The florescent lighted fear.

I feel afraid of this world.  If I’m being completely truthful here, nowhere feels safe to me these days and I don’t know that I want to be anywhere anymore.  I’ve lived my whole life thinking that the national headlines were for the news “out there” – “in here” we are saddened by the tragedies we hear/ about from the comfort of our couch. But the last couple weeks have hit too close to home.  I’m in the ‘ache’ now.

I took myself down to the library tonight.  It’s a usual stop I make whenever I’m visiting my parents.  I guess I’m starting to see that there is a direct relation between my emotional state and where I escape – when I don’t know where to go, I go to books.  

I was sitting with my parents in the back family room, as my mom turned on the local news.  I don’t know about your parents, but here in Michigan – the local news feels like it’s on every hour of every day between the multiple local stations and a lot of folks over 55 will watch it religiously.  Luckily, I don’t really have the option to scare myself deeper with daily local tragedies due to replacing cable with countless streaming services back at my house.

But early this evening, the Zoom arraignment of Ethan Crumbley was on and my mother turned up the volume.  I saw his parents, looking distraught.  For a moment I felt something resembling sympathy… that was until more details were shared later in the broadcast.  Then I see this 15 year old in custody, not at all like the outdated photos portraying a baby-faced boy that the media had been sharing of him earlier in the day.  I was stunned by his deep voice as he replied, “Yes” multiple times to affirm he understood his rights and the charges against him.  It felt like thunder.  I could feel the storm intensifying under my skin. 

They showed photos of the victims.

Victims who were living kids less than 36 hours ago.

Kids who were trying to figure out who they were and what they wanted to be when they grew up.  Kids who had Grandmas, siblings, team mates, best friends, parents – just 30 minutes away from where I was currently sitting with my own parents.

Hana St. Juliana, 14 – a bright-smiled girl passionate about basketball and dedicated to her team at Oxford High.

Madisyn Baldwin, 17 – an artistic student who loved to draw, write, and read and who had already been accepted into several colleges – some on full scholarship.

Justin Shilling, 17 – worked at a local restaurant with his friends, co-captain of the Oxford High bowling team, loved to play golf.

Tate Myre – a hard working and much respected star athlete, participating in anti-bullying campaign.  He sacrificed his life trying to disarm the shooter. 

Too much.  

Too fucking much.

So at 7PM, I went up the street to sit in the florescent lighting of the library with my heaviness.  Clearly there isn’t much of a crowd in the last couple of hours before they close – just a few stragglers.  All the tables were open so I picked one along the railing, threw my jacket over a chair, and began to unpack my backpack.  I thought, “Okay, this is your only opportunity for completely uninterrupted ‘work’ so make the next 90 minutes count.”

Nine full minutes passed before I realized I’d been staring at a knick in the grey table I was seated at.  I am absorbed by the ache.  It followed me here too, only now I have bright florescent lights on it.  

I check my phone.  More notifications of people responding to my emotionally impulsive comment about the shooter.  I quickly scroll Twitter and find more updates.  The more insight being shared, the more my stomach lurches towards the table.  I turn my phone off.  

I was supposed to “return” to social media today after a month away.

I didn’t want to but I gave myself a December 1st date to reemerge since I’m releasing a Christmas song next week.  And what good is releasing a song if no one knows, right?

What a mind fuck.

Today is clearly not the day.

Tomorrow might not be either.

Nothing but the ache seems to matter right now.

I guess that’s why I’m here, sharing all my messy feelings about people I never met, but feel like I know…

My nephew is 16 years old.  He has already experienced a loss that changed him forever.  I don’t want him to go to school because if we couldn’t shield him from heartbreak, I want to shield him from violence.  My other nephew turns 11 tomorrow.  He gets sent to the principal’s office for distracting in class, despite him being advanced beyond his grade level.  They’re both on TikTok and YouTube.  Where is the line of protection?  

Obviously I know that isn’t realistic but I want to shield them from this ache.  The world of TikTok and YouTube, school friends and homework feels like a trap now.  When the moral compass of everything feels upside down, how do we equip them for life when none of us feel sure-footed either?