Today when Adam left for work, we spent a long time in the doorway wrapped up in each other’s arms. A long time. An I-don’t-want-to-let-you-go amount of time.
How fucking lucky am I that I still have him to hold onto, because some of my neighbors woke up without that gift.
Some fathers today woke up without a daughter. A mother woke up without a son. Friends of ours are still waiting to hear if their father is safe. Other friends are contemplating what it means to know a man for years and watch him commit travesties.
Right now, my brother is struggling. He came home from a bar up the road, where people covered in blood were flowing through the doors. Imagine that. He cried. How could you not?
Right now, a set of parents are learning what their child has done. This thought hurts me, almost most of all. How they live houses up from a friend. How their lives are going to change, forever.
How none of us will ever quite be the same.
We watched the sheriff cry in the press conference. Let me tell you about this sheriff. Let me tell you about a small town, sitting in a cigar shop, and a man pouring out shots of whiskey from a bottle. A rare bottle. Like somehow we were worth a couple hundred dollars, us strangers. He kept coming back to give us more. Good fucking whiskey. Great man. Small town.
Let me tell you about a country western bar. Let me tell you about that one old geezer always dressed in black, who taught me how to Texas Two-Step. Johnny Cash. Let me tell you about the Copperhead Road, a linedance that packs the floor like sardines. Boot stomp boot stomp boot stomp turn. Let me tell you about Coors Light, pool tables, and a smoky back patio. Let me tell you about cowboys. About all the times we had.
I’d tell you about going to Denny’s after. All of us in western wear packed into a booth with Grand Slam specials scattered all across the table. I’d tell you about a slow dance with a Seabee. About bumming cigarettes. Trading stories of our scars and of our histories because these Southern roots run fast and they run deep.
See, Borderline isn’t just a bar. You have to know that. It is rich in culture, in the way we spit and dip and cuss and chew. In the way our shit kickers streak up against the dance floor. Fucking redneck hee haws and yee haws and y’all come back nows. The South has its own demons, but damned if our own kind ain’t good at lovin’ in their own way.
These are the people that die for you, because that’s just what being neighbors means.
My community is hurting today, and I don’t quite know what to do about it.
It’s surreal. Surreal how, last night in a bar just up the road, I was sitting there watching some guy. The way he wandered in and back out to the parking lot. How I looked at the pockets of his shorts obsessively, to see if he was carrying. How, when he left his seat, I stood up and checked it for something left behind. How Adam kept asking me what was going on. How I kept brushing it off, thinking that I was crazy, neurotic, ridiculous even. How I couldn’t stop watching him. How I felt unease being carried on the wind.
How I kept thinking what are the odds. I mean, really, in these times, what are the odds that someone would pull out a gun in a bar. Is it reasonably high? Could this happen, here and now? Adam’s still asking what is going on. Nothing, I say. Just watching.
How he wakes me up, two hours later, with the news. The news that a man, a different one, has done the thing that I was thinking all along.
I can’t wrap my head around any of this.
I’m just sorry. I’m just sorry and listening to the wind rush up against my windows. They’ve blown open now twice. It seems like nature’s angry.
I’m not angry yet. Not sure when I will be; if I will be. I think I’ll take a walk, to be honest. Let the dogs out. Throw on my shit kickers, feed the chickens, maybe pick up a six pack of Coors Light.
I think I’ll clean my little farmhouse. Visit my grandmother, that little stubborn Southern Belle. Make sure she’s been eating that Pot Pie I baked her. Thank her for the history she gave me.
I’m going to get quiet here. Probably for a little while. Go away for a bit. Think on love and hope that I can make a fucking difference somewhere. Some fucking how. We’ve got to be better.
I have friends still waiting to hear from their father.
I have a brother staring at a wall.
Text after text after text of people reaching out to make sure I’m still breathing. Thank you to all of you. Your kindness knows no bounds. I am safe.
And I am suddenly a compilation of every hurt community—never knowing what this felt like until now. Sorry that you’re here along the journey of my processing. But maybe take it as a lesson to do more. Not that things out of our control can be stopped, but they can be made better. Take a moment today. Call someone. Love someone. Really think. I mean really, stop and take a moment and think. About how precious all of this is. About how much empathy society is missing.
And when you’re done with that, go get a pair of shit kickers, hit up a country western bar, and do the Copperhead Road for us. For the people that we lost. For my hometown bar just up the road. For God fearing, boot wearing, earth loving people. Because I know that when Borderline opens back up, I’ll be there on night one, dancing like my boots against the floor can drive out darkness.