My, my, what a chipper blog I’ve created. Death, destruction, tragedy. Feast your eyes on this beaut of a read. I will eventually someday make you laugh. Just not today, nope, not yet.
I’ll be returning to Tucson soon. My forever home and my never home. Beer will flow like the rivers that don’t run in the desert. Mexican flavors will make me feel bloated and happy and satiated. I’ll pick up that weird southwestern spanglish tinge in my words. I’ll talk faster and quieter and move a little slower. I’ll also be there for the anniversary of the day Gabby Giffords was shot in the supermarket parking lot. At the Safeway about 15 minutes from my sister’s–halfway between my sister’s home and my father’s apartment. I was in grad school the first time around then. It was a Saturday after the holidays. There’s that feeling of coming out of the holiday season, but you’re a bit hungover with dry Christmas tree needles and leftover lights and stale Christmas cookies and wrinkled shreds of wrapping paper in the recycling bins. We were lounging about in our sweats; drinking coffee with vanilla creamer; my sister was making eggs and tortillas and hashbrowns. My father was fixing some piece of hardware that needed mending.
I knew of Gabby Giffords, but I don’t follow Arizona politics regularly. I didn’t know she would be at the Safeway that morning greeting her constituents. The news alert interrupted our regularly scheduled programming. I think my sister got a call from her mother right away. She was crying. I remember standing in the kitchen and looking over at my father who was standing behind the couch in the small entryway…shocked, still, serious.
My niece wasn’t home with us. She had spent the night at her dad’s. There was a brief bit of panic as my sister reassured us that my niece wasn’t at the Safeway. She sometimes shopped there with her stepmom. They had not gone to the store that morning. My niece was amused at the sound of panic creeping in on the edges of my sister’s phone call to her. On Friday, the day before, we had ordered soup and sandwiches at the Beyond Bread across the street from the Safeway. I remember I was starting to get sick and only felt like soup. The before and the after. How quickly it formulates in your mind. We drove by later to pick up my niece from her dad’s. The yellow police tape hanging, loosening, a strange melancholy symbol of the calm that had reconvened after the violence of the morning. The rest of the week was spent slightly on edge. The usual why, why, why. The vigils and the candles and the flowers and the teddy bears at the office of Giffords around the corner from my sister’s neighborhood. I don’t think of that morning often. I’ve filed it away in things you won’t forget. On a muggy summer night in 2012, I was sitting on a futon in West Lafayette, Indiana watching The Newsroom with my friends. I wasn’t expecting the episode to feature those scenes of distress and terror in Tucson. I wasn’t expecting to feel sickened and panicked and sad without a moment’s notice. Sweaty palmed and helpless. I withdrew into myself as the company around me engaged with the footage on the screen. And it’s because of this particular moment, this secondary, maybe even tertiary memory, that I can relate to the article Emily Floros wrote for The Chronicle about her lived experience in Newtown:
Sometimes I don’t think people consider the non abstract of the events or the feelings they discuss. They can’t imagine horrible things happening in their circle, in the lives of those around them, so they don’t couch their language to address the potential. It’s like during my study abroad meeting with students when we had to give them our obligatory spiel about the repatriation benefits of their health insurance, and everyone got caught up on the idea of shipping a body overseas and there were awkward uncomfortable giggles pinging about the room. I wanted to stand up and glare at all of them, for not considering the person I knew whose parents weren’t lucky enough to ever see his body again.
None of this. Not that. But other parts of my life are in fact quite funny.