It was not snowing,
the shopping center was not
shut down for three, going on four hours.
We were not in a distant
northern city, and the bed we didn’t share
was not rented. The television
didn’t cover the events, there was no
discussion of long guns, hostages,
or possible motives. Nothing was political,
and I didn’t call home or send
a message to a friend to learn
his mother was not shopping there,
in the town in the state in the country
where this has not become part of living.
My fingers didn’t ache of cold
and questions of
how not to speak
about this not happening.
We didn’t flip through the channels,
I wasn’t driven to distraction by lack of details,
and you did not ask me (repeatedly) to forget this,
to never think about it again. The distance
between people huddling in windowless offices
and us was not obvious, and I was not ashamed
to be in a restaurant, tomato sauce hot
on my cheek. When we returned,
our phones did not buzz to life
with word from relatives
who were not safe, we did not turn
the television back on to see
a police lieutenant without tears
explain that the suspect was not
captured. She did not refer to the people
who were not seeking assistance
in the medical building by something
other than their names. She didn’t say
he carried bags into the building
with him, she didn’t refuse
to reveal more information
on the suspect, or why he did not do
what he didn’t. The next day, the papers
did not share his name, his picture
was not framed to show his eyes
as someone searching and desperate.
His mugshot did not stir something
within me, he didn’t appear
in any way similar to the others
who have not killed, and I was not conflicted,
not seeing in his face a man I did not know.
His cheeks and eyebrows weren’t familiar,
did not make me think of the neighbor
across the street who didn’t house a cabinet
of guns his not-adopted son and I didn’t find.
Years later, his son did not bring one of the pistols
to school. I am not trying to contextualize why
these images of wild white men do not keep me
awake at night. I do not imagine what they might
have thought. So when I am in a subway station,
or a theater, I do not remark how it is a wonder
the numbers aren’t higher than they are not.
This weekend, I didn’t surprise you by saying
it wouldn’t be so easy in this northern city
of underground passages. No escape
when the gun does not go off.