It was quiet at first as I waited to be shot by a crazy man’s rifle outside Coronado High School. I guess as good a place as any (the city, the body). Whatever. I had watched enough news the past few years. I had seen the carnage. I knew how easy it was to become one of the nameless victims. A fly in a web.
So I decided to eat a granola bar. It was something to do.
When I was a kid, I didn’t know any Russians. But I remember, to this day, the bomb drills we did – and the pointlessness of them all – as I waited for them to come and nuke me, whatever that meant. I just wanted to play freeze tag. But when the bells rang – those awful repeating bells – we slammed ourselves under our desks. And then waited. For more bells.
I grew to fear the bells more than the Russians.
But it was quiet this day near the intersection of D Ave and 6th St. as a policeman walked over to me. He had just asked to look in my swim bag. He had just asked me to stay where I was. Hand near his gun.
There’s been a report of a man with a rifle. The schools are on lockdown.
And then I noticed. Like I had just woken up. Coronado was still. There were no children’s screams. There were no cars. I was alone, except for the policeman and a dutiful crossing guard who hadn’t left his post, his stop sign dangling by his feet. As the policeman walked away, I turned and tried to fill the silence: Does this happen all the time here?
No. First time.
What are you doing here? That is what the policeman asked me. What was I doing there, with my bag full of stuff, I suppose is what he meant. But I didn’t have a gun, and as soon as it was established that the most dangerous thing I had in my bag were my swim goggles, he walked away. And I was alone. Awake. Waiting. So, I bent over to grab a granola bar out of my rifle-free swim bag.
I listened to the crackle of granola in my mouth. Chomping on the grain, echoing what seemed like blocks. Echoing into the schools where the children waited for the man with the gun. Echoing in my head. Reminding me of wood and pencils and cold metal legs and chewed gum.
They are going to get us. To bomb us. To kill us. And earthquakes. Those might get us, too. We have to be prepared from the evil stalking us, like a spider circling it’s prey.
Today, we apparently don’t fear Russians across the world nuking us. We don’t fear Mother Nature crushing us. We fear each other. We fear men with guns. That guy from next door who has had a bad life. Or maybe just a bad day. And that fear is crushing. That fear is enveloping. It’s quiet. It’s draining. It’s sucking the life out of us.
Like a spider in the night.
I try to ignore that he is there.
Until my alarm goes off…
…and I hope he isn’t there in the morning.