VegasStrong: What I’m going to do

It turns out I have nothing to say.

Yesterday, the horror just grew from morning to night. I’m a professional imaginer, and it was the imagining that did it. I wasn’t glued to the television, I didn’t read more than a few articles in any newspaper. I did my best to know what was happening, what had happened, what concrete things one might do, and then I tried to stop listening, to stop seeing; how else to carry on, and how else to resist the way the constant attention turns the real to theater?

And still, I learned enough. Enough to start the imagining.

How people stood there, and heard popping sounds, and wondered what they might be, or didn’t even bother to wonder, and then someone nearby would drop: blood spurting from a neck or hands doubled over a chest or a face suddenly gone.

I did not want to imagine this.

I couldn’t follow a single thought to the end.

What it would have been like, to be there on a lightly crisped fall evening, moving to the music, maybe singing along. The lights on the Strip would have been magical from that spot, and there one was, surrounded by strangers and a few loved familiars, together, in the same moment, in the same sound. It was late, but everyone there had stayed, three days of music, this the finale; three days long enough and yet nobody quite ready to let it go.

I can feel their joy, the rush of well-being, the wholeness of it. The way one would be particularly glad to be alive, grateful for the music and the air and the people swaying to the same beat; grinning and bopping and catching the eye of someone who had laughed with the pleasure of it all. Oh, the good in it.

And then pop, pop, pop, and someone dropping, and the realization, the horror, the disbelief, the enveloping, panicking fear. And what if the one who dropped was yours? What if she was your most loved person, the hope of your life, the joy of your world? What if it was all gone, just that fast, just that inexplicably, no time to refuse, no time to rage, no time to change this unbearable, unacceptable, impossible outcome?

That’s where my mind stops. That’s where I fly out of my own thoughts, my body jerking to help me shake free, exactly the way one fights out of a nightmare, flinging up from the pillow to escape what is about to happen. Only I am not asleep, and the awful thing has happened, not to me, not to my life’s hope, but to someone’s. And that’s what I mean about having nothing to say.

 

Day two, and this morning, just before waking, I dream of a little girl I know. She’s a foster child, not quite two years old, and in my dream, she’s lying illogically, improbably, adorably, across a kitchen counter strewn with the detritus of a party, dirty plates, empty glasses, a crumpled napkin or two. There are 12 or 14 people crowded into the kitchen – I know some of them but not all – and we are talking about something, something that upsets us, something that has interrupted our party, and then my husband asks my friend, the foster mother of the baby, “Where’s Gigi?”

And my friend motions to the counter, and there the baby is, chubby and perfect and almost asleep, her hands and feet curled around the flotsam of the counter. She’s round and lovely and she’s eyeing her mom through one sleepy lid and I think: that’s a perfect picture, I should get that picture, because she’s the answer.

Gigi is the answer.

Gigi and my friend who took on a foster infant late in her life, having never had children of her own. Gigi and the community of people who support that friend as she navigates a complex new terrain – rearing a child, and also, there’s a reason Gigi is in foster care. And in the middle of it, in the middle of the mess, there is this happy baby girl, oblivious to the complexities.

Gigi is the answer. Or she’s the metaphor of the answer. And I know a thousand other metaphors with the same answer.

 

One person did this to us.

One person, in a few minutes, from one hotel room. So much grief. So much pain and sorrow and fear unleashed into the world. Just one man. What a weight he threw onto the scales of love and hate, of courage and fear. How he made it seem like we are near the end of our time.

But I am one person too.

And so are you.

We are all one person strong. And I have my weight too. And I can choose where I throw it, which side of the scale I clamber on, how high I leap and how hard I come down to make that scale tip another way.

It all matters.

I don’t know the instants that might have changed this outcome.

I don’t know the life this man lived.

But I know he had a life. I know he was just one man. He was not a category 5 storm, he was not an earthquake. He was a man. And somewhere in his life there was a moment that could have changed this outcome. I don’t know when that moment was, I don’t know how many such moments there might have been, but I can imagine more scenarios than I can count for how this might not have been.

 

Anyone who has ever experienced a tragic accident knows the calculations. If only. If only we had waited another minute, if only I had been there, if only she hadn’t taken that step, if only he’d locked the gate: countless if-onlys, countless longings, countless hearts wishing for the one if-only that would have made the difference.

But the calculus works in reverse too.

There are countless moments that change it all for the good, that change everything for someone somewhere sometime. Actions that soften a heart, that heal a wound, that stop a hand, that grow a soul.

The thing is, we just don’t know what they are. There’s no measure for the absence of an evil act.

But these moments are happening, they happen all the time.

So I’ve got nothing to say, but I have got something to do. I’ve got some weight to throw around, and I know which side of the scale I’m throwing it on. I’m throwing it on the side that makes music, the side that loves strangers dancing together on a beautiful night, the side that keeps a chubby baby girl safe, the side that does not need to be right, the side that will keep trying, the side that sees the other, no matter how strange, no matter how frightening, and thinks: “Hurray, someone new.”

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