At 6:40, my alarm went off. The room was dark. I stayed up too late, playing a computer game. I grumbled at the alarm. I turned over and silenced the beeping. My daughter had crawled into bed wih us a few minutes before, our daily precursor to the alarm. I sat up. I hugged her sleepily. I stood up. She followed me into the hallway. I stumbled into my sleeping son’s room. I rubbed his silken back.
“Hey Monkey. Time to wake up.”
I brushed his bed-wrestled hair. He turned in shadow, stretched, smiled through half-open eyes, and rolled back over. The darkness in his room had the hesitant tint of the coming dawn. The room smelled like sleeping boy. I stepped away from his bed, and stepped on old Curious George who had fallen to the floor during the night. My son didn’t want to wake. I rubbed his back again.
“Kiddo. Time for school.”
He sat up in bed. He smiled again. I touched his face and left his room. I went to the bathroom. I heard him climb out of bed, and I heard his sister start up her morning conversations with him which he always sweetly participates in. I left the bathroom.
I went to the kitchen. My wife is already in there, making a baked something for a holiday party at her work. In the family room behind me I hear the sound of my children’s footsteps as the pad into the family room. From the kitchen I can see the outline of their shadows in the dawn that breaks through the window. They play. I make coffee. My wife heads to the shower, where she calls our daughter to join her. Reluctantly, the girl leaves her sibling playmate and joins her mother. Morning.
“Go get dressed, please.”
My son says “Kay.”
He goes to his room. I hear the airy rush of his yawn, followed by the soft scrape of the wood on wood as he opens his dresser. He fumbles for clothes I cannot see. He dresses himself well.
I go to look for frozen veggie sausage in the deep freeze, because it is Friday and I like to make eggs and veggie sausage for my family on Friday. The chest freezer hums in the growing light of the morning. I lift the lid, which I notice is not sealing well. I make a mental note to try and fix this later. There are no veggie patties in the freezer. I settle for english muffins instead. Morning.
I make eggs. I sip coffee as I do so. There is very little hot water coming from the kitchen spigot, because it is being routed through old pipes to the bathroom and into the hot shower that the ladies in my life are sharing. In the family room, my son has come back and he has dressed himself in a fetching sweater and jeans. He has picked up a book. I sip more coffee and stir eggs. Morning.
Fast forward 15 minutes. We gather around the table to eat eggs that no one really wants. My son is chatty and he is excited to go on his school trip to see ”The Nutcracker” today. My daughter wants to tell me what she got me for Christmas. My wife is already tired from the day she knows she will have at work. I am tired from over-indulging in a late night game session. I don’t listen as well as normally because of that indulgence. I eat my eggs sleepily and chat with my family. Morning.
I look at the clock. I tell my son to put a foot on it. We need to leave for school in five minutes. Those next five minutes are a quiet whirlwind of teethbrushing, shoe tying, hair combing, table clearing and quick “byes” and “I love you’s” to Mom and sister. I put on my coat and he puts on his and I walk him to school like I do every day. I hold his hand. We talk a lot. It is cold outside, but the morning sun is a luminous winter topaz in a sharp azure sky. We live two blocks from the school. The sound of children are everywhere. Morning.
We have an extra minute or two, so we cut across the playground. We like to see if we can find classmates on the way. Sometimes, we play superheroes on the walk over. Today, we just chat. The playground is crowded and lively, despite the cold and the early hour. Children are amazing. Morning.
We walk around the school. We smile and wave at friends and their families, mostly mothers. There are many heys and how-are-yous. I walk him up to the line of classmates that are forming outside the school door. He runs to see his pals. The bell rings as soon as we get there. Morning.
He runs back to me quickly, gives me a quick hug. I hold him close, kiss his forehead and say “Hey. Have a great time at The Nutcracker.” He smiles, and dashes off to the line that is already pouring into the school. I do not say I love you this morning. I always do. But this morning I don’t, for no particular reason. I watch him enter his school. The colors of his backpack fold themselves into the tide of kids as it ebbs swiftly into the school. I turn and I begin my solitary walk home. Morning.
At 9:30 this morning, a gunman carrying multiple firearms walked into an elementary school in Connecticut and killed nearly 20 children in cold blood. Most of them were kindergarteners. Babies.
* * *
I need to remember. I want to remember. I need to remember everything about this morning, in antiseptic detail.
My babies are alive. But this morning, many babies are dead because of a morning man and his morning guns, and most of their families had mornings as ordinary as mine and now their lives are unimaginably shattered beyond repair. Today, I cannot simply think “wow, what a fucking tragedy” and move on with my life. Maybe later, but not right now. Right now I am paralyzed by the horror of us, and by the depth of evil we are capable of and by the evil destructive dangers of stupid, cowardly human beings and the horrifying, cowardly weapons we love. Maybe later, I can breathe. Right now, I churn with despair and tremble with the fury of a grief I can hardly bear to imagine.
Because what if this morning had been the last morning I had spent with my boy? How many regrets would I replay endlessly among the fractured shards of our ordinary morning routine? Which devastating regret would my useless, shattered heart settle upon? Which part of my pathetic body would stop functioning and disintegrate first? When would I choke myself and stop breathing? At what precise moment would I eschew any and all desire to live? What would I remember as I raised an angry fist to an absent God and what would I pull into the darkness with me as I welcomed a total black death like an infinite coma?
The heart of the world is broken beyond repair. We are as bile and fester. Fix this.