. I think about Holden walking into a kindergarten classroom for the first time and it plucks at something deep and reptilian in me and I just want to surround him with my mother-wing and protect him, usher him back toward the nest, and keep him away from the world so it doesn’t hurt him. So it doesn’t even get the chance.

And today I could not stop thinking about my boy in that kindergarten classroom, hearing the screams of bullets and classmates, not understanding what was happening, wanting his mommy and daddy, not knowing who would protect him, not knowing anything about pain or mortality, but feeling that surge of fear and adrenaline that his brain would supply. I cannot handle the thought. I think about the monster who would put a child in that situation and I want to fucking rip him apart. For all those parents who aren’t living hypotheticals but who are living an actual nightmare, I want to burn the whole evil world down. I am sorry for them. I am so fucking sorry that the world broke in this way and I am terrified.

Here is an awful, awful confession: I am terrified that we are going to do something wrong and create a monster. This kid, this Adam kid, murdered his mother and moved on to murder children. I don’t know what broke in him but I am terrified that my boy will break in some way too. I want to believe that every horrible thing that happens is done by someone who was obviously mistreated and is acting out but I don’t think reality bears that out. Some people who do fucked-up things have relatively normal families, inasmuch as any family can be normal. Is it a lack of love? Is it just brain chemistry that’s off? Did they see it coming? Can anyone ever really see it coming?

I want my love to be enough. A mother’s love is never enough to overcome all the ways a person can become broken. And that scares me, down in my soul.

•••

Are you ready to talk about it yet? Is it time to talk about the gun thing yet? Can we at least agree that, culturally, we have a big problem? It doesn’t matter if the guns were bought legally. How do these lunatics keep getting guns legally? Oh, they were his mother’s guns? Jesus. How can we keep responsible gun owners’ weapons away from their deranged relatives? And are you ready to talk about why this should be legal to purchase yet? I feel like we’ve waited long enough to talk about it. I don’t want to speak for them but I suspect the parents turning off the lights in those twenty empty bedrooms tonight might think it’s time to talk about it too.

5 thoughts on “Twenty empty bedrooms

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  3. You’re right, it’s time to dispell the myths around this recurring nightmare of suffering. I was impressed by the Kristoff opinion in yesterday’s NY Times ( ) wherein he suggests the current arguments against gun control are specious at best. And he points out that “More Americans die in gun homicides and suicides in six months than have died in the last 25 years in every terrorist attack and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.” However, I doubt our fellow citizens will reconsider the NRA mantra about people doing the killing, not the guns, any time soon.

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