I’m at my in-laws’ house for the weekend. The news is on TV.
My daughter slowly, quietly, creeps around the corner. She’s wearing a hooded black robe.
On the screen behind her, I see there’s been a shooting. Another. A big one this time. (Aren’t they all?)
Eleven people dead. A municipal building in Virginia Beach.
The black hooded figure comes into the room. She likes to pretend it’s a Dementor’s cape.
She is breathing the cold kiss of death on whoever might be near.
A municipal building in Virginia. Eleven dead. No, twelve.
It’s twelve now.
The Dementor comes closer. And I think… Rachel.
First week in the dorm Rachel. Maid of Honor at my wedding Rachel.
Her family once rescued me from the worst summer of my life, drove me across state lines.
We were texting this morning about hair products. HAIR PRODUCTS.
“This will cut your blow-dry time in half!” I told her. With a picture even.
Because I know she shares my struggle with thick hair and hot, humid summer mornings.
She is a lawyer in Virginia Beach. She is in that building all the time.
I text her again. Not about hair products this time. Just tell me you’re alive.
“Tell me you weren’t in that building today.”
The hooded figure comes closer.
And then, her brother flies from out of nowhere. Tackles her to the ground, yelling
And they are rolling on the carpet laughing, and I laugh too, for a second.
But also, my breath catches in my throat.
Because nobody has answered my text yet.
12 dead, the screen says. 12, for now.
And the text comes back to me, just two words: “No. Yesterday.”
Two magic words that mean she’s alive. But for yesterday.
Another one. “Yesterday I was there. With my kids.”
The black hooded figure is off again, laughing and chasing her brother and their dog
into the next room, the next narrow miss.
Into the next day of life that is life
Until it is not anymore.
If only two magic words could take down the darkness
every single time.
“One of the most important spells in the [Harry Potter] series, it is used to summon a corporeal animal (called a patronus) as a sort of spirit-guardian against soul-sucking Dementors. Literally, it means ‘I wait for a patron’ or ‘I hope for a patron’. Patron is the closest single-word English translation of the Latin patronus, which more generally means ‘an influential person who has undertaken the protection of another’. This spell is particularly resonant with Harry, who, having lost his father when he was a baby, spends much of the series seeking a patronus.”