When Words Fail

When Words Fail June 15, 2017


Yesterday, some of you might have noticed, I was up with the lark, or rather the woodpecker, sucking down Bewley’s and tapping wildly away on my screen so as to be out the door no minute later than 7am. Today I am still wandering the pathways of the internet, sure that in just a few minutes I will feel like getting out of bed, and it is the late hour of nine. I am sure you appreciate these updates, along with the ones about the weather. I can’t imagine that you’d be interested in anything else.

Like that shooting yesterday. Which wasn’t what I was going to talk about today. I was going to talk about Princess Charlotte and Parenting, and how not to be terrible at it. Or something. But somehow that whole subject rings hollow.

I was busy all morning yesterday, and heard nothing about there being some random act of violence in Alexandria. It was only when I was collapsed at the end of the day, trying to work up the will to pull one more weed, and failing, that I scrolled through some headlines and read the news.

The thing is, the place where I was yesterday morning was, for me, unusual. For the first time in my life I stood on the curb of a modern mini-mall wasteland, with one other person, fixed in place, not running off to the next thing, and prayed for young women, and their male people…can boyfriend be the word? Surely there was nothing friendly about the men hanging around smoking nervously outside…walking across a bleak and pockmarked parking lot into a low slung ugly, dingy building to have the singular problem in their lives done away with. I stood over on the curb and prayed, and was alarmed to learn that this is the only place in this whole geographical area for these women to come, and that it’s only available for this kind of ‘solution’ two mornings a week, and that only ten or fifteen appointments are made each of those two days, and so it’s possible to stand on the curb, praying, and actually consider and count the women that go by. It’s not that many, but the few add up rather quickly. The alarm, for me, came in the peculiarity of the moment. It’s not 60 million–it’s one, and then another, and then another, and then another. Ordinary people such a I see all the time walking up and down going about life’s difficulties.

I knew this of course. But standing there, I was quite overwhelmed with grief. Which is why I’m still lying here unable to move, praying for those women who I imagine, this morning, are dealing with a tidal wave of conflicting thoughts and feelings–that one ‘problem’ fixed, but so many new ones, now, crowding in to take its place.

So a man walked up to a bunch of men playing baseball or something, and shot some of them, before he himself was shot. And it’s completely awful. And public. Matt watched the video and I had to leave the room. This kind of shooting, of course, marks the end of public discourse. Words are useless. The man with the gun must have felt there was no point. It would be better for some people to die than to try to express any of his thoughts and feelings and ideas with words.

But one of the reasons that words are useless is because the building outside of which I was standing, praying, had the word ‘pregnancy’ on it, next to the word ‘services.’ Which rather empties the word ‘service’ of its true and original meaning. Unless by service you mean dealing in death, violating the sanctuary of the body and the mind with a series of heart breaking lies.

The bright, cheerful sun yesterday, the whoosh of cars driving by on the other side of the curb, the quiet ordinary walking back and forth of people going to appointments in the other buildings all stood as a strange, tragic backdrop to the scene in front of me, the men pacing and smoking, the defeated slumped shoulders of women walking back to their cars. It was the tableau of this modern way. You mangle the words, and the mangled bodies come next.

What did I pray, I stood there?

Just one thing. ‘Have mercy,’ I breathed in, ‘Lord Jesus,’ I breathed out. The sun shone. The breeze blew. The cars swished. I finally turned away and went back to my car to catch up on the news.

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