Last night I got home at midnight after hand-to-hand combat with Oracle’s can’t-do-a-full-outer-join-to-save-its-life SQL variant. Got the news that there had been a shooting at the shopping center I usually run to for books and food. Then got the news that a girl from my old church was shot and killed by an ex-boyfriend.
He was 16.
16 years old, and he shot and killed his ex.
I don’t have words, really.
Trin dropped me a line around that time and told me she was a little worried – Siri had headed out hours ago to drop a friend off at O’hare, but they hadn’t heard back from her since then. Any other time, and I don’t think it would’ve had the same impact, but with the recent violence it chilled me. When Trin told me she’d finally arrived home, the relief was a tangible thing.
Death has only really touched me three times. The first was my grandmother’s, when I was 12. I’d been the baby of the family, and she was looking for someone to lavish attention on. I grew up with her wit, her tricks and practical jokes – I knew that whatever happened, she’d be on my side. It’s one of the benefits of being a grandparent, I guess. Being there for all the support and encouragement, but going home when the parents have to lay down the smack.
She was a lifelong smoker, too, and cancer was inevitable. I didn’t really know how to respond, and I think what grief I did have was caught up in the famlial mourning for the lost matriarch.
The second time was Milisia – a net.friend I met at random while playing on a MUSH. She and I worked for months to build an online roleplaying game, laughing and joking and writing textual descriptions for a million and a half rooms and hallways and NPCs. She took a leave of absence after a while, citing personal reasons. I figured it was all about conflicts with the guy running the server; we were friends but personality clashes were common. A year later, she reappeared. She wanted to touch base and catch up with the old gang. We had a few good long talks, and it was like a breath of fresh air ‘seeing’ her again.
She didn’t log in for another week; that’s when we got news that she’d died of AIDS-related complications. She’d been bedridden for months. With a friend typing for her, she’d visited us to say hello again.
The third was Carol. She was Nate’s friend, originally, but I got to know her when we all started hanging out on the weekends. Cruising around the suburbs, hiking, watching movies, grabbing dinner and talking and laughing. She was quiet, thoughtful, and wanted to be an air force pilot. She had logged plenty of flight time, and loved planes like a mother loves her child. We would be out walking and a plane would pass overhead – she would point up, look shocked and delighted, and say, “Plane!” Every single time.
She left to finish her last year of college credits, and I fell out of touch; we hadn’t talked for half a year when I got a message from Nate saying that Carol was in the news. He sent me a link. It was a news story about a drunk driver; Carol had been blindsided, and her old subcompact was crushed. It took me a few minutes of staring, rereading, to realize that she had been killed. They told what tape had been in her car’s stereo. I still don’t think I really understand, and it’s been two years.