Monday, September 11, 2006

rest in peace

A guy I know was murdered this weekend.

It's interesting how we tend to sanctify the dead. No matter how casual the acquaintanceship, everybody's devastated. It's awkward to have not been close with the dead--to know them just well enough to have a sinking feeling in your stomach as you pick up the paper and see the familiar face, but not well enough to stop eating that granola bar. What's the socially acceptable way to react? How do I honor the dead without being inauthentic?

Maybe I didn't always like him. Maybe he grew up in a tiny Louisiana town and his opinions on race and politics went against everything I stood for. It's hard to be honest about that now. He was a nice guy, a great guy...I'll purge the rest from my memories.

He didn't deserve to be robbed by a stranger, shot in the head outside of work for the maybe eighty bucks he'd made that night in tips. He died in an area that's generally considered to be very safe. I used to work over there my freshman year. I was never scared. He was my age.

It shouldn't have happened. He should have been safe there. I would have felt safe there. It was a random act of violence, and it scares the shit out of me. It challenges the fearless sense of purpose I have when charging into much worse neighborhoods for random do-gooder purposes. There, in the bad parts of town, I keep my eye out for a cop, for someone else in my group, but what does that mean? He wasn't alone. A witness didn't save him. If it can happen to him outside of Olive Garden, why can't it happen to me while hanging out at the bus station handing out hygiene packs to homeless kids?

Can I live my entire life running scared like that? What's the point of living if I'm constantly afraid of dying?


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