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01 August 2005 @ 11:14 pm
these things we do, when we will  
When I turn on the television, there are bells, and whistles, and crying mothers and missing children. One small face layered atop another, their features becoming indistinct, their tragedies just bleeding into one another until you don't really think about the fact that this little girl with the long brown hair died in a burlap bag underneath loosely packed dirt or that that boy was killed as his sister watched, knowing he was the last member of her family left and that she was the only one to survive. It's like there's some kind of cancer eating away at the basic decency of people, my grandmother said this morning as the two of us sipped coffee and scrutinized the same photographs of Natalee Holloway that have been flashing up on our screen every day, several times a day.

"She's dead," my uncle says dispassionately from the refrigerator. "Damned shame."

And we all agree, and eat our toast and end up getting more upset about the fact that somebody poured themself a cup of coffee and left behind just enough to fill a third of somebody else's mug without setting up a new pot than we are as we sit, grave faced staring and nodding at experts who clinically say things like "The girl was sexually molested". We fight over the last of the strawberry jam, and unheeded, Natalee Holloway smiles at us with flat, unliving eyes from the television.

"A cancer," my grandmother will say, when she notices, and shake her head, and I can visualize it sometimes, some kind of black evil coiling around people and pulling them closer and closer still toward houses that tremble behind their landscaping, toward beds that nearly swallow the still forms of children who lie paralyzed and frightened in the dark. "It's all bad," I'll think, and the feeling will sit with me -- oily, uncomfortable, terrifying as I watch my little cousins tumble over each other like puppies in the short grass of the backyard.

I'll tip toe down stairs in the night and check the locks on the doors, though there's hardly been a single crime where we are in the past thirty years because that feeling, that "It's all bad", hangs over my shoulders like a thick, uncomfortable shawl.

And that, in all of this, is the lie. "God's all good, all the time, all over the world, God only allows the good" my aunt says, from time to time, and that's a lie, too. I can't speak for God, but I can't find any good in the death of a child, standing still and pale as a cruel hand covers her small mouth, but I can say this: that is not the only thing. There is so much more than that.

This summer, I had the chance to drive from one end of the country to another. I drove from South to North, and I'll tell you, that even with all the hollow eyed monsters that you see on your nightly news, there is so much true goodness out there, too. I drove in fits and starts -- which is actually the only way I can do anything, it seems. But had it not been for my eternal need to pee (seriously, my bladder is essentially the size of a fruit fly, which is surely more about me than you all ever need to know, I"m sure), I wouldn't have stopped nearly as much as I did.

I keep thinking of the lunch I had in Savannah. On the porch of the restaurant there was a regiment of rocking chairs, and an old man with cotton white hair sat in one of the tan ones by the door. He was so thin, you'd think that if you held him up to the light, his bones would be visible through his skin. I have this tendency to smile whenever I make eye contact -- it's like a reflexive nervous tick, I don't know why -- and when I smiled at him, this man cackled, and literally slapped his stick of a thigh.

"I've been sitting out here, waiting to open a door for a pretty girl," he said, and levered himself upright slowly, cautiously before tugging hard on the shining brass door. It took all of his body strength to hold the door open for me, but his eyes sparkled when he did it, and all because of a simple smile.

In North Carolina, I stopped at a gas station, where a little boy had lost his mother. It was one of the bigger Mobil Mart type places, and he was wandering through the aisles, his freckled face folded and confused as he gripped tightly onto the neck of his shirt and whimpered, "Ma?" over and over. I was going to go help him find his mother when this big trucker with red, smudged hands kneeled down in front of the boy. The trucker was missing his front tooth, and wore a vest open over his bare chest. A tattoo of an eagle was peaking out along his collarbone, and at first I was worried I was about to see a tragedy play out, and so I stumbled toward them, when the guy covered the boy's entire shoulder with his hand and said, "Hey pal, listen. This is kind of embarrasing, but I'm a little scared to go outside alone, but I'd sure love to help you find your mama. Mind holding my hand and coming with me?"

He stayed with the boy for twenty minutes until the harried mother showed up.

In Connecticut, my cell phone went out while I was at a rest stop, and I needed to call ahead and make a reservation on a ferry. A woman standing next to me, hearing me mutter to myself, just handed me her phone and said, "A roaming minute or two isn't going to kill me," and let me make the call even though she wasn't in a covered area.

I don't particularly have a point, I guess. I'm just saying -- look outside. Look out your window right now, and you will, without a doubt, see something beautiful. You can probably think, without trying to, of one kind thing you saw somebody do today. There are horrible things that happen, all over the globe. There are horrible things that happen to us, to people we love. But if you can't see the good alongside it, then you're just not looking. This is fast becoming my new mantra, and being a rather unremittingly critical person myself, I have to repeat it over and over as I go through each day surrounded by twenty (20, yes) family members, but God, it's true. And it's worth remembering.
Current Mood: gratefulgrateful
celli on August 2nd, 2005 03:21 am (UTC)
*hugs you*

I overheard two girls at work today discussing Natalee as if she were a contestant on Survivor. "Give it up," one of them said disgustedly when her mother was shown on camera. "She's dead. Stop looking for attention."

It probably would have been bad to scream "shut up!" across the cafeteria, but I wish now I had. It's not wrong to hope. It's not wrong to keep talking, because as long as people keep looking at her mom, they keep looking at the pictures of her, and they keep offering volunteer time and equipment and attention so that the police keep working.

Yeah, I think she's dead. But oh, I hope she's not. And I'll think of your truck driver every time I'm tempted not to care what happens to her.
mlyn on August 2nd, 2005 03:27 am (UTC)
Beautiful post, hon. I actually was compelled to look out my blinds at the sunset on the hill opposite my apartment.
Mz. B. Stonemz_bstone on August 2nd, 2005 03:30 am (UTC)
I'd been unwell ... hospital unwell and was just back on my feet again, and barely at that. One day I'd pushed myself, trying to get groceries after my exercises.

My grumpy neighbour, who only said hello to me and never to my husband and swore like a trooper, came up behind me on my street that morning, and took the bags of groceries out of my hands to carry up to my unit. He didn't even stick around long enough for a thank-you.

That moment of kindness? Was always there in him. I'd just never been allowed to know it before.

Kay Delucauntappedbeauty on August 2nd, 2005 03:30 am (UTC)
That's a really nice way to think about things. It made me smile to read about old man opening the door and the trucker helping the little boy.

I have this tendency to smile whenever I make eye contact -- it's like a reflexive nervous tick, I don't know why

I do that, too. No idea why, either; it just happens.
What the hell is up with the mummy?!: zen sea rocksserialkarma on August 2nd, 2005 03:31 am (UTC)
Aw honey. This made me tear up. It also made me think that you should go see the penguin movie. If you want to see something truly beautiful--that's it.
.: slide bitch (melkor_)hackthis on August 2nd, 2005 03:44 am (UTC)
I told her to see the penguin movie, like, weeks ago and get no credit. WTF? I digress. I agree with you about the beauty thing, Nif, I mean I thought this post was pretty beautiful. :)
What the hell is up with the mummy?!: zen sea rocksserialkarma on August 2nd, 2005 03:48 am (UTC)
omg. I WANTED to go see the penguin movie, but my friends in Philly don't SEE movies! I was shocked when they said they'd go with me to this. Shocked I tell you.

Whatever, Nif, it will warm the cockles of your big and sunny heart. And, if I know you, you will spend at least the next half hour waddling around like a penguin (not that I did that. what?).
Adoable Frunklyra_sena on August 2nd, 2005 04:31 am (UTC)
LOL. I told her over two weeks ago to see the penguin movie!! Clearly we are all in agreement on this.
pure FORESHADOWING: baltar/six divine - icon_ascenscionnifra_idril on August 2nd, 2005 05:29 am (UTC)
OMFG, I love you guys and yes. Yes I will see the penguin movie. Though, honestly? How much movie there can be beyond "Look, these are penguins. Sometimes, they march. These are little penguins. They, too, march. I'm Morgan Freeman. I fucking rule, but do not march. Unlike the penguins." totally stymies me.
.hackthis on August 2nd, 2005 03:12 pm (UTC)
At least we are all in agreement that it's a brilliant film, yes?
Alethiaalethialia on August 2nd, 2005 04:13 am (UTC)
This was lovely.
millysdaughtermillysdaughter on August 2nd, 2005 01:24 pm (UTC)
That is a wonderful thought to hold. We can find beauty and goodness if we take the time look for it.
Thank you.
It's funnier in Enochianmona1347 on August 3rd, 2005 02:14 pm (UTC)
First of all, what a beautiful post. You made my heart feel a little lighter. The bit about the trucker was just...*melts*

In Connecticut, my cell phone went out while I was at a rest stop, and I needed to call ahead and make a reservation on a ferry.

Um, out of curiosity, did you happen to be in Bridgeport going to Long Island? Cause there's the Port Jess ferry there and, well, I'm *from* Bridgeport so I'm curious LOL :)
dolimir_k on August 6th, 2005 12:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this.