“I don’t always get to say I love you. I don’t remember if I said that to Jamie yesterday morning.” ~ Fred Guttenberg, father of Jaime, who was murdered on Wednesday, February 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
1. Inhaling the inner sleeve of an LP of Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy in the middle of George’s listening room days before did not take you back by some olfactory miracle to that era when you believed you were invincible, that life was meant for you, and you can’t stop thinking about that the whole week, like the industrial bpm of a drill in the back of your head when the terrifying news goes viral.
2. Everybody knows that “everything will be fine” is a lie but we say it anyway in a world where they just went to school one day.
3. When texting your friend Sarah, a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, you type, “Our nephew wasn’t in that part of the building” and you hesitate and then don’t write “thank Gd” because it suddenly feels like an affront. You couldn’t help but not thank Gd when Sarah had huddled in a room guarding the lives of kids not her own, when Sarah had lost students, friends, and colleagues to the bullets of an AR-15 somehow legally in the hands of a sick 19 year old boy.
4. But you do thank Gd, you thank Gd, you thank Gd for the lives of those who made it, those who survived, now finding their voices – including Sarah – and screaming for all the world to hear their pain and the determination to live anew borne from it.
5. They call b.s., amen selah, they call b.s, they call b.s., amen selah, amen selah.
6. You cancel Saturday night plans to stay home with Chana. No other reason. She hangs out in her room talking to friends in NY. The hard tiles carry her laughter to your room, where you actually Netflix and actually chill, amen selah.
7. The next day you go to the record store with Chana. Flipping LPs in stuffed bins, talking about album art and which groups you listened to and her mother listened to and sharing a small glass bottle of Coke from another era when taking your daughter to the record store had nothing to do with the fear of her suddenly being taken from you.
8. The clerk plays punk albums by Beach Slang and Bully that causes you and Chana to bounce your heads. When you tell the clerk you like what’s playing because you can hear some Husker Du in it, he tells you that you give off that vibe. You have no idea why that gives you an extra hop in your steps back to the bins. It’s possible for moments to give way to music, for music to move you.
9. In these bins are the soundtracks of so many lives, revolutions, movements, and moments. But you’ve seen the news and you can’t think of a better soundtrack for the times than the silence between shots.
10. You fill the space between you with a constant chatter. Look, Chana, your mother liked these guys, still does. Look, Chana, these guys were huge in the 80s. Come Chana. I’m so happy you’re here with me, Chana. Chana, kid, this is awesome.
11. We’ve been here so long, Daddy. Can we go soon? There’s a Dunkin’ less than a mile away. . .
12. Alyssa is forever 14. Martin is forever 14. Jaime is forever 14. Cara is forever 14. Gina is forever 14. Alaina is forever 14. Alex is forever 14. Luke is forever 15. Peter is forever 15. Carmen is forever 16. Nicholas is forever 17. Joaquin is forever 17. Helena is forever 17. Meadow is forever 18. Scott, Aaron, and Chris, the adults, were all in their mid-30s. They went to school one day.
13. They call b.s., they call b.s., they call b.s., amen selah, amen selah. We call b.s.
14. I will tell you a million times and a million times more that I love you but nothing can express the love I feel as we walk to Dunkin’ after you’d bought your first vinyl record before we even have a record player – what else but the soundtrack to Mary Poppins? – how I want you to stay 15 forever and 16 forever and on and on bright and blue eyed and innocent forever, how knowing everything isn’t fine and never will be does not lessen the impossible love for the persistence of this life even as it is so easy to lose all confidence in that after all that we know. I love you, I love you, I love you, my daughter, my son in Israel, my children and my students, here in my heart, Gd protect you, amen selah, amen selah, as we call b.s. b.s. b.s. Amen selah. They went to school one day. Amen selah.