I've been gone again. As some of you are aware, my friend Rob's little brother was murdered in Omaha a few days ago, which has stopped me from writing much. I thought a lot about it, but there isn't that much to say.
I have progressed to the point that I can talk about it, and not be afraid that makes it more real. So I'll say what I can think of.
Obit stories are always full of glowing descriptions about the best of people, and I think that's great. My first reporting teacher, a short man who cast a long shadow, always described reporting as something like standing on a high window with the chance to throw roses or crap on the people down below. "Try to throw more roses," he used to say. That statement goes a long way in explaining why I never, never, never want to be a cops reporter.
Thomas' was full of glowing details, and rightly so. But the lasting memory I have of him was from this past New Year's Eve, when friends and I stopped off at the home to say hello. Tom was glued into some video war game, stubbornly resisting Rob's efforts to get him off so we could play Wii Tennis. When I heard Tom had been killed, this is what made me the saddest: he, like me, had been an 11-year-old know-it-all, but he, unlike me, would never have the chance to grow into something else.
I caught myself once before I added "for no reason" on to the end of "Tom had been killed," as people sometimes unwittingly do. As if there were ever a good reason to kill a sixth-grader.
For the first time in some time, I wished I were religious. Just because "I'll be thinking about you" doesn't carry the emotional weight of "you'll be in our prayers."
I managed to get my work done this weekend, at least the minimum I needed to attain. But it's hard to surmount this truckload of cosmic ennui. As has been copiously noted in occasional self-pitying posts, I'm here in Massachusetts away from my friends, just doing "personal development," or whatever you'd like to call it. But in the wake of such a barbaric action, everything I'm doing seems terribly irrelevant.
It's hard to straddle that line, the one between allowing yourself to be properly devastated by the horrific and giving into existential malaise.
But I love you, Rob, if you're there.