Revisiting May 23rd.

I’m not even certain how to begin writing this, but perhaps sincerity will do the speaking.  Three years after the Isla Vista shooting, I’m finding myself thinking about what transpired in my beloved college town.  This is the first time I’m finding myself not in Santa Barbara thinking about what happened, and the sorrow, shock, and surrealism of a tragedy striking far too close have been replaced by a longing to understand.  Frustrated confusion mingled with silence are all I have left this year.  The obvious question then was: why? But the more compelling question now is: how?  How did a life become so distraught, so self-consumed, so unrecognizable to humanity?

On the night of the shooting, I found myself reading up on what had happened, watching the intensely disturbing YouTube video, and reading the “manifesto” that had been written, and I remember thinking that this was the work of a person who deeply misunderstood the source of value in life.  Tonight, I re-read many portions of the manifesto, and I still think that intuition was correct.  Perhaps the more religious among us would be inclined to chalk the enormity up to “man’s fallen nature,” and I don’t disagree.  Nevertheless, I’m not certain that I’m fully persuaded by a description that seems so bereft of the utter darkness that we witnessed.  It just doesn’t seem like a complete enough description given the implicit resignation of the phrase; it seems more like the manifestation of radical despair and unmet desires.  Upon reading the manifesto tonight, I was met with conflicting pity and disgust, yet there was also a part of me that wondered if our world hadn’t groomed such a tragedy from the beginning.  Obviously I am not trying to justify what the killer did nor am I pinning the blame on society; this was truly a case of senseless, hopeless violence.  Yet, the questions are overflowing.  Did he have friends to help him through these troubled thoughts?  How did his parents not perceive the issue from an early age, when he seemed to have begun his deviation from living a full, vibrant life?  What could we collectively have done differently?

I’m not entirely sure I’ve had enough time to understand – it may very well be the case that his story is not one to be understood.  But more than anything, I find my heart broken once again for the families who lost their loved ones in the most unnatural way.  I will never know the depth of suffering that the friends of the deceased endure every year around this time.  All I can do – all we can do – is be faithful each year to honor the memories of those whose lives were claimed and be reminded to love those around me with kindness and with respect.  I believe that the end is drawing ever closer, and so I must believe that a loud voice from the throne will eventually say, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And yet, in the middle of an especially dark night, I am finding it difficult to bear the burden of tears that have yet to be wiped. 

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Advertisements

The Little Boy.

*Note: This was taken from my old blog, “Poet in a World of Prose,” which has since been deleted.

The man walked along the partially wet sidewalk, sheltered from the drizzling rain by the canopy just above the liquor store.  He stared down at the ground, mind blank and yet processing. He mulled over the death, sifting through his personal reaction to it all.  The rain beckoned for a safe haven, and so into the liquor store he went.  Half mentally present, he proffered a half smile and a swallowed hello before proceeding to look at the various elixirs that stood before him, an ever-present army of vigilant soldiers waiting to be ordered, braving the jarring cold.  “Not strong enough” was the verdict on these soldiers, and so he drifted quietly to the counter, measuring his every step in silence before marking the options that were shelved behind the store clerk.  Between his old friend Morgan and the clear gin, he settled decidedly on the Johnnie Walker, hoping it wouldn’t take long for him to feel and forget in its warmth.  He asked the clerk for the Black Label, and he reached into his back pocket for his wallet to reimburse the apothecary.  Upon holding the neck of the bottle, he turned to leave and stepped into a memory.  He had been playing with his father’s mug, not realizing that there was still coffee in it, and the lukewarm liquid came spilling out over the brim, onto the freshly ironed white shirt that had been prepared for work.  His father turned the corner just as it happened, and he remembered seeing his father processing the scene.  He began to try and use tissues to wipe up the coffee, but it wasn’t working; the shirt was just brown.  His father picked him up and smiled at him, telling him that this was why we didn’t play with Daddy’s cups, and then he took the shirt to the bathroom and tried to get the stain out as soon as he could.  The stained shirt sat soaking in bleach as his father went to iron a sky blue shirt in its stead.  His father hurriedly put on the blue shirt and said goodbye to him and his mother, leaving for the day to go to work.  All that he remembered next was his father coming home, staring a thousand miles beyond everything that he looked at, and crumpling into the dining room chair, elbows on the table, hands in his hair.  His mother saw this and went to comfort him, saying that it was going to be okay and that he would get back on his feet.  His father had nothing to say, and he went to the glass cabinet and took out the big glass bottle with the caramel-brown water inside, and he poured it into a little cup.  He drank, poured again. Drank, poured again. Drank, poured again. Drank.  His father was never the same after that day, and when he didn’t come home one night, the little boy cried.  He cried knowing that it was his fault Daddy didn’t love him.  He cried because he didn’t know what he was doing that made Daddy so upset.  He cried because he never before had to hope Daddy would come home.  The little boy cried then, and as the man stepped back out into the rain, the little boy cried now.

The Little Boy.

The man walked along the partially wet sidewalk, sheltered from the drizzling rain by the canopy just above the liquor store.  He stared down at the ground, mind blank and yet processing. He mulled over the death, sifting through his personal reaction to it all.  The rain beckoned for a safe haven, and so into the liquor store he went.  Half mentally present, he proffered a half smile and a swallowed hello before proceeding to look at the various elixirs that stood before him, an ever-present army of vigilant soldiers waiting to be ordered, braving the jarring cold.  “Not strong enough” was the verdict on these soldiers, and so he drifted quietly to the counter, measuring his every step in silence before marking the options that were shelved behind the store clerk.  Between his old friend Morgan and the clear gin, he settled decidedly on the Johnnie Walker, hoping it wouldn’t take long for him to feel and forget in its warmth.  He asked the clerk for the Black Label, and he reached into his back pocket for his wallet to reimburse the apothecary.  Upon holding the neck of the bottle, he turned to leave and stepped into a memory.  He had been playing with his father’s mug, not realizing that there was still coffee in it, and the lukewarm liquid came spilling out over the brim, onto the freshly ironed white shirt that had been prepared for work.  His father turned the corner just as it happened, and he remembered seeing his father processing the scene.  He began to try and use tissues to wipe up the coffee, but it wasn’t working; the shirt was just brown.  His father picked him up and smiled at him, telling him that this was why we didn’t play with Daddy’s cups, and then he took the shirt to the bathroom and tried to get the stain out as soon as he could.  The stained shirt sat soaking in bleach as his father went to iron a sky blue shirt in its stead.  His father hurriedly put on the blue shirt and said goodbye to him and his mother, leaving for the day to go to work.  All that he remembered next was his father coming home, staring a thousand miles beyond everything that he looked at, and crumpling into the dining room chair, elbows on the table, hands in his hair.  His mother saw this and went to comfort him, saying that it was going to be okay and that he would get back on his feet.  His father had nothing to say, and he went to the glass cabinet and took out the big glass bottle with the caramel-brown water inside, and he poured it into a little cup.  He drank, poured again. Drank, poured again. Drank, poured again. Drank.  His father was never the same after that day, and when he didn’t come home one night, the little boy cried.  He cried knowing that it was his fault Daddy didn’t love him.  He cried because he didn’t know what he was doing that made Daddy so upset.  He cried because he never before had to hope Daddy would come home.  The little boy cried then, and as the man stepped back out into the rain, the little boy cried now.

Save It for a Rainy Day.

As rain graced the front lawn with its mild pitter-patter, he sighed as he turned his eyes from the window back to looking longingly through an old photo album.  The fact that he had a photo album at all already hinted at the amount of dust he had to blow off before opening it.  Eyes watering before he even got to the first page, he waited for his coughing fit to subside before attempting to make out individuals, years younger than they were now, on the glossy, colored rectangles.  He saw familiar pictures of him as an infant that had been embarrassingly shown to every family acquaintance, family photos at various scenic locations and unremembered birthday parties, and his dad’s transition for donning glasses that made him look like a human fly to lenses that made him look like a pretty fly human.  These were all just memories now; re-creating some of these events wouldn’t even be possible.

With a sharp intake of breath, he saw his first pet, Buddy.  How had he forgotten him?  A warm golden retriever, Buddy had been with him during his teenage years, loyally sitting at his side through all of the unspoken troubles that rebellious teenagers inevitably go through.  He remembered throwing the frisbee as far as he could and watching Buddy race after it, then laughing as he watched Buddy jerk his head from side to side trying to throw it back to him.  He remembered sitting on the couch, watching the television, and seeing Buddy amble along and plop down right under his feet – he remembered Buddy’s breath swelling slowly up and down against his legs.  He remembered…

He killed Buddy.

As he pulled into the driveway late at night, that foolish, affable, loyal creature bounded right in front of his car and the consequential thud said enough.  He ran out of his car without a second thought, but it was already too late; Buddy lay still, never to catch, nor attempt to throw, another frisbee again.  He forgot about how he cried as he held the cooling body in his hands, waking up with a blanket draped around him.  He forgot about walking into the house, shivering, holding Buddy in his arms, and collapsing in a chair, hearing what his parents said to console him, but not understanding anything they said.  He forgot the months spent in quiet everywhere he went, swallowing bit by bit the guilt that had consumed his soul.

He got over it eventually, but they never talked about it again in that house.  Buddy was in many more pictures in that album, but something suffocated the desire to continue reminiscing on the matter.  It was raining that day as well.  Suddenly, the rain outside intensified in volume, and it took on a more menacing tone, a rumble of thunder, a glare of lightning.  He saw the headlights of his car rove into the driveway, he felt the thud, the rain washed over him.  How quickly it was all over, years of companionship ended by an exaggerated gesture of welcome.  He missed his Buddy.

He had no idea how long he had been repressing this memory.  It has been decades since he even thought of Buddy, much less the circumstances in which Buddy had been killed.  He never got another dog, nor did he ever desire another pet.  He always felt pangs of melancholy echo in the chambers of his heart when he saw other dogs, but he figured it was just puppy love.  He sighed. He thought he had suppressed recalling the tragedy for so long because he took the life of what had been his best friend – turns out he had just been saving it for a rainy day.

Mourning Dew.

The sun rose at six today,

sparkling dewdrops rest.

The wind knows not what to say,

to crystal tears on grassy crest.

`

The drops grew slow below the sky,

aether joining solid earth.

The blades of grass with eyes did cry,

giving the soul a knowing berth.

`

With bended back, the blade bows low,

green grass with moisture in its face.

Howling wind of heart’s sorrow

does the silent grief replace.

These Streets.

These streets no longer are the same;

footsteps fall

foreign before asphalt.

These streets once saw the

joy of nighttime cheer, now

tears adorn the paved sidewalks.

These streets now bear

in memory, ones who were loved

and loved others.

We walked upon them for

years and years,

yet it was not

these streets we walked upon.

These streets, they’ve changed

along the way,

and so have we.