I am in Target. It is full of crabby shoppers and harried staff. I am just entering the aisle of 10,000 Christmas Things when my Tardis ringtone starts: rrrrWOOOrrrrWOOOrrrrWOOO… rrrrWOOOrrrrWOOOrrrrWOOO… rrrrWOOOrrrrWOOOrrrrWOOO…. (What’s a Tardis? you wonder. Here: more than you wanted to know, but you asked for it.)
A lady in the same aisle, coolly assessing wrapping paper, predictably glances up, has no interest in the Tardis or me, and goes back to it. Suddenly, a (tired, stressed-looking) Target Employee comes running around the corner, yelling “TAKE ME WITH YOU, DOCTOR!” He nearly knocks me over.
Alarmed, the lady asks: “Is he ok? Are you a doctor? Should I call an ambulance?” Mr. Target Employee & I look at each other and start laughing like loons. We can’t stop. Wrapping Paper Lady looks affronted. He finally collects himself and says to her “Sorry, ma’am. It’s a geek thing. Happy Holidays.”
Then he shakes my hand, turns, and returns from whence he came.
I am still grinning when I walk out of the store. I am still grinning when a friend texts me one word: Connecticut. My smile fades as I scroll through my Twitter feed to find out what’s going on. The news is fresh and contradictory, but one thing is clear: some asshole walked into a school and killed a bunch of little kids. Holy fuck. Little kids.
The face of every kid I love shines behind my eyes. Then: no. Don’t go there.
I drive over to my sister’s house. It’s where I go when things feel rough, you know? We talk for awhile, about how horrible it is, how it’s not happening to us, yet it is happening to us. I mean, we’re fine. But…we’re all one family in the end. But we’re not. But it could happen to anyone, to anyone’s kids. But it didn’t, it happened to specific people and specific kids. It shouldn’t happen to anyone. But it does. All the time. All we can conclude is that little kids are dead, it’s messed up, and we feel helpless and terrible. In this moment, I am happy that I don’t have children. By the time I leave, my mind is back on my errands.
I stop at a gas station. As I walk up to the door, I see a guy in a Massive Pick-Up Truck (I live in the land of MPUTs). His head is down and his shoulders shaking. He looks up and I see tears running down his face.
Hesitating a bit, I go over to his window. He rolls it down. Big, burly dude, wearing a farm-battered Carhartt coat.
Me: “Are you ok? Are you sick?” Flashback to TAKE ME WITH YOU, DOCTOR!
Him: “No…I’m not sick. I’m not ok. I just dropped my boy off at practice, and I keep thinking about those kids in Connecticut. All those kids. And I just keep thinking of my kid…” He starts crying, hard. I reach into the window and take his hand. I start crying, too, of course.
I stand there and cry with this guy (I never got his name). He finally gives my hand a squeeze and lets go. He says thanks. I say, same goes. He rolls up his window, Puts his MPUT in gear, and goes. I sit in The Red Barron (my car) until I calm down. It never really happens, but I have to head home. I take the long way, feeling awful, and sniffling.
I am halfway home when: fuck this. I turn the radio on, and crank it loud. It helps. I’m waiting at a stoplight and singing along to LCD Soundsystem’s Daft Punk Is Playing at My House (My House), when I look over and see this kid in a Toyota, also singing his heart out. After a minute, I realize, Holy Shit! He’s singing the same song. He notices me, does a double take as he realizes the same thing, rolls his windows down, and turns the music UP. I do the same. Winter air washes over me. The bassline makes our cars shiver. We howl along.
We don’t move until the cars behind us start honking. He waves once, and turns the corner.