I typed “What happened to Marina Keegan?” into the Google search bar. I was looking for the reason everybody was referring to her in the past tense on the back of the book I just bought. It turns out she was in a car accident. I was assuming she had killed herself because the other author I bought, David Foster Wallace, had.
Another reason I may have believed this is because I spent an 8 hour shift at a hospital with one of my clients who was making suicidal comments a few days before. Protocol at my residential drug detox is to get them assessed by the local ER to make sure they are not admittable. Admittable means they are either a danger to themselves or others. If they are thought to be then they are placed on a 5150 or a 72 hour hold, meaning they will go to a psych hospital for at least three days.
This girl I brought to the ER was not truly suicidal. She was overwhelmed and scared of a life without drugs, but she was not suicidal. She knew this and I knew this but it is protocol to bring clients who say “I want to die” or things of that nature to the ER. The waiting room was crowded and both she and I were feeling anxious. I was worried she would make a run for it and she was worried she would get put into what she called “the loony bin.”
I looked at her and said, “I don’t think you’re suicidal.”
With this statement she became more relaxed and we told each other stories about Africa and raccoons and tattooed boyfriends in the crowded, sterile waiting room.
The next day she would leave the treatment facility and have nowhere to go. I will probably never see her again.
While we were sitting in the waiting room, the news was playing reels of footage from the San Bernardino shooting. At the bottom of the screen it read “14 dead, 7 wounded. “ My sister texted me to ask if our mother was ok. She doesn’t work in San Bernardino, but this shooting was too close for comfort. I remember feeling nothing because I was focused on the young girl beside me. I was worried about her and whether I would be able to go home on time and not about the 14 victims or their families.
Later, after going home on time, my lack of worry turned into curiosity, and I wondered how people could kill people. It felt contradictory.
I sat in my double bed surrounded by artifacts from my past, and searched for this article I read in the New Yorker one afternoon in Chicago. I had driven there from Long Beach, California, in a Toyota RAV4, with an English man I had met 5 years prior. Chicago was our destination. We were tired of moving constantly and so we deiced against getting lost in the city, but to go workout instead. I waited for him to finish exercising, with dry sweat making my face feel stiff. I sat at a table and read an old New Yorker. It was an article about a man, Andres Breivik, who killed many people at a school in Norway in 2011. He left 80 dead and more wounded. The writer asked the same question I did. How could Andres do this? What was unique about Andres was that he didn’t appear to feel any remorse. As I read, goose bumps lined my arms. I couldn’t tell if it was the article or the air-conditioning in the YMCA. They faded once my English friend came out flushed from his workout. He did not ask what the article was about and so I did not tell him and we moved forward, making plans for our last day together. I was concerned with the events in my own life, in the grand city of Chicago, with a man I came to value.
But now, sitting in bed after an 8-hour shift in the ER, Andres came back to my thoughts. There were arguments made about his environment and why it would lead him to kill to so easily. There were also arguments about his biology and whether he was simply born with the capacity to kill others without remorse.
I went to bed slightly shaken, my heart beating too fast. The next morning, I went to my coffee shop down the street. It is always dimly lit and my favorite barista was working. She has long blonde dreads and a tattoo on her thigh. Every morning we talk. She knows about Chicago and the man I left in order to drive with another man to Chicago. Texas and art school are in her past. I want her to be my friend. For now she will be my barista.
A regular customer sits at the same table every morning. There is a hand written sign saying “reserved”. There are days when I wonder if she wrote the sign herself. We had never spoken to one another until this morning. She intimidates me with her intense eye contact and strong demeanor. Her eyes are lighter than they should be. I suspect she wears colored contacts. She always wears a sweatshirt and hat with the bill to the side. We talked about San Bernardino.
“You have to trust God. Just keep living your life and trust that whenever you go is the right time… Just keep living.” Was her advice.
Faith was her response to tragedy.