I unwrap two chicken breasts from brown paper and pour over olive oil and lemon juice and spices. I wash my hands. I place clean glasses into the cabinet, stack clean plates beside them. I think of sweeping the pine needles from the floor, but the low buzz in my body increases intensity.
I can’t absorb this attack, the words form in my mind. Not another. Not one more.
I walk into my bedroom and start my electric kettle. The room fills with blue light. I find my headphones and a slow playlist. I begin to move. I move into dance. I kneel at my juniper calendar and rearrange the nine squares around a new intention: sleep. I massage oil on my belly.
I light a floating candle on the water of my ritual bowl for the families and the children. For America, the beautiful.
Earlier as I scrolled the live updates for the mass shooting, I saw the usual clamor for gun control, and knew the clamor would rise and fall, until the next massacre. I remembered sitting in my high school library at sixteen writing about another school shooting. I remember the line: it is good to be shocked by blood. I spent the rest of the day throwing up. I was soft then. I wrote about the murdered children, and I wrote about their murderer. I remember his eyes. A kid, like the 18 year old today. When kids are killing other kids, you look at the grown ups.
Here we are, making one another the enemy again, blaming the G.O.P. or the irreligious hedonists, blaming the system, typing tiny missives to the choir. Here we are doing the same things and expecting different results. Insane. Insane with our own righteousness. Here we stand at that cavern between us, spitting across the gap, the wind blowing it back in our eyes. Will we ever be able to look at one another again? History will name our clamor, and the name will not be Justice.
I change my playlist from “melancholy instrumentals” to “dark strings.” I change it back. Gotta have the right vibe.
I see blood and accidentally scratch my eye when I jump. I keep hearing a mother scream. This afternoon my nanny family dad told me that once a fire alarm went off in a public building when he and his family were out. Their two year old dropped immediately to the floor and belly crawled under a table. Trained.
Their baby slept on my chest while I checked the live updates again. I saw the soft outline of his round cheek in the light of my phone screen. Eighteen babies. I kissed the fine hair on his head.
I stand on the back porch, my notebook pressed against my chest. I don’t know whether or not to let the screams in. I feel the damp woods under my socks, it must have rained while I was inside writing. I feel the air beneath the wood — a sudden sense of suspension. I hear the robins in the trees, and the highway traffic so constant it sounds like a river.
When I return to my room the candle is still lit. My room smells like me, smells human and like tea and juniper smoke lingering from last night’s Stone. I’m missing my class. My stomach feels light with hunger. I wrap my blanket around my shoulders, and for a moment, before I return to the kitchen to cook the chicken breasts with green beans and small red potatoes, I let myself close my eyes to listen.