Sometimes we can’t forget.
Timid fingers tapped the keys at a slower pace than when they were free of anxiety’s constraint. The letters and numbers, slashes, commas and dashes got lost, falling over one another and the mess was horrible. It felt like I was assembling words on the side of a refrigerator with all those many-colored plastic letters that have the magnets pressed into their backs. It wasn’t really that bad, but when things were going wrong and too fast, it was unsettling, and the things looked afright. I’m sure my letters would get fat and turn colors, too, if I closed my eyes and rubbed them hard enough. Not something I need to do when the beep keeps going off. Not something I need to do when it may be the sobbing mother who is calling to tell me that her son just killed himself, or when the one son calls from the neighbor’s house to say that a father is fighting with his two sons and he had a knife until the one son took it away from him.
The call from the mom, while unnerving and sobering, also served as something resembling instruction. I kept the line open as she talked to the other city’s 9-1-1 operator and I had my first opportunity to partake of that particular brand of sorrow. It wasn’t hysteria, but the sobs and agony came from the deeper regions of her heart. The other operator asked her how she knew he killed himself and she answered that he told her that he was going to, and then the gun went off, and then silence. I don’t know if the line went dead, I don’t know if someone hung it up for him, I don’t know anything like that. I do know, however, that this woman had never been touched like she was this afternoon. She told us later in the call that her husband had killed himself years ago, but even so, today was different. This was her remaining loved one. This was the baby she might have nursed, and held, and nurtured, and loved for so many years. Nobody saw the sun reflect in his eyes the way she did and no one’s heart quaked the way hers did when he came running to her one of those days in those many years ago with tears streaming down his face with whatever unknown sorrow. Today was Mommy in anguish, having heard the unthinkable, and with such finality. How does one console a Mommy? How?
And then…call-waiting on the cell phone beeped in her ear…and it was her son, alive and unharmed. I hung-up at hearing this and sat there, dumbfounded. And rage, was there rage?