About 10 days ago we had an unfortunate incident on the blog. One of our former co-bloggers posted an essay which threw me into furious fits of absolutely irrational panic, and gave me an almost manic sense that if they didn't stop it right now there would be a high, high price to pay.
I had already figured out to some extent that whatever walls had been helping me cope with the murder of John Locke, 7 1/2 years ago, were starting to break down. I realized this when there were random public murders in Virginia: the professor in the office adjoining mine at the time stopped in to tell me, and I fell into a fight-or-flight response, walked almost without realizing what I was doing to my car, and just drove away. The next day when a reporter from the Palm Beach Post called my office looking for commentary, I was physically sick. When a particularly hen-pecky student of mine insisted that I should make time to discuss it in my creative writing class, the anxiety that she would bring it up despite my wishes (which she did) kept me up for days.
My best friend, Stacy, had a similar reaction to the events at Trolley Square, where two of her dearest friends in Salt Lake City were shopping the day that a man decided to commit random public murders there. She called me and told me, "I'm beginning to think that we never quite dealt with what happened." I knew right away what she meant. And she was right. How could we? The hinges of our office door were six inches of cement block away from the doorway the killer stared at Brian through, after he shot John Locke, before he slammed the door, the police, the standoff, the suicide... and that doorway, forgive me if I get a fucking maudlin here -- I'm resisting telling a million details that would kill you to hear but, even though my brain is screaming them, kill me worse to say -- that doorway was ground zero for the following year: a sprawling memorial of flowers and candles and handwritten notes -- not to mention video cameras, TV lights, photographers, reporters. People -- real people -- would sit at that door and cry. People would sit at our doorway and cry. But reporters -- reporters I cannot describe without spitting. The vultures, the heartless prying pricks. They harassed us within an inch of our sanity. There were incidents, screaming fights, slammed doors. I don't want to get into it.
The thing that I've only come to realize, now that all these years have passed, is how completely wrong I was at the time about myself and my relationship to life. At the time the murder seemed so -- isolated. It was tragic, but it was separate from me. I've only just noticed the obvious: that my two dearest friendships, strongest and realest friendships, with Brian and with Stacy, were forged through the events of that day, and what we went through after -- to a greater extent than I'm even comfortable saying. In a weird way, the murder of John Locke was my and Brian's first date. (Yes, my heart sinks to my feet to know this, let alone say it.) And there are creepier things that I can't say. The point is, my whole life since then has been defined by the events of that day -- probably in more ways than I'm aware.
I've realized that a lot of the fears and phobias that I developed that Fall (which I have spent years blaming on other things) have a lot to do with this, and the details -- which I kind of want to describe, but can't -- that keep replaying, and getting more, not less, intense with time.
I've already apologized to Bill and Emily, and explained to them that their words seemed like cruel and devious attacks on all that was good and right with the universe -- and that I've realized that was a completely faulty perception, brought about by the reemergence of some serious trauma that I've never dealt with. They have forgiven me. I hope everyone else will too.
When the next inevitable random public murders happen, I hope we can just keep mention of it off this particular blog -- lord knows there will be no lack of "coverage" in the world, or the blogosphere -- out of respect for whoever will play our once held, unwanted role, the ones hiding in their cars or shops or offices, just trying to deal.
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