Evan: Turn it up, Mommy!
The song had become popular in the last couple weeks. Always on the radio. Every time I heard it half listening, as I drove, as I answered questions or settled squabbles. But something never sat right. It was a catchy tune, but something just wasn’t right. . . . I said as much.
No, it’s just a good song. Faster than my brother.
Me: No. (Pause) It’s “out run my gun.” Oh my god. It’s “faster than my bullet.”
A shiver ran up my spine. And I was lost in a memory.
It was a beautiful day. I was coming back to the dorms between classes and work. I figured I tried to get some homework done. Or a nap. Probably a nap.
The rabbits frolicked in the grass. I had to admit CA had some nice weather at random times. I walked passed the barricades and around the dorm into the quad, hoping that The Violinist was home, meaning our door would be wide open, but it also meant marching band music would be blasting. I shuddered. I got ready to bounce to a run. She should be home.
She wasn’t. Drat. I kept strolling.
But the suitemates were. Or one of them. Their door was open. Cool. I’ll pop in for a hello and then walk through the hallway into my dorm room. Probably better this way. I kinda want that nap.
I walked through the quad, ignoring the winding sidewalk. I stuck my tongue out at Satan Bunny. I strolled into the suitemates’ room.
Something was wrong. The Sleepy Suitemate (We were so sure she was going to flunk out since she overslept her classes all the time. Even the afternoon ones!) was up, sitting sideways on her chair. The Sweet Suitemate (She had the dorm room all to her self last semester, making it hers, making it a sanctuary with soft music and a comfortable bed) was on the futon bunk of her bunk beds, crushing a pillow to her chest. Just inside the door to my right was My Guy Expert (My All American Guy, My Twin, we were so much a like we were sure I would be him if I was a boy, and he would be me. Hell, we even had a similar look), who lived two doors down. On my left stood The Writer (it would be this semester he would realize his calling, at the time he was a film student, reading his scripts in a wheel chair he had picked up somewhere. It matched my thousands of glow in the dark stars, christmas lights, and kiddie pool. We were a weird floor.), looking confused and distraught. All of their eyes were glued to the TV.
I looked at the TV. I read the caption. I saw the high schoolers running. I held my breath. I listened to the reporter. I stepped inside the room, standing between the boys. I felt small, despite my height.
I noticed all the barefoot girls, who had to leave their clogs and heals behind. That is why I always wore hiking boots, despite the snickers of some of my high school companions.
The footage was raw. The reports coming in. Conflicting. No one knew how many. Bombs. Mafia. Trench coat. Well, that’s going to suck for all the goth kids throughout the country as the adults were going to ban those.
The Writer: (quiet, as though to himself) I know kids there. They were our rival high school.
From distant horror, the mood spiraled into grief without another word spoken.
I, who never was good at these things, growing up with boys who punched their emotions, placed my hand on The Writers shoulder. We stood there. Watching.
And it was a beautiful day.
“Fae, no one fought back.”
The Friendly Giant sounded young, small, vulnerable. Well, he should. He was my baby brother. Just a freshman in high school. Not the Giant yet. I was still taller than him.
I sat perched on the sink ledge, back against the wall, feet pressed against the other wall. It was the only thing keeping me from tumbling to the floor as I cradled the phone. It was Sunday night, the night to call home, days after that afternoon. The folks were late coming home from Grandma’s and Grandpa’s. But The Friendly Giant was home, and he, to my amazement, was willing to talk more than the word fine.
The Friendly Giant: They just huddled there in the far corners, waiting, trapped like . . . mice. All it would have taken was one person. One smart, brave person. But they were too afraid. Too afraid to do what was right.
Me: I know.
The Friendly Giant: What the fuck, Fae?!
He never cussed. It was washed out of him at an early age. He was the first to make the mistake in front of dad, the first to get his mouth washed out with soap, the first and the youngest. He never cussed after that. At least not in front of the family.
I wanted to hug him. My teddy bear baby brother. I understood.
Me: I know. I don’t want to go out like that.
The Friendly Giant: I’ll fight. I won’t go out like that.
Me: Better to face the bullet in hopes to take out the jerk than to huddle waiting for fate to make the decision for you.
The Friendly Giant: Yeah. I’ll face the bullet.
Me: Me too.
It was a vow. Something we would only hint on during the tragedies that would follow through the years. We knew where we would stand. We were too much like our father. We couldn’t hide or run away.
I’m a poet. I knew what they were doing when they wrote the song. I get it. It was well done. But I had three innocents in my car. They could wait to learn about sh*t like this. I turned the radio to another channel.