Another part of me, perhaps more sentimental but also more truthful, had to acknowledge that the cat was undeniably another being in the world, experiencing her one chance at being alive, as I was. It always amused me to hit or elongate the word “you” in speaking to the cat, as in, “Yooouu would probably like that!” because it was funny — and funny often means disquieting and true — to remind myself that there really was another ego in the room with me, with her own likes and dislikes and idiosyncrasies and exasperatingly wrongheaded notions about whose water is better. It did not seem to me like an insoluble epistemological mystery to divine what the cat would like when I woke up and saw her face two inches from mine and the Tentative Paw slowly withdrawing from my lip.
There is a tacit agreement among children to wait until they are grown to start killing one another, and when this is violated we call it “the unimaginable.” We say, “I never thought this kind of thing could happen here.” But at some point in the past 20 years, it began to seem not just imaginable, but inevitable. I happened to be inside the bubble when it finally burst. By my count, between my first day of kindergarten, in August 1990, and my first day of middle school, in August 1996, 23 people — children and teachers and staff — were killed and 20 were wounded in 12 shootings done by students at primary and secondary schools across the United States. By the time I graduated from high school, in May 2003, those numbers had more than doubled: 24 shootings in six years, 110 wounded, 43 dead. In the 11 years since I graduated from high school, 42 have died and 92 have been wounded in 69 shootings committed by students. Since then, too, the less frequent but generally more deadly trend of outside shooters entering schools has spiked: In 16 incidents, 16 wounded and 46 dead — more than half of those at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012, one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. You can plot it all out on a chart and the red line goes up and up and it does not stop.
Today I have an essay up at Matter about growing up in the 90s amid the increasingly unshakeable realities of school shootings. Before I started the piece I had a vague impression of what the numbers would look like when I got them all in one place like this—even still, this shocked me. I wish I had more to say about how we can stop these things from happening, but I don’t, at least not yet. Here’s hoping for a peaceful year.
We’re meat—fragile and finite. But joy is survival.
Contemporary historians report that at the peak of the Antonine Plague, 2,000 people were dying every day in Rome. If the explanation the Romans came up with seems a little silly, it’s difficult to fault them for it. There had to be some cause for the catastrophe, they reasoned. If so many people were dying each day, it must be because they’d done something they shouldn’t have; offended a god, opened a hole in a temple that should have remained closed. It is infinitely more terrifying to imagine that such calamity can befall us entirely by chance.
Charlie, last night. “I WOULD PREFER NOT TO.”
It was a bad week on the heels of a bad month. If you are reading this in real time I hardly have to tell you about it, but in case you aren’t: Gaza, Ukraine, Ebola, Michael Brown, Robin Williams, Ferguson, Ferguson, Ferguson—what am I missing? Probably a lot. Anyway, there was all of this, and then suddenly the lamp situation in my dining room became untenable.
Very few of my tattoos are sui generis. The sum of them, however, is me. I regret none. Of course, there is still some time to feel differently. For now, what I rue most days is not what I’ve put on my skin, but what I’ve put on the Internet. Cached, reblogged, and saved by others, the photos of my tattoos will stick around after I’m gone, while the tattoos themselves will perish when I do. Sometimes I wish I could disappear my online presence altogether when I die—but I can’t, so instead I daydream about cremation, about the way my old skin will burn up like a diary.
Kimball House, last night. If you have the opportunity to join anything that could be described as “a coven,” I recommend it.
No matter how iconic she became, Joplin was always judged as a woman: audiences embraced her talent but never forgave her for using it. Jagger and Lennon were met backstage by adoring fans willing to do anything for their company, but while Joplin had her fun, Echols describes a scene that typifies her frequent desolation: after acing her New York debut, at the Anderson Theater, Joplin found herself alone as her bandmates in Big Brother and the Holding Company went off to party. She wandered to a dive bar, where a journalist approached her; as she complained to him about the guys in the group, he “fantasized shutting her up with the ultimate put-down: ‘You forget you have acne.’”
Over at Matter, I have a little piece about how stupidly much I love my dog but how my dog is not my baby and definitely not my “furbaby.” The illustration by Tim Enthoven is fantastic (and, for the record, not an accurate portrayal of Joe, Charlie, or myself—though for some reason Joe is most interested in distancing himself from the Crocs, less from the mega-short-shorts).
Front porch, Saturday night.
I used to believe that hurting would make you more alive to the hurting of others. I used to believe in feeling bad because somebody else did. Now I’m not so sure of either. I know that being in the hospital made me selfish. Getting surgeries made me think mainly about whether I’d have to get another one. When bad things happened to other people, I imagined them happening to me. I didn’t know if this was empathy or theft.